Working for What?
Topic: Biblical Verse: John 6:22–6:35
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 4-5, 2018
“Working for What?”
Sometimes in life it’s important to just stop and ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?” Is there a greater purpose being served by what I am doing? Or am I just putting in my time until it’s quittin’ time? Some of you may remember a hit song way back in 1981 by a Canadian band called Loverboy. The name of the song is “Working for the Weekend,” and not surprisingly, it is about just that: how everybody is working for the weekend – you know, freedom, fun, time off from work. “The song originated when guitarist Paul Dean was out walking one Wednesday afternoon, looking for inspiration in his songwriting. He noticed that much of the area was deserted, as most people were at work. “So I’m out on the beach and wondering, “Where is everybody? Well, I guess they’re all waiting for the weekend,’” he later said (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_for_the_Weekend). It was a catchy song that was at the top of the charts. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus asks a similar question of the people who followed him around the Sea of Galilee after he fed 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. They wanted more! And so Jesus says this to them: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor [work] for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:26-27). Jesus asks us: What are you working for? Does it truly satisfy you? Jesus invites us to feed on him as the Bread of Life and know that satisfaction and peace which only he can give. This forms the basis for today’s message, entitled, “Working for What?” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
For the next three Sundays, we will hear about Jesus the Bread of Life, all from John chapter 6. This is the first of Jesus’ seven “I Am” sayings in John’s Gospel: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35); “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12); “I am the door” (John 10:7); “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11); “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6); and “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). But three Sundays in a row on the Bread of Life? You might think this sounds kind of repetitious, but there are some pretty specific and relevant points in each of these sections from John 6 for our lives today that rise up from Jesus’ teaching here. The background here, as mentioned before, is that Jesus had miraculously fed 5000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Amazing! But the people only saw the gift of food and not the Giver of that gift. John doesn’t use the word “miracle.” Instead, he uses the word “sign.” This amazing work which Jesus did was a sign pointing to the greater reality of who he is as the Son of God sent from heaven. The people saw the sign, they touched the sign, they even ate the sign, but they did not believe the sign. They only knew what was before them, and they wanted more. That’s why they hunted Jesus down and raced around the Sea of Galilee to find him. That gift of the multiplication of loaves and fishes wasn’t enough. Pretty soon, the people were hungry again and so they come looking for Jesus. Truth is, we’re not so different from those people. We tend to see only what’s on the surface, and we do not grasp the deeper truth that the Lord would have us see. Like the song goes, so often we’re just “working for the weekend.” Like those people who came looking for Jesus, we’re afraid that we’re not going to have enough. We have to make sure that we have stockpiled ample supplies. But the truth is, it’s never enough for us, is it? So, what is it that we are working for in life? Things that will perish, or things that will endure?
Like those people, we want concrete proof of what Jesus can do for us: “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:30; see Exodus 16:4, 15; Numbers 11:8; Psalm 78:24; 104:40). Unbelievable! Didn’t these idiots just see with their own eyes what Jesus did? Sure they did – but they wanted more proof. According to Hebrew tradition, when the Messiah came, he would renew the miracle of the manna, which we hear about in today’s Old Testament lesson (Exodus 16:2-15). The Lord graciously provided manna and quail for his people to eat in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. But God’s gracious response was because of their grumbling. That word “grumble” is mentioned nine times in the Old Testament lesson, and the original word used here carries with it the image of a caged animal growling. God’s people didn’t trust that God would take care of them; that God would provide for them. The lack of trust in God’s providential care led to a spirit of grumbling, complaining, and discontent. Like them, we see only what we do not have, and what we do have is never enough. Sound familiar? Our lack of trust in God’s providential care leads us to do the same thing.
Jesus tells us: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Over against our short-sightedness and tendency to focus on what is superficial, Jesus makes clear that he is the One who will satisfy our deepest hunger and thirst. As wonderful as the manna in the wilderness was, it was temporary and passing. It did not last forever, but Jesus is forever. He tells us: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). If we want more than just working for the weekend, if we want something that is going to abide for time and eternity, it’s Jesus that we want. The One who is the Bread of Life is the One who has laid down his life for us and for our salvation. He invites us to feed on him and be satisfied. He invites us to drink deeply of that water of life which he alone can give: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). This is that full and abundant life which Jesus has come to bring to each one of us (John 10:10) through his sinless life and his innocent suffering and death upon the cross.
The written Word of God – the Scriptures – make known to us the living Word, the Word made flesh, Jesus. The Scriptures point us to Jesus as the center and key of the Word of God. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan and purpose for us, and all of God’s promises find their “yes” in him (2 Corinthians 1:20). Like food which we eat and which sustains us and strengthens our bodies to function, so in feeding on Jesus our Bread of Life, we are sustained and strengthened in our life of faith. Without food for the body, we grow weak and begin to fade. The same is true with faith: without feeding on Jesus, we grow weak and begin to fade. As we “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the Word of God, we feed on Jesus the Bread of Life. He nourishes us in faith so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, we “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). Jesus the Bread of Life comes to us not only in his Word but also in his Holy Supper. Here, in this blessed Sacrament, Jesus, our heavenly manna and our Bread of Life, gives us his very Body and Blood to eat and to drink – a foretaste of that heavenly banquet that awaits us as the children of God. The Word and Sacraments are what sustain us on our journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
This is so much more than just working for the weekend. This is Christ the Bread of Life in us working toward eternal life. Amen.