Monday, August 17, 2009

John 6: Jesus the Bread of Life

So three parts of the same story. This is the third part - the long part of the story. Bread, eating, even being healed are all pretty concrete. Food and hospitality, Jesus' hospitality - another topic. How do kids feel when they're sick or hungry? How does that affect how they think? What they do?

I think bread used to mean more to people than it does to most of us today. Bread means more to you when you need it to survive. When you make your own bread day after day (think time and resources) - it's apt to mean more than buying a loaf of white bread in the store. Grinding the grain, harvesting the grain. Sights, smells, sounds, the touch of the dry grain grass or the floury dough, kneading, the smell of bread baking. Bread and grain-picking, grinding, dirt, sweat, making bread, baking bread, eating bread . . . Jesus - Bread of Life.

Activity: You can show the kids each part of the bread making process (grain to finished loaf) while a loaf is baking in the oven. Then you can eat it. That's the very best thing to do with a bread lesson.

The crowd finds Jesus on the other side of the lake, wondering how he got there. Miracles and full bellies - very physical needs being met. Jesus tells the people that they aren't following him for the miracles but because he fed them. He was a spiritual teacher meeting physical needs. The spiritual and physical of miracles - another topic.

Somehow even though they followed Him and wanted to make him king, they wanted to know how to obey - Jesus would later in this chapter tell them they really don't believe in Him.

Bread keeps you alive and healthy. Traditionally, it's a staple. You eat it, it's gone but it keeps you alive. It costs money.

Jesus told them, "27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." What does that look like for grown-ups? What does that look like for children? Working for food. You don't work, you don't eat. Working for food that would endure to eternal life, food that Jesus gives you like the bread he passed out. Jesus is talking about working for a food that will never go bad. . . food, sustenance that endures to eternal life. It will never spoil . . .The bread God is offering is, in fact, Jesus. God puts His seal of approval on this food, this bread, Jesus. God's seal of approval. That's pretty cool. Activity ideas?

The miracles Jesus accomplished were very concrete - healing bodies - feeding bodies.

28Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Tell us what to do!

29Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." Work that children can do?

The people were connecting Jesus and the bread with Moses and the manna. Scripture. The stories of scripture. They ask, Are we understanding you, Lord? The people even say, "Lord, we want this bread you're talking about." They even quote scripture. But apparently they don't understand. Jesus points them back to the Father.

Jesus says in vs 35 "I am the bread of life." Here is a promise for you no matter how old you are: "He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." Maybe the passages later in this chapter are for an older audience but there were probably children in the crowd while all this is going on. Kids who are never hungry? Kids who are never thirsty? Think about it! Activity: Songs are great for remembering scripture. Activity: When we pray can we humbly remind God and say, "Lord, You promised."

After all that Jesus said, after all the people experienced, after all that the people seem to understand Jesus says, "and still you do not believe." A humbling part of this story.

Another promise for grown-up and child. Jesus said, 37"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." Hey! Jesus did that! 5000 hungry people came to Jesus and He didn't chase them away!

When we ask children to obey, do we use Jesus as an example? 38"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. [But here's the clincher]. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." Another promise. A picture of God's caring? A picture of the work Jesus came to do? A picture of what obeying meant to Jesus?

And people start grumbling!! Why? 42They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?" How can this man say, "God sent me." Sometimes we know people so well that we can't see or appreciate God moving and using them.

Verses 43-51, more promises.

Then it gets hard. Did these words make people think of the Jewish meat sacrifices? I don't know. Were there other things going on in the culture that might have caused a reference like this to turn them off? I don't know. If you had no experience with church, if you had no experience with communion, would Jesus' words turn you off? Lots here about bread. Lots here about Jesus - the bread sent from heaven.

We talk about concrete? Jesus seemed to be asking these people to take Him very very literally. They had eaten real bread and been healed of real diseases. And now He's speaking in the synagogue telling them they have to eat his flesh and drink his blood? This was before the days of communion as we know it. (I'm rushing through this. Feel free to go back and slow down and ponder.)

If they weren't already confused Jesus says "'Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! [another miracle] 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. [wasn't Jesus just talking about flesh?] The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.'" Do we focus on some kind of predestination that says either we're chosen or we're not? God helps us see or He doesn't? That might be true. But isn't it also true that God enables us to come to Jesus and Jesus enables us to come to the Father? We can focus on that. I hope it's safe to say that even though He knows who will come and who won't, He wants us.

People left. No, not just "people left." The scriptures tell us, "many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." Jesus says,

67"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. " This next part is one of my favorite passages:

68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

This part is hard:

70Then Jesus replied, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!" 71(He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)"

But you know what? Even knowing what Jesus knew, He kept Judas in his group of close followers. Judas had a role to play that most of us would never want to play. Jesus kept him as one of the Twelve. Activity: As a grownup or with a group of teens consider a word study about Judas. Every time you read a passage about Jesus addressing all 12 of His disciples or places where all Twelve were there listening, remember that any inclusive words Jesus spoke would have included Judas. See what you find. Wasn't he at that Passover meal eating the bread of Jesus' body and drinking the wine of his blood?

Lots to chew on. . . I mean, ponder. There are things in scripture we can easily bring to children. There are other things that we have to ponder ourselves and let them work deep in our own lives.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the amazing work He does to us, for us, and in us and those we love.

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