Bread of Life John 6, 24-35
Dear community, Bread of life is the topic today. So that is the text from the Gospel of John we have just heard in the second reading. Bread of life, that inevitably means the question: who is Jesus?
At this point, some of you might already turn away disappointed and ask: Who is Jesus? But hello, if we could not answer that question, we would hardly be here. If we had hardly come to a „Christian“ service.
That’s right, of course. Whereby there are two big questions for me behind this „who is Jesus“: On the one hand the question: Can these words, of never being hungry and never being thirsty still have their eﬀect in me or am I so used to them that their daily, constant, renewing power has been lost?
And on the other hand the question: Can I explain this what moves me, determines my life, gives purpose and direction, to others?
These are for me the essential aspects of this text. The ‚Gretchen question,‘ the all-important question, is: Who is this Jesus for me? Do I believe him? Is Jesus my bread of life?
I admit that for the ﬁrst time, I have been tempted with the argument this text has brought me to, to Determinism, that is, that those who can believe and who cannot believe is Predetermined: An idea that I actually reject decisively, because for me the love of God is achievable to ALL – applies to all people and should actually be accessible to all people. But just this passage, in reality the whole bread talk, which reaches to the end of this chapter- in verse 71- makes so much incomprehension become clear that one can already ponder, if really every person can believe in Jesus.
These people all come after Jesus; all are witnesses to the great loaves of bread – when Jesus made 5 of them with 5 breads and 2 ﬁsh – and again demand a miracle. What else is Jesus supposed to do, what he has not done just now? Why a wonder again, what should a new miracle do?
John Wesley writes on the subject of miracle stories:
„I will freely admit that I have seen some things with my own eyes and with my own ears that, in my careful judgment, cannot be considered as the result of a natural causation. I therefore believe that they must be attributed to an extraordinary intervention of God. If anyone wants to call these events miracles, I will not object. But let us suppose that a teacher, for example a teacher of the church, would today perform „true and undoubted“ miracles. That would hardly shorten the confrontation with his opponents, because that would not force them to believe. People can harden their hearts against miracles as well as against arguments. „
I think Wesley is absolutely right here and makes the point extremely well: If someone does not want to believe, neither miracles nor arguments will help.
Or in a nutshell: It depends on the basics. Is God the Creator of the universe, Is Jesus the cornerstone the builders rejected, Is Jesus the bread of life?
Of course, all of our surroundings shape us. Of course, what we read, what we hear, other things do inﬂuence us.
Again and again we have to ask ourselves: what is good for me? What prevents and what encourages life? What causes stress/pressure and what releases/frees?
I say that at this point, because some of the statements in the aforementioned book,
„Experienced, exquisite, recognized,“ I would say, can almost cause frustration. The well-known theologian Dorothee Sölle, for example, writes about the phenomenon of mass atheism or religiousness out of banality. In the past, questions of religion were wrestled and discussed, but today these questions no longer come up. It just does not seem to matter (for many). I have noticed that I am able to gain a lot from this assessment.
Or Wilhelm Nausner writes (in the Zeitalter) about the age of doubt opposite the age of belief that began at the end of the Middle Ages. That people have begun to question everything, even God. This leads away from God, but more and more into the despair born of doubt.
And people therefore try to detach themselves completely from God and religion. I can also follow these Ways of Thinking to some extent.
In any case, I have found that these partial aspects of a world view, in conjunction with today’s biblical text and a reminder of one’s own conversations about the Christian faith, have created a strangely debilitating mood in me.
Where was the liberator of the gospel?
The liberator lies – as so often is – in the text. It’s in front of our eyes and we heard it too, but perhaps just overheard. Jesus answers the question of what we need to do to fulﬁll God’s will:
„God’s will is fulﬁlled by believing in the One he has sent.“ (V29) That we believe in Jesus is enough. How many expectations God could place on us here, and yet how „little“ He expects from us here! That’s interesting. See what is said here (about ‚being Christian‘) and what opinions prevail about Jesus or being Christian. Imagine, we would walk thru Graz and ask people:
„Excuse me, are you a Christian?“ Maybe we would often actually here, „Yes, I try.“ Or „I would not say that about myself.“ Notice- People still associate Christianity with a high moral proﬁle. But that’s not what Jesus‘ answer is all about. Of course, faith also aﬀects our behavior, faith changes us. But this is not the core of Jesus‘ answer. It’s not about our behavior, it’s about our identity.
Imagine, we ask a man: „Are you a man?“
And the human being answers: „Yes, I am trying.“ Or „I would not say that about myself.“
Christ gives us identity. A faith in Jesus makes us Christians. What is liberating in this step is that it can also be seen as a small, not so diﬃcult step. You do not have to DO or leave anything at ﬁrst, you do not have to BE one way or the other before, your skin color and history does not matter, man or woman, poor or rich, it does not matter. You just have to take that ﬁrst step of trust. That is the beginning of faith, and so Jesus becomes the bread of life. Bread – the picture of what we need to live.
I believe that in this question (for all people) there is no value placed on how long we/they have believed in Jesus: What do I need to live? What receives/holds me? What can Jesus do for me here?
The answers to these questions will naturally look diﬀerent for each person. But for the sake of concluding this sermon, I would like to oﬀer three very concrete examples, I’ve experienced from my daily life: Where will Jesus become the bread of life for me?
First, Jesus becomes the bread of life for me by giving me the certainty that doubt can only be overcome by faith. Doubt can never be in the beginning. Doubt needs something to doubt. Therefore doubt cannot be overcome by doubt, but only by faith, if one does not want to end up in despair. Bread is an image for vital necessities that builds, that nourishes. What nourishes more: „I doubt you“ or „I believe in you.“
Second, Jesus overcomes hatred, violence and death by surrendering oneself. This is a process that I cannot only believe, but also understand. Those who see hatred will also reap hate. Violence is not overcome by violence, but generates new violence. These are pretty simple life observations. And Jesus does it diﬀerently. He is ready, in pain and at the price of his life, to break this cycle. That’s why Jesus is believable when talking about love. Jesus as bread that made new life possible, even for me.
Third, Jesus nourishes me by allowing me to connect with him and no longer be alone. I not have to do everything on my own. I clearly feel the words that we also ﬁnd in the Gospel of John about the vine and the vine: without me you can do nothing. Oh yes, we can – we can do it, but what will it them become? In connection with Jesus, everything is easier and better to do. Why refrain from food that God himself oﬀers?
In summary, I can really say: It is the faith that carries. Faith in Jesus, who is the Messenger of God. It is not the church, not the doubt, not the miracles that carry them, but the bread of life.