The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 5, 2018
You Are What You Eat!
Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do 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.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Are you familiar with the phrase, “You are what you eat”? It’s actually quite well-known. Whether it’s our Mom or our spouse, a doctor or a nutritionist it is not unusual to hear someone remind us that we need to be conscious of what kind of food we are feeding our body. If even half of what I read is true, one of the reasons our nation is having an obesity problem is due to the fact that instead of eating fruits and vegetables and grains, we are eating a lot of junk food and drinking a lot of pop. And, of course, it’s not hard to connect the dots between eating unhealthy food and having health problems. The two tend to go hand-in-hand.
Our sermon text for today focuses our attention on the subject of food. It doesn’t take long to see, however, that the food that the people wanted Jesus to give them was very different from the food that Jesus was freely offering to them. In order to help us both capture and remember the essence of what this portion of Scripture is teaching us let’s study this text under the theme: You Are What You Eat! There are three truths emphasized here in this text. Truth #1— If you only eat the food that perishes, you will perish. Truth #2— If you eat the food of work-righteousness, you will fail. Truth #3— If you eat the Bread of Life, you will live!
Our text for today is actually just one portion of a much larger event. As we heard in last Sunday’s sermon Jesus had just miraculously fed over 5,000 people with five small barley loaves and two small fish. John tells us that the people were so impressed by Jesus’ power that they planned to “Make him king by force”! (John 6:15) Jesus, of course, wanted absolutely nothing to do with being a “bread king.” So John tells us that Jesus “withdrew again to a mountain by himself” while His disciples got in some boats to travel across the Sea of Galilee. Here is where you may recall that Jesus caught up with His disciples by walking on the water.
That brings us to the opening verses of our text for today. Look at what John tells us, “Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’”
There are two details here that are important for us to remember. First, these people had just seen Jesus perform the amazing miracle of feeding over 5,000 people with just five small barley loaves and two small fish. Second, when the people asked Jesus, “When did you get here?” they were in reality asking Jesus, “How did you get here?” Since they saw Jesus’ disciples leave without Him and since they knew that Jesus did not leave in another boat they concluded that Jesus must have performed yet another miracle! So they anxiously wanted to know— how did Jesus get to Capernaum ahead of them!
Jesus quickly directed their attention to a truth that was far more important than the miracle He had performed in order to get to Capernaum ahead of them. Our Savior says, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
What our Savior was reminding these people is very simply this: You are what you eat! The entire focus of these people was limited to physical food for their physical bodies. But even then, they did not want Jesus to “teach them how to fish.” They wanted Jesus to use His power and to use His resources to just keep giving them fish! Wouldn’t that be sweet! Instead of having to actually work for a living, instead of having to actually use the gifts, talents and abilities God gave you to provide for yourself, your family and others, you could just sit back and let someone else provide you with everything you need! What the people here in our text didn’t understand, my friends, was that they were focusing their lives on the “food that spoils.” This is where Truth #1 reminds us that if you eat only the food that perishes, you will perish.
It’s certainly not difficult to see people like this today, is it? Their entire life is focused on the things of this world. From the time they get up in the morning until the time they go to sleep at night all they are concerned about is getting as much out of this world as they possibly can. Possessions, power, pleasure, money, status, fame— this is what they live for and this is what they’ll die for.
While we could sit here and say to ourselves, “Yep. I know people like that!” let’s not neglect to look into a mirror and see if this in any way applies to us, my friends. It is so very easy for us to become focused on “food that spoils.” Ask yourself: Is it easier to sit through a sporting event that could easily last three hours than it is to spend an hour or so here in God’s house worshiping and praising Him? Is it more important for us to make sure that our children and our grandchildren get to all of their after school activities than making sure they get to Sunday school and church on a regular basis? Do we factor in how much money we’re going to need for all the things we want to do before we decide how much we are willing to give back to the Lord as a thank offering to Him? Truth #1— If you eat only the food that perishes, you will perish.
Turning back now to our text for today we see that Jesus shifts the focus of the people from physical earthly things to spiritual heavenly things. John continues, “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’ So they asked him, ‘What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?’”
These words remind us that the automatic default setting of our own old sinful nature is captured in the question, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Because of the spiritual blindness with which we were born, we sinful human beings actually think there is something we have to do in order to be saved, something we can do in order to be saved, some work of penance that we need to perform, some choice or some decision we need to make.
That, my friends, is why Truth #2 teaches us— If you eat the food of work-righteousness, you will fail. Look at how miserably the people here in our text failed. When Jesus tried to teach them that there was nothing they could do to fulfill God’s “requirements,” when Jesus tried to teach them that God simply wants them “to believe in the one he has sent,” they get upset— at Jesus! Even though Jesus had just miraculously fed them, even though they knew that somehow Jesus had gotten to Capernaum ahead of them, they insisted that Jesus do something more for them— something to prove to them that He is worthy of their faith in Him.
I am so thankful that we never ever fall into that very same trap of work-righteousness. I am so thankful that after we have been here in God’s house, after we have heard Him speak to us in His holy Word, after we have lifted up our eyes to His cross (Pointing to the cross) and seen what He was willing do to for us, after we have received His holy Supper as visible tangible proof of what He freely gives to us, I am so thankful that after all of that we never ever think that we can go out and live our lives however we choose as long as we try to do something “good” every now and then. I am so thankful that we never ever say to ourselves, “Well, if God would just do this for me then I would really be able to put my faith in Him!” We are what we eat, my friends. If we eat the food of work-righteousness we will fail!
Thankfully, our text continues. In fact, our text closes with the words that our Savior wants us to always remember, words that our Savior wants us to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” so that they become of part of who we are. Jesus says to us, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” When it comes to the statement, “You are what you eat” nowhere is that statement more true than in our spiritual life. When it comes to the statement, “You are what you eat” nothing is more important to remember than Truth #3— If you eat the Bread of Life, you will live!
Everyone whose life is focused on the things of this world, everyone whose goal is to get as much gusto out of this life as they possibly can, everyone whose mantra in life is, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!” is going to have a rude awakening when they die and instantly find themselves standing before the judgment throne of the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. Truth #1— If you eat only the food that perishes, you will perish.
Everyone who honestly believes that there is some work that they can perform in order to make up for their sins, everyone who honestly believes that their eternal salvation is based at least in part on something they can do will be shocked to find out that work-righteousness doesn’t work! Truth #2— If you eat the food of work-righteousness, you will fail.
But, everyone who purely by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit believes in the One who was sent into this world to be their Savior, everyone who trusts that God’s only begotten Son willingly suffered and died on the cross (Pointing to the cross) to completely pay for all of their sins, everyone who joyfully nourishes their soul with the Word and the Sacrament that keeps their faith focused on the Bread of Life— they will live! They will live for Jesus while they are here on this earth. They will live with Jesus in His eternal heavenly Home! That’s Truth #3!
You are what you eat, my friends. May the good Lord grant that just as we know how important that well-known saying is for our physical health and our physical life, that we will indeed remember how much more important that well-known saying is for our spiritual health and our spiritual life.
You are what you eat!
To God be the glory!