“I AM…” – How Jesus Meets Our Deepest Needs
1. The Bread of Life
John 6: 35 - 71
I’d like you to think about food right now. For some of us, that’s not all that difficult. Have you noticed that even when you eat your favourite food, you still get hungry again in a few hours? Some of us have been on a search for something that will satisfy and we’ve come up short. A few of us have tried partying, relationships, buying things, or supporting our favourite sports teams! In the long run, we’re still starving as we search for satisfaction. Ravi Zacharias -“With all our ingesting and consumption, our hungers are still many and our fulfillments are few.”
New series called, “I AM… How Jesus Meets Our Deepest Needs” we come face-to-face with the Bread of Bethlehem. He’s the Saviour who alone who can provide satisfaction. Some of you are experiencing spiritual hunger pangs that nothing in this world can fill. C.S. Lewis -“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” If we settle for material things, we’ll hunger again. If we partake of the Bread of Life, our hunger will be taken care of and all of our needs will be met.
We’re going to focus on each of the “I Am” statements found in the Gospel of John and 1 from the Book of Revelation. Here is how Jesus identifies Himself: I am the Bread of Life I am the Light of the World I am the Gate I am the Good Shepherd I am the Way, the Truth and the Life I am the Vine I am the Alpha and Omega I am the Resurrection and the Life.
The pronoun “I” means it comes from within and is very personal. The word “am” is in the present tense, not I “was” in the past, or I “might be” in the future, but I am…right here, right now.
Exodus 3: 14 “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.” Every time Jesus uses one of the “I AM” metaphors, He is emphatically stating that He is Yahweh, the great “I AM” of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These metaphors of the Messiah are rich in meaning and are very comforting and yet there’s more to them than what meets the eye. I hope you’re ready to go deep today.
Let’s admit something. Most of us focus on what we think of Jesus and often our understanding is tainted by our experiences in the past or our expectations in the present. Instead of looking at what He can do for us, my prayer is that we will have a fuller understanding of who Jesus is and what He demands of us.
We should be filled with wonder and awe as we respond humbly to the One who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Let’s not approach Him flippantly. The absence of awesomeness unfortunately describes much of the church today. May that not be true about WPBC! Paul Tripp - “Humans are hardwired for awe. Our hearts are always captured by something —that’s how God made us. But sin threatens to distract us from the glory of our Creator. All too often, we stand in awe of everything but God.” Good prayer - “Lord, don’t let me lose my wonder.”
Jesus loves to start with the physical to get us to think about the spiritual. He talked about natural birth with Nicodemus in order to explain the necessity of the new birth. With the woman at the well, Jesus started with water and ended up talking about worship. Ch.6 - He moves from physical hunger to spiritual satisfaction.
Bread was the most important part of the meal. [Take a bite]. In Jesus’ day, meat was simply a side dish, and bread represented the major part of the meal. When Jesus says that He is the bread of life, He’s saying that He’s the most important part of life.
Everyone had access to bread. Poorer people used barley to make bread while the wealthier used wheat, but everyone had the means to make or buy bread. By using this metaphor, Jesus is saying that He is available to everyone.
Bread was the means of fellowship. In that culture, when you broke bread with someone, you were friends for life. Jesus likewise offers a friendship with us that will never end.
Bread symbolises God’s presence. Bethlehem - “house of Bread”- the temple was continually filled with the showbread. This bread was a symbol of God Himself, and a reminder to His people that every time they eat bread, they should think of Him.
In the first part of ch. 6, we read about Jesus turning a boy’s lunch of 5 small barley loaves and 2 sardines into a feast for over 5,000 people. We don’t have time to study this in detail, but I do want to point out a few things.
1. Jesus cares about our felt needs. Jesus knew they were hungry and so He took care of their physical needs. Jesus is concerned about every area of our lives.
2. Jesus wanted to stretch their faith. He specifically asked Philip a question about where to buy enough bread because he wanted him to exercise his faith. Without being asked, Andrew spoke up and offered a young boy’s lunch.
3. Jesus takes what we have. When we give Jesus what we have, no matter how little it is He will multiply it for great purposes. Even the little that you have is worth a lot to God. You have more than you think when you offer the little that you have.
4. Jesus provides satisfaction. The people “ate as much as they wanted”- even leftovers. God is not stingy with his grace. Our cups overflow with His blessings if we will but receive them.
5. Jesus takes us deeper than we were planning to go. There were 12 baskets of leftovers - lesson for the 12 disciples so that they should never doubt the power of Jesus. I’m sure their eyes got big and they probably started talking among themselves. I wonder if some of them made the connection that God was present with them through Jesus the Saviour, the living bread.
6. Jesus is more than we think He is. The people viewed this as a miracle and wondered if Jesus was the promised prophet. During that time, there was a belief among the Jews that the Messiah would provide bread from heaven much like Moses did. When they saw the loaves multiplying in front of their eyes, many of them wanted to make Jesus king on the spot. After all, if He was their king, He could feed them every day and wipe out the Romans at the same time. But Jesus had other plans.
He withdrew to a mountain by himself. Right after this miracle, the disciples get into a boat and head to Capernaum. When they are about halfway across, a storm arises and starts buffeting their boat. It’s at the moment of their greatest need that Jesus performs another miracle as He walks on the water and comes to them. Once again we’re reminded that when we’re in the presence of the great I AM, there is no need to be anxious. Then another miracle - as soon as Jesus got into the boat, they immediately reached the shore where they were headed. The crowd, eager to get their stomachs filled again, found Jesus in Capernaum. Jesus stopped them in their tracks and blew away their plans for a breakfast buffet – v. 26, 27.
Like many of us, the people thought they needed to do some sort of work in order to earn God’s favour. I love the answer Jesus gives – v. 29 - If you insist on working, here’s your job description: BELIEVE IN THE ONE HE HAS SENT.
These hungry people had the nerve to ask for another sign instead of believing. We do the same, don’t we? We continuously ask God to do something for us while forgetting what He’s already done. Our needs were met yesterday but we want to know what Jesus is going to do for us today.
v. 31 - the crowd lays out a challenge for Jesus. They were asking Jesus to prove Himself. In their minds, Moses provided bread for over 3 million people for 40 years; Jesus had only given them bread once. The bread from Moses came from heaven; Jesus used earthly bread and multiplied it. Their trouble was that their growling stomachs had blinded them to the ache in their souls.
Check out how Jesus responds. Once again He’s unpredictable. He arrests their attention with this stunning statement – v. 32. God was the giver of the Manna, not Moses, and it was the Father who sent the true bread from heaven.
Jesus then defines this true bread – v. 33. Manna could only solve physical hunger; the Bread of God gives life to all. Do you see the pronoun “He”? It was Jesus who came down from heaven. Their appetite is now whetted -v. 34. Jesus then said to them – v. 35. The crowd came with a challenge for Jesus to match the Manna from Moses. They were not expecting an answer so jarring.
Many began to grumble about Jesus because He said that He was the bread that came down from heaven. It’s very interesting that the Israelites grumbled when God provided manna generations earlier. I guess human nature hasn’t changed much because many of us still grumble at God today. They knew all about Jesus but couldn’t believe He was more than He appeared. Their real problem was that they had grown too familiar with Him – v. 42.
Some of us are in danger of doing the same thing. Maybe you grew up in a church, attended Sunday School, know a few Bible stories, you know what happened at Christmas and at Easter, and you think you have Jesus all figured out. Be careful that you don’t allow what you know about Him to keep you from actually knowing Him.
The Israelites ate the manna and were hungry the next day. Jesus repeats this metaphor – v. 48. He reminds them that even though people ate manna in the dessert, they eventually died. No matter how much we exercise, how good our diet is, we’re eventually going to die. If you want something that lasts for eternity then you must partake of the one who alone is eternal – v. 51.
His listeners begin to argue sharply among themselves. The word used reveals that they almost break out into a fist fight. They’re stumped because Jesus is making it seem like they must commit cannibalism. Instead of backing off, His statements get more deliberate and even harder to swallow (no pun intended).
Again we see that we can’t put Jesus in a nice and neat package and think we have Him all worked out. He is saying that we must take Him into the very core of our being – v. 58. We must believe in His finished work on the cross and receive Jesus into our lives.
Time to Decide
Whenever a person encounters Jesus, a decision has to be made. We see this in the closing verses of chapter 6.
1. Disruption (v. 60 - 65) The first thing we notice is that Jesus always disrupts us – v. 60. The teaching of Jesus as the Bread of Life is difficult for them to accept. This was too tough for some of them to hear. As a result, many wouldn’t accept it. The issue here wasn’t that they couldn’t understand it. They just didn’t want to accept it. Many times we think someone just needs more information about Christ before they can be saved. While this may be true, more often than not, it’s not a matter of needing more data; it’s an issue of deciding who will lead your life. In other words, the problem is not intellectual, it’s moral. Let’s face it; some of you do not want to fully surrender your lives to Christ because you don’t really want to stop doing the things you’ve been doing.
Jesus doesn’t adjust His teaching to make it more palatable to people. In fact, He challenges them some more – v. 61, 62. The real Jesus is not always easy to listen to or to follow. Are you bothered by what the Bread of Life is asking you do? Good. Do you feel like Jesus cramps your style? He does. Does it seem like His teaching is hard to accept? It is. The question now becomes, “What are you going to do about Him?”
2. Desertion (v. 66) We can’t help but feel a little sad at this point. The crowds had listened to his teaching, they had been fed bread and fish, they followed Jesus across the lake to hear more of his teaching and then many of them listening to Jesus had enough.
They didn’t get what they wanted, so they left lacking what they needed. They left because Jesus offered what they needed and not what they thought they wanted. We often want things that won’t benefit us and all the while we need things we never give a thought to. As a result, we bail out instead of believing. Will you walk away when the Word is too tough? Will you bail or will you believe? “Will you desert or will you become a true disciple?”
3. Declaration As Jesus looks around and watches the crowd thin out, He turns to the 12 – (v. 67 – 69).
Peter is saying something like this: “Lord, you are not easy to hang out with. You embarrass us and, at times, you frighten us. We don’t always understand you, and yet, your words are the most remarkable that we have ever heard. They explain who we are and they make us understand life itself. We are satisfied by you and are held here by our desire for more of you. We have put our faith in you. You fit the prophecies and fulfill the predictions. You are the Great I AM. Where else would we even think about going?”
Jesus is the bread of life. You and I must partake of Him by asking Him to come deep down inside. Some of us are just holding him at arm’s length. You may even comment on how good the bread looks and how sweet it smells. But it will do you no good unless you take Him in and digest Him as the very food for your soul. It’s time to believe and receive.
Friends, you don’t have to do anything to be saved because it’s all been done for you. But you do need to respond. Will you believe? Will you receive Him? Will you say yes to Him right now? When He disrupts your thinking, will you desert Him – “Will you declare Him to be the very Bread of Life?”
It’s Time for Supper
The night before Jesus was betrayed, He had supper with His disciples…and He invites us to participate in that meal right now. As we prepare to celebrate communion, let’s remember the manna, let’s remember the miracle of the bread and fish, and most of all, let’s remember the Messiah, who alone is the Bread of Life.