“We Want Signs and Direction!”
5 August 2018
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches
John 6:24-35 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=400125113)
“Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” (Exodus 16:9)
The Gospel draws deep from our ancestral roots.
To understand Jesus,
To see Jesus as he is revealed,
Is to return to the Passover narrative of our Hebrew ancestors,
Released from Egyptian slavery,
Miraculously saved with the parting of the Red Sea,
Liberated and forever free.
Their future lay in the land promised,
A land flowing milk and honey;
If only they could make their way across the Sinai desert.
The journey would take 40 years,
A full generation,
The completeness of the life of Moses.
It is important to recognize in the Exodus story
That it is God doing the acting.
Moses is God’s proxy,
In the first of ten plagues
To soften Pharaoh’s heart
God tells Moses to stretch his hand over the waters of Egypt.
When he does, God turns the water into blood
Throughout the whole land. (Exodus 7:19)
After ten plagues, Pharaoh nearly had enough.
God’s action reveals his tenacious, unrelenting desire for his children to be free.
God directed Moses how to celebrate Passover
As a perpetual ordinance,
To avoid the destroyer,
Striking down the Egyptians but sparing our own. (Exodus 12:27)
The ensuing grief caused Pharaoh to cry out pain
For not a house in Egypt could be found without someone dead.
Pharaoh reached the end of his rope.
He gave in and set our ancestors free.
God’s action reveals the depth and breath of his faithfulness
To the eternal covenant with Abraham:
God is our God, and we will be his children.
The Lord’s blessing upon us will continue
From generation to generation.
Each time in the Exodus narrative,
Revealing something new about our Heavenly Father.
Likewise, for the festival of unleavened bread.
Likewise, for crossing the Red Sea.
Likewise, for Mana from Heaven (Exodus 16)
Twelve days in the desert with no food or water would make anyone complain.
“Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” (Exodus 16:9)
The Lord directed Moses to speak
“At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread;
Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” (Exodus 16:12)
Moses did as he was told.
In the evening God acted: sent quails up and covered the camp.
Quail for dinner, every night, staving off the hunger.
In the morning God acted: the dew lifted to reveal bread,
That all might be fed.
Bread for breakfast, every day, sustenance for every living day.
God’s action reveals the fact that
That all God’s children be abundantly nourished.
Jesus is not the second coming of Moses.
Intermediaries are gone; the age of prophets is over.
The Prophetic Age has ended;
The Messianic Age began.
Jesus is the Son of God.
God decides direct intervention,
Becoming human and stepping into humanity,
Divine intervention is the only way forward
To forgive and save the world.
It is critically important to understand that
Jesus and our Heavenly Father are one and the same God.
Pay attention to the actions of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
When Jesus acts,
Similar to the actions of God in the Exodus narrative,
Something new is revealed about our God,
In context of the new, unfolding incarnation of Jesus Christ.
After miraculously feeding 5,000 would be followers
With 5 loaves and 2 fish,
Jesus and his disciples give them the slip,
Probably during their after-dinner siesta.
As we heard last Sunday,
Sail away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee,
Only to be caught up in a storm.
Jesus walks on water,
And tells them “do not be afraid.” (6:20)
The boat safely reached the land toward which they were going.
Two miracles, or, two signs, in one day.
Not bad, for the God of creation.
Funny thing about hunger:
It keeps coming around,
Reoccurring every few hours.
Food perishes, hunger returns, everyone needs to eat.
5,000 people come searching for Jesus
Because their hunger returned.
5,000 people find him.
They came searching for him because their hunger returned,
Not because they were witnesses to the sign Jesus performed
Of multiplying bread and fish.
Their bellies were empty.
Pay attention to what Jesus does:
He commands them, “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.” (6:27)
In other words,
I gave you …
… Past tense …
Bread and fish,
And now you’re hungry again.
I, the Son of Man, will give you …
… Future tense …
Food that endures for eternal life.
God pulls back the veil and reveals something new about himself,
Through the context, words, and actions of Jesus:
That which Jesus provides is sufficient for eternal life.
There is no need for anything else.
There is no need for anything other than Jesus.
No need for a fountain of youth,
So, stop searching for it.
Tax cuts might put a little more money into your account,
But, as they say, ‘you can’t take it with you.’
Border walls won’t save you any more than universal health care will.
Democrats won’t save you; and, neither will Republicans.
Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, first responders may save you in the moment, but, you’ll live to die another day.
That gun you’re carrying won’t save you; and neither will going whole-hog vegan, organic, or South Beach.
Stop with the idol worship!
Simply put, there is nothing that offers salvation other than
Belief in Jesus Christ.
Everything else are mere idols;
Temptations that threaten to steal our attention,
To divert our eyes from Jesus.
Money, healthcare, patriotism, policy, politics …
All offer false promises of salvation.
Nothing of this earth can add one day, or one breath, to life.
In 80 years each of our bodies will be dead;
Yet, for those who believe in Christ?
We will be sustained,
We will endure for eternal life.
It is God who reveals to the children of Abraham
That salvation only comes through belief in Jesus Christ.
Whining must be in our DNA.
Our ancestors whined to Moses about their hunger.
The crowd of 5,000 whined to Jesus that they needed a sign,
Anything, that would confirm their belief in him.
“We want a sign.”
“Moses gave us a sign,” they complained: “bread from heaven.”
That was a pretty good miracle.
What can you do for us to make us believe?
Like Simon Cowell on America’s Got Talent,
“Show us your act.”
Well, it really wasn’t Moses who acted,
Who performed the miracle;
It was God.
Moses was simply the faithful go-between prophet.
It is God who provided mana from heaven.
It is God who multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5,000.
It is God who provides for our daily nourishment today.
“What about this multiplication didn’t you see?”
“Were you blind,” Jesus was probably thinking to himself,
“Were you too busy eating to notice?”
The sign is the miracle of multiplication.
What God reveals through this sign
Is God’s deepest desire for us to believe in Jesus,
To abide in Christ,
To take up residence wholly and solely in his life.
Eat bread, fish, or quail,
Fill your stomachs;
and you’ll be satisfied for about 6 hours, max.
Believe in Jesus,
Abide in him;
and you’ll be satisfied for eternity.
Those who come to Christ will never hunger or thirst.
Those who come to Jesus, and abide in him, will have eternal life.
The Gospel of John is difficult to understand.
I get that.
Some have likened it to getting stuck in a briar patch,
Entangled in multiple, deeply woven messages of essential, divine truth.
Scholars find it nearly impossible to map out a helpful outline.
Many wade into the Gospel of John quickly,
Only to find the waters too deep to navigate, never to return.
With the blessing of hindsight,
It is easy to laugh at the disciples of Jesus for their failure to understand.
Yet, it is a common characteristic of the Gospel of John
That just as Jesus reveals something about himself
There is a misunderstanding.
Think of the woman at the well
“But you have no bucket.”
Think about Nicodemus
making the mistaken conclusion that Jesus was talking about entering the womb a second time.
Think about Jesus speaking about the destruction of the Temple
And about him turning water into wine.
Understanding John is hard for everyone.
Our careful attention to the Gospel is not just about intellectual understanding.
For understanding, imperfect as we may be,
Searching for God’s message, leads to abiding.
Understanding always leads to abiding.
Abide in Christ.
Take up residence in him.
This is why I so passionately love the Gospel.
The quest always leads us back to Jesus.
Our search for understanding today
Has revealed much about our God
And our relationship with him:
God wants us to be free.
God is faithful to the covenants made between us.
God wants all God’s children to be nourished, both physically and spiritually.
God wants all to believe in Jesus;
For Christ alone endures, satisfies, and gives life, eternal life, to the world.