30 Aug Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 1st, 2021
Proper 13 – Holy Gospel: John 6:24-35
In the 6th chapter of the gospel according to John the evangelist tells us how Jesus fed 5000 people with five barley loaves and two fish which were distributed “as much as they wanted”. Afterwards Jesus asked the disciples “Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.” and 12 baskets of leftovers were collected.
No wonder that the people exclaimed: “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
No wonder that the people wanted this miracle worker to be their king.
But Jesus perceiving “that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king” blocked their plan, left the crowd and his disciples and withdrew to the mountain.
Jesus’ disciples must have been as stunned and overwhelmed as the masses.
Probably they might have had the same wish as the people who had experienced Jesus’ miracle, possibly they too would have wanted the installation of Jesus as their king.
But without a word, without any message, without any instruction what to do, Jesus just left.
So, when the evening came and Jesus had not returned, the disciples, undoubtedly confused, did the only thing they could think of, they took a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee to go back to Capernaum.
Just imagine their emotional state of bewilderment and bereavement!
And in addition, after they had rowed several miles a strong wind started to blow, the sea became rough, and they suddenly saw Jesus walking on the sea.
The disciples did not perceive this as another sign of Jesus being the son of God,
they were just frightened out of their socks.
Only after Jesus´ words “It is I; do not be afraid.” the disciples were, as John puts it simply,
What an up and down experience for Jesus´ friends! And the commotion did not stop here.
Further the evangelist tells how the crowd that had remained on the other side of the Sea of Galilee discovered “that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but the disciples had gone away alone.”
The people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand took boats themselves and went to Capernaum in search for Jesus. Obviously, they were still filled with excitement
because of the extraordinary miracle they had experienced and were not willing to give up their plan to make Jesus their king.
When they had found Jesus, Jesus said to the crowd: “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
Jesus knew that the people were fascinated by him because he had performed a great miracle, they were not attracted to him because they believed in him as the Son of God.
Jesus knew that a miracle, however phenomenal, cannot be a firm, logical basis for faith.
This is a big help for us today.
We are not contemporaries of the historical Jesus.
We do not live in the personal presence of Jesus.
We have never seen the miracles Jesus performed with our own eyes.
There are times when we desperately long for a miracle from heaven.
We hunger for a striking sign from heaven to end injustice and violence in our world.
But our prayers for a miracle might not get an answer,
our hunger for a miracle might not be stilled.
Just remember how often our churches in earlier times were filled with people praying for the termination of natural disasters or political calamities,
and how soon, after the happy ending, our churches were empty again.
We are hasty to demand miracles from heaven, and quick to forget where they came from.
Miracles do not necessarily create faith.
Jesus reminds the crowd of the source of miracles, that it was not Moses who gave their ancestors manna, but it was God his Father who gave them the true bread from heaven.
Jesus furthermore emphasizes that “the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
This miracle creates another miracle: the miracle of true life.
The essence of the text of this sermon is Jesus´ description of himself, which is superior to his miracle feeding the 5000. The essence is his self-designation:
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,
and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
This description belongs to the 7 “I AM” self-designations of Jesus in the gospel of John:
“I AM the bread of life”
“I AM the light of the world”
“I AM the gate for the sheep”
“I AM the good shepherd”
“I AM the resurrection and the life”
“I AM the way and the truth and the life”
“I AM the true vine”
When Jesus says „I AM the bread of life”, he takes over a name which describes God himself.
In the Hebrew Bible the words “I AM” are God’s self-designation. Only God is allowed to refer to himself as “I AM”
For us today, Jesus’ self-acclamation “I AM” should stop us from defining Jesus as a philosopher, as a wise teacher with new moral concepts, or as a person inspired by God.
All our human definitions are not able to describe or explain Jesus.
We are not able to categorize or classify Jesus.
We are not able to corner or to monopolize Jesus,
not even with most elaborate and sophisticated theological descriptions.
At first glance Jesus’ self-designation “I AM the bread of life” seems to be simple and comprehensible. Isn´t bread the basic food which all of us need?
Younger generations in the western world haver never experienced times of war and hunger.
Older people remember times when bread was rationed and something special.
So, some of them still hesitate to throw bread away just because it is stale.
Today we have bread which only taste’s good when it´s fresh.
Today we have bread which we buy in special “bread boutiques”.
Today we have bread which we buy with a calorie counter, because we don´t want to gain weight.
Germany claims to be the country with the largest variety of good bread
— but Germany is also a country where much bread is thrown away.
Several years ago, a journalist carried out a test. He bought a three pounder, positioned himself in various towns of our world, held up the bread, and asked people to work one hour for the bread.
In Hamburg people ridiculed him.
In New York he was arrested by the police.
In Nigeria some people agreed to work for the bread.
In New Delhi many people surrounded him immediately and agreed to work several hours for the bread.
These people in New Delhi know how invaluable bread is. So, when Jesus refers to himself as the “bread of life”, he is telling us how absolute essential he is for our life.
Jesus IS the bread of our life.
When Jesus fed the 5000 he saw more than just the peoples´ natural need for food.
Jesus saw more than their starvation.
Jesus teaches us that hunger is not only a physical phenomenon
that hunger goes way beyond physical feelings,
hunger captures the whole existence of a person.
Don´t we all know it?
Don´t we all know a variety of hunger?
In our times of the pandemic we often hear people claiming their hunger for being together,
their hunger for parties and fun.
And even if we don´t share this particular hunger, there is a hunger which we all feel:
the hunger for acceptance and love.
Some time ago I met a beggar with a sign “I am hungry”.
I guess most of you have seen beggars with similar signs.
This man sat in front of the entrance of a supermarket, where I wanted to do my shopping, so I couldn´t pretend I didn´t see him.
When I asked him if I could get something for him, he said: “Yes. Chocolate croissants.”
I bought the chocolate croissants, but I was irritated and somehow annoyed:
Could a man with the sign “I am hungry” who asked for chocolate croissants instead of bread, really be hungry?
Then I got to thinking:
What if the man felt some kind of hunger which was more than a physical craving?
What if I owed him more than buying croissants?
When Jesus says “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” he points out that we don´t live on food alone.
Our God who has sent his son as “the bread of life” wants to be close to us,
drawing us near to him.
Without God we are not able to live, without God we merely exist.
When Jesus proclaims “I am the bread of life.” there is also an obvious connection to the
Holy Communion which we´ll celebrate later. We celebrate a foretaste of eternal life.
Jesus’ life and death has broken the barricades between heaven and earth.
When God´s grace opens our minds and hearts to acknowledge that we need other nourishment than physical daily bread
then — to say it with the words of Jesus — we´ll be never “hungry” or “thirsty” again.
When we accept Jesus’ invitation and “come” to him,
when God grants us to accept Jesus as our “bread of life”,
then we´ll be able to live life.
We´ll be able to live a life where decay and death is not the final end.
We´ll be able to live a life centered on Jesus Christ as our “bread of life”,
We will be guided and sheltered by him.
We´ll be open for our fellow men near and far
and finally steered into life eternal. AMEN
Holy Gospel: John 6:24-35
The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”