Download or listen to the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: “Is Jesus Enough? (Part 1)” (John 6:22-35)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus says to the crowds who are looking for Him: “You are seeking Me, not because you saw signs”–signs that should have pointed you beyond themselves to Me–“you are seeking Me not because you saw signs, but because you ate from the loaves and you were satisfied, you were filled up, you had enough.” Which made me wonder, what does it mean to be satisfied? To have enough? The people had eaten the loaves and fishes, and they were satisfied, filled up. They had as much as they could eat, 5000 men, plus women and children, along with twelve baskets left over for the apostles. They had enough, and yet, they’re back again the next day looking for more. You know how it is: you can eat the biggest meal ever, you can be completely full; you say, no more, thanks; I’ve had enough. But you know that tomorrow you will be hungry again. Actually, isn’t this the basis of all advertising? They try to sell you the newest phone, the newest computer, the newest car, the newest TV. They say, after this phone, this car, this computer, you won’t need another. But they, and you, know that it is a lie. They’re going to try and sell you a new one next week. They know that you always want more. Just like the Israelites in the wilderness after God brought them out of Egypt. They complain and grumble about everything—eight times in those few verses, the word for “grumbling” appears. They want to go back to slavery; they think those were the good old days, when they ate Pharaoh’s left-over meat. They say, “Did you bring us out here to kill us with hunger?” A little later, they say, “Did you bring us out here to kill us with thirst?” And yet, God feeds them, as ungrateful as they are. He gives them manna, and quail, and water from the rock. But they simply cannot, or will not, trust God. God says, I’ll give you enough manna for each day; don’t worry. Gather enough for each day—gather this day your daily bread—and I will give you more tomorrow. Don’t try to gather two days’ worth; it will rot. But what do they do? They gather more than they need, and try to keep it overnight. And it rots. They don’t trust that God will give them enough bread tomorrow. And then He tells them to gather twice as much on the sixth day, so that they don’t have to work on the seventh day, the Sabbath. Don’t worry, it won’t go bad on that day. But what do they do? They go out on the seventh day and try to gather manna, but there is none. They do not trust that God will provide for them; they think they have to work on the seventh day, as if God had lied to them; they think they don’t have time to rest their bodies and souls, and let God do His work of making them holy. They do not trust God; they can only complain.
But did they ever not have enough? Do we ever not have enough? When was the last time I was hungry and couldn’t find some food? When was the last time I was thirsty and couldn’t find something to drink? When did I ever live without a roof over my head? The answer is never, as I suspect it is for at least most of you. As the catechism puts it, “God daily and richly provides for all my needs of body and soul” (1st Article of the Creed, Explanation). He daily and richly provides for all my needs of body and soul. No, I have never lacked. Never had less than enough. We’re all still here, aren’t we? But we’re still talking about the needs of our body, as we tend to do. But Jesus says, “Do not work”–maybe, here, do not work only, or do not work so much–“do not work only for the food that perishes.” For the food that you chew up and it goes into your digestive system, and then—well, you know where it goes. It is being destroyed, it is passing away, just like everything that has to do with this creation. You can’t keep any of it; all of our technology, food, clothes—everything is perishing, even as God daily and richly provides it. Do not work only, do not work so much, for that food. “Work, rather, for the food that remains into everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” And the people say to Jesus, “Well, what should we do to be working the works of God? What works will get us that food that remains into eternal life?” And Jesus says, “Not works, not plural. This is the singular work of God, that you believe in that One whom He has sent.” Faith is everything. If you trust Christ, everything else falls into place; if you don’t have that trust, everything else is nothing. But they say to Him, “Okay, Jesus, we know You’re talking about Yourself; You are claiming to be the One whom God has sent. Well, what sign do you give us so that we might see it and believe? What work will you do to prove that we are justified in putting our trust in You? Sure, you gave us bread one day, but Moses gave us bread for forty years in the wilderness.” Jesus says, “Moses did not give you the bread from heaven; My Father is giving you the true bread from heaven.” “Always give us this bread! This true bread that gives life to the world, that will never wear out or be used up, but will remain into eternal life. Give us this bread!” And Jesus says, “I am that bread. I am the bread coming down from heaven that gives life eternal to the world. Whoever comes to Me, whoever believes in Me, will never hunger or thirst.”
At this point, we know we’re not talking about normal food anymore. Because you could be in perfect health, never be hungry or thirsty, and you will still die. All the people in the wilderness at manna, bread from heaven, and they all died. But Jesus claims that He is the true bread, that if you eat Him in faith, you will never hunger or thirst; nor do you even really die. The question is this: is Jesus enough? Will Jesus satisfy? We know that the things of this creation can only fill us up temporarily, that we will always want more if this is all there is. What about Jesus, who claims to be the only true food that there really is? Is He enough?
I could tell you that He is. That His death is more than enough for your sin. That there is no action that you have done, that you as a sinner are not too much for His forgiveness. That every single thing you are and everything you have done is covered, satisfied, by His blood. That His Word is complete and perfect. That because you eat His true Body and Blood, because He is risen from the dead, you will also rise from the dead and be with Him forever. That He, by Word and Sacrament, is more than enough for the eternal life that begins now and lasts forever. And it is true. He is enough. But He will not give you some other sign that His promise is good. As much as He has given, you have nothing but His Word about tomorrow. Just as the Israelites had nothing but the promise that God would provide, you cannot see tomorrow. Do you trust Him to do what He says He will do? I assure you, He is trustworthy. But as long as there is something else that you think you need, as long as you think you don’t need His daily and weekly Word of forgiveness, as long as His Body and Blood are more like an afterthought than your very life; you may not believe me. The question of John 6, where we will spend our time these three weeks, is: Is Jesus enough? Is He enough for you and me? Is He enough for the Church? Is He enough for the world? Stay tuned.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 8/4/12