Believe In Him
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are consumers. We are a nation of buyers. A good share of our time is spent shopping – shopping for food, personal hygiene items, household cleaning items, clothing, furniture, cars, houses or apartments. Those are some of the more important items in our daily lives, but we also shop for entertainment items, vacation items, and luxury items.
So much of what we purchase ends up being things we really don’t need. Drive around one day and checkout the many garage and yard sales where so much many of our purchases are sold at ten cents on the dollar. The things of this world perish, rust, are eaten by moths, and are stolen by thieves.
We work for these things of the world. Often times we grumble about the work required to be consumers, to buy the things of the world. If only there would be some miracle that would save us from the work. If only God would free us from the burden of work.
The crowd in today’s gospel reading were among those who had been fed by Jesus with five loaves of bread and two fish. It was the following day and they had come to Capernaum hoping to see Jesus again. They did not understand how he had gotten their before them.
They had seen Jesus send his disciples on ahead of him. The crowd had used the other boats. So how did Jesus get to Capernaum before them? It must have been another miracle.
The people in the crowd were seeking Jesus because they had seen a way of by-passing the work required to buy food. They were seeking him not because they had faith in him as the Son of God or as their savior from sin. He had given them free food. What is better than having enough food to eat? It’s having free to eat. If Jesus could do miracles, if he could provide free food what other earthly things could he provide?
These people had rowed across the sea to make Jesus their “Bread King.” They followed after Jesus for free food to nourish their bodies. Jesus had come to nourish their souls. He said to them, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
The people were spending all their efforts, all their work in finding Jesus and making him their source of food. They were looking for miracles from him that would satisfy their daily needs. Jesus told them their priorities were wrong, they should be seeking first the food that provides eternal life.
We remember the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
They had witnessed a miracle. The miracles of Jesus were meant to be signs to show people that Jesus was the Messiah, the chosen one who had come to give them eternal life. They were meant to bring people to faith in Jesus as the Christ. Jesus said 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.”
Jesus confronted these people with their sin. Their focus was on things of this world. To paraphrase Jesus, “Your bellies were filled and you want me to do it again! Stop worrying about your bellies and start worrying about your eternal life!” “Stop working only for food that provides for the body.”
The people respond with these words, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” The people knew that their true intentions had been exposed. Rather than repent, they tried to work out a deal with Jesus. They assumed that Jesus was telling them they had to earn the things they desired from Jesus.
That’s how the world works. That’s how our sinful nature understands things. That’s what the devil would have us believe. They were proposing doing something for God and in return, Jesus would give them something earthly.
They still didn’t understand. Jesus tells them, “This is the work of God; that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” The crowd was talking about work that they could do to please God. They were talking about what they could do and were ignoring what God was doing right in front of them.
The heavenly Father sent his Son into the world so that the world could have faith in him as the source of true life. Just as the heavenly Father sent manna to feed the Israelites in the wilderness, so the heavenly Father sent Jesus into the world to feed sinners with the bread of life.
It is God who does the work to make you alive. It is the heavenly Father who sent his Son down from heaven to fulfill the law that you are unable to fulfill. It is the Son of God who came down from heaven to die on the cross because you have sinned by placing your trust in things of the world like food, clothing, and shelter. It is the Son of God who sends his Holy Spirit to work through the Word and Sacraments to give you faith.
Jesus came to do the work of God, the work that that none of us can do. God’s work is Holy Baptism in which he gives you a new birth. In baptism God drowns the old sinful Adam in you. In baptism God connects you with the life saving death of Jesus and His glorious resurrection.
God’s work is the Lord’s Supper in which you receive the bread of life, Jesus Christ. Jesus is not junk wood, he is not state fair fried food. He is the bread that satisfies you as no other bread can do. Receiving him means receiving forgiveness and eternal life. Partaking of him means receiving faith that will sustain you in all your trials and temptations in life.
God work is his word spoken by Jesus and recorded for you by the prophets and apostles. Our temptation is to hunger and thirst after the things of this world, to have a diet of food, entertainment, and vacations. We want to fill up on time spent on ourselves and for our own benefit. We work for the things that will not last. Some will rust away, others will be eaten by moths, some will be stolen, none will last all will perish.
Jesus says to you, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” In another passage Jesus said, “what does a man profit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”
More important than eating the right foods is our spiritual diet. How much more important it is for us to consume the right things for our soul so that we may live forever? Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. If we eat of him, we will never be hungry. If we believe in him, we will never be thirsty.”
Jesus is the only food that can take care of our troubled consciences and our guilty hearts. Repent Jesus says to us, repent and hunger for the bread of life. Repent, turn away from hungering and thirsting after the things of this world. Repent knowing that the result of your works will not save you.
Hunger for his Word for in it you hear that you are made alive through his works, his life, his death, his resurrection for you. Daily be fed with the reality that in baptism Jesus claimed you as his own. As often, as you receive his body and blood, know that your sins are forgiven.
Jesus says to you, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believe in me shall never thirst.” He tells you this for your comfort and for your strength. He has given you the gift of faith so that you may “Believe in Him and not in yourself.”
Soli Deo Gloria