October 23-24, 2004
[A dining room table and four chairs are on stage.]
My wife and I love ethnic food. You name the ethnicity, we probably like the restaurant. We like Thai food, Japanese food, Vietnamese food, Middle Eastern food—all types of food. And when I go to one of these restaurants I like to ask a lot of questions. Sometimes I’ll go through a buffet line or they’ll serve something, and I’ll say, “What is it?” And they will answer the question.
When Lisa and I first got married, she began to cook and I asked that question many times, “What is that?” If you have kids and you serve them any type of food, they say, “What is it? What is it?” This past week I was checking out our uptown campus and some things that are happening around there (our campus opens up, as you know, the 16th of January), and there was a Middle Eastern restaurant there. I went to it, and as we were in this buffet line, this woman in front of me said, “What is it?” What is it? That’s a good question. What is it? What is it?
The children of Israel were in Egyptian slavery; they were in Egyptian bondage. And Moses delivered them single-handedly, by the power of God, from Egyptian slavery. You might remember that God told Moses a death angel was going to pass over every household and strike dead the first born male child. He told Moses to tell his people to take an unblemished lamb, to sacrifice the lamb, and to apply the blood on the top of the door post. God said, “Moses, if my people do that, the death angel will pass over their homes sparing them.” And when the night came, the death angel did his deal. And Pharaoh let God’s people go.
So God’s people cruised around in the wilderness for a while. God performed miracle after miracle—parted the Red Sea, had this GPS system going on, guided them at night with fire in the sky, during the daytime with the cloud. God’s people, though, began to enter the moan zone. They began to grumble and murmur and whine. You know how to do that. I know how to do that. “We’re hungry. We wish we could eat the food back in Egypt, back in slavery.”
God did something that night. God rained bread out of heaven and it fell during the darkness. When the children of Israel got up, when they walked out of their tents, here’s what happened. Exodus 16:15, “When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was.”
Do you know what it was? Manna. You know what manna means in Hebrew? “What is it?” A bread-like substance that God dropped out of heaven. And then God told them this. God said, “Collect enough manna for the day.” God said, “Don’t even think about collecting manna for two, three, four days.” Some people just disregarded God and collected a bunch of manna. And the manna rotted. There was a stench about it; maggots got up all in it. Yuck! That’s bad stuff. God gave them just enough manna for the day. Manna was kind of like a sweet bread. And they would take it and make these tortilla-like things and eat it. God fed his people for 40 years, every day, with manna.
How many single women do we have here in the house? You’re a single woman? You might be saying, “You know what God…drop a manna from heaven in my life! I would like that!” Ha, ha! “And I hope he has a lot of money too!” Ha, ha!
That’s a crazy story isn’t it? I’ve also wondered why is that in the Bible? I mean, the details about that stuff. Maggots and all that? That’s very interesting.
Jump over to the New Testament with me. Jesus was on a roll. He’d just done the Hebrew happy meal miracle when he fed the 5,000. Remember that? He took all this bread and fish and multiplied it. People were full and they’d eaten so much food at this fish fry, and there were 12 baskets left over. The people were talking, “Hey, man, lets make Jesus king. He’s the man. Let’s elevate him where he needs to be.” And Jesus heard this vibe. He felt it and he ran away. He went across the sea to a place called Capernaum.
The crowd who’d eaten their fill the night before got up in the morning and they couldn’t find Jesus. They wanted another happy meal miracle. So they chartered a bunch of boats and they cruised over to Capernaum, found this little synagogue, a little church, and who do you think was teaching in the church? Jesus. The place was jammed. I can just see the disciples on the front row, can’t you? “Yeah, preach it. Amen!” Jesus launches into this talk. Most important part of a talk, I think, is the introduction.
You’ve got to connect with the people. You’ve got to tell people, “Okay, I’m going to talk about a certain subject.” Or you’ve got to bring up a certain point and people have to go, “Okay, that’s interesting. I’m going to take this journey with you.” When I began this message, I talked about “What is it?” food. Ethnic food. [And some of you thought] “Wow, that’s interesting. Maybe I’ll listen to you, Ed. Hum, what is it? What is it? What is it?”
Well, Jesus does a strange introduction here. Do you know what he says to the people? “Hey, I know why you’re here. You’re stomachs are growling. You want another Hebrew happy meal. You want me to fill your stomachs again with spiritual food. That is why.” Can’t you imagine what the disciples were doing when Christ launched into this? They were probably going, “Jesus, this is not working. Let’s talk about something else. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the earth.’ And let’s talk about love and grace. This is not working well, Jesus.”
Jesus was reading the crowd’s email. He knew they were all into hunger, physical hunger. Yet, Jesus turned the tide. You could feel his tenor as he talks about soulish hunger, spiritual hunger, a deeper hunger.
Well, let’s pick up this talk, this message that Christ was doing here in John 6:27. Here’s what Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” There’s a lot in that verse. The #1 title Christ gives himself was the Son of Man. He said, “I am the Son of Man.” Christ said that because he became man. The Bible says [John 1:14], “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
We don’t serve a sequestered savior. We serve someone who has been there. When the listeners heard Christ make this statement, they got all wigged out on this word “work.” “Work. Work. Oh, work. What kind of work? Work. I’ve got to work for it. Work. Work. W-O-R-K! Work!” Well, what Jesus said now, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures through eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” They missed the essence of it. It’s not work; it’s give.
Look at Verse 28, “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’” What were they thinking about? They weren’t thinking about spiritual food here. They were thinking about their wants, their desires. They were saying, “Jesus, feed me, feed me, feed me.” And their stomachs would have expanded; their thighs would have gotten bigger. They were diet-driven people.
I’ve been in a series called “The Table.” We’ve been saying around here that the church is a table where people come to get fed. I’ve said that the pastor, the leader, the communicator is the dude with the food. The ultimate food deserves the ultimate presentation. We have two themes we think about every time we have church. We want to do what? We want to build believers and we want to serve seekers. We want to build believers and serve seekers. The ultimate food is what? The bread of life.
[Ed brings out a loaf of bread.] This is a multi-grain bread—$2.79 from Whole Foods. You shop at Whole Foods? It’s a great place. I can’t believe there’s not a Whole Foods around here. That’s terrible. I don’t know what their strategy is, but man, you ought to put one in this area, whoever owns Whole Foods. You know somebody who does, tell them, “Man, wake up. Put one here.” It would be great!
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. I am the cosmic carbohydrate.” He just slammed the Atkins diet right there, didn’t he? Well, these people were thinking about physical food and Christ is talking about spiritual food. They were thinking about their needs, their wants. But Christ got deeper. He again, read their email. He knew what the score really was.
Look at John 6:29, “Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: (“Here’s the work of God,” Christ says) to believe in the one he has sent.’” “Believe in the one…” Jesus is talking about God. [The people were like] “God sent you? Believe? That’s believe? There’s nothing I can do? You mean, I can’t work my way in? I can’t get baptized enough or I can’t give enough money or I can’t do enough good works? You mean it’s not something I do? It’s not something I work for?”
The Bible says we’re not saved by works. What would life be like if you were saved by works? We’d go around boasting, “Oh, man, you know, I’m the man because I did this or that. Yeah!” Heaven would be a place like, “See my trophies over there? Yeah, that’s why I’m here man! Oh, woo.” But it’s just not that way. It’s about grace. It’s about grace. And here’s where a lot of people get tripped up.
Let me talk, for example, to the people in this [first] chair, those who are investigating Christianity, those who are seeking. You might be saying, “Well, you know, I believe in the bread. Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life.’ I believe in the bread.” Yeah, you intellectually agree. “Whoa, there’s bread.” You might smell the bread. You might kind of taste it. Is that enough? Is that what the word “believe” means? Nope.
You believe me? Belief in Biblical times was a monster word. Belief in this context meant total assimilation. It means to do with Jesus what we do with bread. What do we do with bread? Is bread any good if we say, “Oh, I believe its bread. Smells like bread. Kind of looks like bread.” This bread doesn’t do jack unless I do what? Unless I eat the bread! So maybe Christ is saying that, like bread and like digestion, we take it and it becomes a part of us. We must do that with him, the bread of life.
In the book of John, Chapter 6, and throughout John, Jesus makes a bunch of “I am” statements. He said, “I am the light of the world.” Why did he say that? Light in the Bible represents truth. Jesus is truth. And light illuminates a path, a plan, a purpose for all of us.
Jesus said, “I am the gate.” He didn’t say, “I am just a….” He said, “I am the gate.” We get to God through Christ. He is the way. He is the gate. He wasn’t saying, “I am literally a gate and here’s the door knob.” No, no. He said I am the gate.
He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” That means he’s the meaning and the message that we all need.
He said, “I am the vine.” Well, branches can’t be branches unless they’re connected to a vine. Life is not really worth living unless we’re connected to Christ.
Jesus said, “I am the bread. I’m the source. I will satisfy, not physical hunger, but true soulish hunger forever and ever and ever.” Well, what happened? This audience, they were saying, “Okay. Hmm. You’re saying you’re Jesus; you’re saying you’re the Messiah.”
These people were pretty smart. [They knew the Midrash.] The Midrash was a Jewish commentary. And the Midrash said that Moses performed a miracle back when the children of Israel were free from Egyptian bondage. The Midrash says that Moses was the one that caused manna to drop from the heavens. And it also said that the Messiah would duplicate the miracles that Moses had done in his life. Now the Bible doesn’t say that, but the Midrash did.
So these Jews are going, “Okay, well, that’s pretty cool. I’ve been a part of the Hebrew happy meal miracle. And I guess now I’m just waiting for manna. This is going to drop from the sky. Jesus, show me some manna. Show me some sign. You’re saying, believe. Okay, I’ll believe. Show me. Show me the money! Show me the bread, I’m hungry. My stomach is growling. I’d like a bagel with some cream cheese, please.”
These people didn’t get it. Have you every talked to someone who’s been in a situation where you said to yourself, “I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I don’t get it.” These people didn’t get it. The cosmic carbohydrate was right there. The bread of life was right there. They just did not get it.
Well, Jesus continues to explain. This is brilliant. John Chapter 6:32-35, He says, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven…” Whoa! Now to us, that’s no big deal. “Oh, okay.” But back in Biblical times? Man, you didn’t mess around with the Big Mo! With Moses? No, no, no, no. You don’t mess with him. Jesus said [paraphrased], “It’s not Moses.” “It is my father”—see, Christ is pointing everybody the right way—“who gives you the true bread (hint, hint) from heaven.”
Verse 33-44, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread.’” They go back to their growling stomachs. I mean, I like to eat, but come on, man! Verse 35, “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’” Here’s the word “believes” again. We yield our desires, our plans, our strength, our everything to Christ. That’s how we take the bread of life.
Now go back with me again in the Old Testament. Don’t forget Big Mo. Don’t forget God raining manna down from heaven. Don’t forget the foreshadowing of the lamb and the blood, because Jesus is the fulfillment of all of that. We’re in spiritual bondage. Jesus is our deliverer. If we feed on the bread of life, we can be emancipated from this stranglehold of sin. Jesus is the Lamb of God. He shed his blood on the cross for your sins and mine—something that’s totally outside of us. He gave his body as a living sacrifice so we could be free.
Manna came down from heaven in darkness. Jesus entered this world that was darkened by sin. He entered this world as a light, as a gate, as the way, the truth, and the life—as the source. That manna only temporarily satisfied. “Oh, okay, yummmm. Got some manna. I’m good for 24 hours.” Jesus said, “No, no, no, I’m talking forever, dude. Forever.” The pictures are amazing. The depth. The breadth. The brilliance of Jesus’ talk. Over the top man!
Look at John 6:44. You might be saying, “Ed, I wonder why I’m here tonight?” Well, this verse tells you. Read your email once again. “No one,” Christ says, “can come to me unless the father who sent me”—What? I can’t hear you.—“draws him.” There you go! Bring it!
I love bread. I absolutely go crazy over carbohydrates. I love them. I think this whole Atkins thing is overrated anyway. But that’s a whole other story. This morning Lisa made some French toast. My wife’s a great cook. I no longer say, “What is it?” I know what it is. And when that French toast was cooking and my nostrils started flaring and I just, you know, when I got to that French toast it was like a great white shark. My eyes rolled back in my head. Chomp, chomp, chomp! There’s nothing like the smell of bread freshly baked. The aroma is intoxicating.
You ever met somebody who wears just too much cologne or perfume? You know those people who are like, “Oh, whoa! Girl, I got this new perfume at Neiman’s and….” Whoa, okay, nice! My father’s assistant, Betty Brockman, is a great lady. I love Betty to death. Hopefully, she will not get this DVD or CD. She’s been his assistant, I don’t know how many years. 30 years. She wears this rose kind of perfume. And I have a very sensitive nose. I can’t see that well, but I can smell and hear. It’s just crazy what I can smell and hear. I can smell Betty Brockman coming, I promise you, from 50 feet away. “Uh, Betty Brockman is somewhere around here!” I just smell her out. It’s incredible.
Do you know why you’re here? The aroma from the bread of life. That’s why you’re here. Now, the believers here, because you’re a believer, you’re commanded to be here. Hebrews 10:25. But if you are a seeker, if you’re investigating Christianity, you’re here because of the aroma. It has led you here. It has drawn you here. Don’t just smell it. Don’t just say, “Oh, yeah, okay. Here’s some bread. That’s cool man. Nice bread.” No, no. Eat the bread of life. Eat the bread of life. That’s what you’re looking for.
See, a lot of you have that manna mentality. “Uh, man, if I make this amount of money, that’ll do it.” Well, you know, right now the maggots are already in that stuff. “Well, if I can hang out with this person, marry this person and….” You know that’s not going to do it. “Well, if I get this job and I can drive this or fly there….” Ugh!
Come on, man! It’s not going to work. You know it’s not working. Who are you trying to kid? It’s the bread of life. It’s the bread. You’re looking for the bread, and you don’t even know it. You’re like these people back in Christ’s day. They didn’t know what they were looking for. But that aroma drew them in.
In John 6:51, Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” We are what we eat. Is that right? That’s true physically and also spiritually. [The verse continues] “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
I’ll say it again. We receive him within, just like we receive food and drink. Because Jesus goes on and says this, he goes, “This bread is my flesh. And this wine, okay, is my blood. So go ahead and eat my flesh and drink my blood.” He was talking figuratively. He was talking in symbolism. When Jesus said, “I am the gate,” again, he’s not talking about a literal gate. This was a foreshadowing of his death, burial, and resurrection.
It’s also a foreshadowing of the table. The table is mentioned throughout Scripture. Go back in the Old Testament once again. Solomon’s temple. Tables were huge. They were towering in the whole set up. There was shoe bread on the table, twelve different slices of bread that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. In Psalm 23 what did David say? “Thou (God) preparest a table…in the presence of mine enemies.” Jesus, during The Last Supper, was reclining at the table. He took two common elements—a glass of wine and some bread. “This bread represents my body. This wine represents my blood. Eat this as you remember me.” And then Jesus said, in Luke 22 and also Revelations 3, that one day if we eat the bread we will dine at Christ’s table forever and ever and ever.
So we are what we eat? Have you eaten the bread of life? John 6:58, “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Maybe you’re a believer. Do you have that manna mentality? Or are you just kind of saying, “Feed me, feed me, feed, feed me?” It’s great to be fed. We’ve got to be fed. We’ve got to be diet driven. But we’ve got to be diet and exercise people! Because if we’re just diet people, our life will have a stench about us. We’ll be covered with maggots. We’ll never do what God wants us to do with the energy and the calories that these carbs give us.
Maybe you’re in this chair. Maybe you’re a seeker. Maybe you’re investigating the claims of Christ. You need, today, just to tell God what he already knows—that you are sinner and in need of a savior, that you want to take the bread of life, that you realize there’s a gnawing, low-grade awareness that there’s a hunger down deep that’s never been satisfied.
You thought the first, you know, thousand or hundred thousand dollars would do it. You thought having sex with that person would do it. You thought doing that drug would do it. You thought living in that house would do it. But it’s not there. You need the bread. You need the bread. Jesus is not going to take the bread and force it down your throat. I can’t do that either. You’ve got to do it yourself. It’s your prerogative; it’s your call.
Right now we’re going to prepare to take communion, The Lord’s Supper. If you are believer it’s your time to worship, to look back at what Jesus did for you at Calvary, to look forward to sitting at his table and dining with him forever and ever. If you’re a seeker, I’m going to pray a prayer in just a couple of moments. And this prayer can be your prayer to eat the bread of life. Tonight you can take communion for the first time. And just as a physical reminder to yourself and as a symbol before God as you eat the bread you’ll be saying, “Jesus Christ, I’ve received you like I receive this bread in my life. Totally assimilation, Lord. Tax, title, everything, the total package. I give it to you.” Tonight can be your night, once you eat the bread of life, because no longer will you ever have to say as you walk through the buffet line of life, “What is it?” Because you will know what it is.
Let’s bow our heads and our hearts together. Many here need to pray a prayer to commit their lives to Christ. Just say this with me to yourself: God, in a couple of moments I’m going to eat the bread during communion and this symbolizes that I’ve asked you to come inside. I give you my dreams, my ambitions, my mind, my body, my relationships. Everything, Christ I give to you. You’re the source. You, I know, will satisfy my hunger.
Hey, if you said that with me that’s the best thing that you’ll ever do. And after you take communion and after this service is over, I want you to just make a bee line out to the information kiosk and say, “Hey, I prayed this prayer with Ed.” Because we have people out there who would love to talk to you about the implications of the bread of life.
Others here who are believers or maybe just diet-driven people, it’s time to diet and exercise. It’s time to utilize those calories from being fed to serve and to live and to be the kind of people that God wants you to be. Father, we love you.
And right now in a spirit of worship, some men and women are going to come by and give you some juice and give you some bread. If you’ll wait and hold it there during this next song, I’ll come back and instruct you on when to take the elements. But remember, this juice represents the blood and the bread represents the body that Jesus gave for you and for me. So let’s continue to worship as we contemplate the depth of our Father’s love.