Jesus claimed to be able to meet our greatest needs. What if you find yourself in a pandemic, a winter storm without power or water, in an unjust world, or all of the above all at the same time? Discover how a relationship with God reveals God’s provision regardless of life’s circumstances.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Something is missing! Even when you seem to have it all, there is still something deep within us that knows this cannot be all there is.
Think about it. No matter where or when someone is born. No matter whether someone has much or has very little – ultimately we have a deep longing to believe in something, to belong to something bigger than ourselves, and to become someone.
We feel that the world is broken. When we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are broken.
How can all of us have these deep yearnings in common?
You see, I believe that these deep needs within us were placed there by God that we might search for Him and find Him.
Today we start a series where we point towards a solution towards these eternal longings, and it might not be what you would think.
You see, I have discovered in my own life a fulfillment of these soul cravings can be found in a relationship with God who came to walk among us – to show us the way because He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
We believe – no matter where you may be spiritually right now, if you will come to this series with an open heart, and open mind, you will discover all your heart longs for as we answer this question.
Who is Jesus, Really?
This series may be one of the most important series we ever do.
For 2000 years people have been asking this question.
How we answer this question really does shape how we view the world, how we treat others, and what we view about ourselves.
Here’s the challenge with answering this question:
So many people have answered this question in different ways.
The name of Jesus has been used in the context of some really diabolical things: from the forced conversions in the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine to the Crusades to Colonialism to the Inquisition to slavery in the United States to modern day cults and even to the politicization of American churchianity in these last few years.
Some of us have such distaste for Jesus because of these disgraceful things.
We saw banners with the word “Jesus” on it among the mob storming the Capital.
We have seen a great deal of hypocrisy, racism, and judgmentalism among those who claim to follow Jesus so we’ve decided we are opposed to organized religion. In fact in the story in John 6 we’ll be looking at, the crowd wanted to make him king, and Jesus retreats away. Showing them and showing us, God has no interest in the power structures we try to leverage Him for.
Because of all this, some of us lean towards atheism or agnosticism or maybe we have decided we are spiritual but definitely not religious.
Some of us misunderstand who Jesus is because of our own preconceived notions from Sunday school from when we were a kid, or because of our least favorite family members who claim to be Christians, or from others versions of spirituality that aren’t connected the Bible.
Some of us may be a fan of Jesus, but we aren’t actually following Him.
But who was Jesus really?
I think there are three types of responses to Jesus among us listening today.
- I doubt Jesus can make a difference in my life today.
- I want Jesus to make a difference in my life today, but I’m struggling to experience this.
- I know Jesus is making a difference in my life today, and I want others to experience this.
If you lean in, I believe you will discover Jesus is alive and moving in and through the lives of those willing to truly follow Him.
Rather than allowing what we see on the news, hear from others, or read in history books, we want to challenge you to look at who He said He was. From His own life, ministry, and messages, let’s discover who Jesus is really.
Answering the Question Yourself
This series is leading towards Easter, so we are looking at the statements from the The Gospel of John when Jesus declared who He was.
In his Gospel, John writes to increase the faith of those who read it (whether seeker or long-time Christ-follower):
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” – John 20:30-31
So John writes about these 7 miracles, throughout his Gospel account and each shows Jesus’ revealing His power over all that limits us and each new location we see the response of some who believe and some who oppose Him.
In John, there are also 7 different messages where Jesus shared more about His true identity.
John wanted those bold enough to read his eyewitness account of Jesus to discover who Jesus really is. The number 7 to the Jewish mind means complete or perfect. These 7 signs and 7 proclamations reveal the complete picture of who Jesus really is.
In these 7 different messages called His “I Am” statements, Jesus proclaimed:
- “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51)
- “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12)
- “I am the door for the sheep.” (John 10:7,9)
- “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14)
- “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
- “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
- “I am the true vine.” (John 15:1, 5)
As we will discover in this series, Jesus was claiming to meet our greatest and deepest needs. He claimed to be the God who provides, guides, protects, empowers, clarifies, and lives today!
I want to encourage you to truly dive into this.
- Join us every Sunday – either online or in person at one of our local Austin campuses.
- Watch the story on TV. There is a great film about the life of Jesus called The Chosen. It was filmed in Texas with many actors from Austin.
There is also a film on The Gospel of John starring one of the stars of Lost.
Both are free on YouTube.
- If you want to really get the most of this experience, I want to encourage you to read through the Gospel of John during this series.
Before you read each day pray: “God, if you are real, show me who you are.”
Three easiest ways to read through the Gospel of John:
- The Three Day Plunge – Read 7 chapters a day for 3 days in a row.
- The Seven Day Challenge – Read 3 chapters a day for 7 days.
- The Twenty-one Day Experiment – Read 1 chapter a day for 21 days.
Now for those of you who may be thinking: well how do we know what we are reading is actually what John wrote?
We could spend hours talking about the historicity of the Bible and how meticulously it has been preserved and stood the test of time. In fact archaeological discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls have confirmed the accuracy of the Bible we have today. In fact many times when the Gospel authors are recounting names, it’s an invitation for the original audience to fact check what they’re reading. Because the Gospels were written within a generation after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Today we are looking at the proclamation Jesus made that may be the most confusing but certainly the most delicious of all His proclamations.
Jesus said as recorded in the Gospel of John chapter 6.
“I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51)
Have you ever smelled the glorious smell of bread baking! Maybe some of you during the initial days of the lockdown became bread makers. If you have never been in a home where someone bakes bread, you have missed one of the most glorious smells on planet earth!
So what is Jesus saying? |
That his teachings are delicious?
Or they go well with butter?
Is this a sourdough or wheat or pumpernickel situation?
And why a carbohydrate?
Why not “I am the cheese of life”?
What on earth does that mean – I am the bread of life?
Understanding the Scriptures
There are a couple of ways to discern what is happening when you read the Scriptures. One is to look at the immediate context to see what is happening. The other is to look at how a word or idea may have been used thematically throughout the Bible. We are going to look at both angles to discover more.
Here’s the immediate context.
In John chapter 6, Jesus has just fed the 5000 (his 4th sign) by miraculously multiplying the loaves of bread and fish given by a young boy. For the Jews in the crowd, they cannot help but think of how similar this miracle is to the miracle of God feeding the people of Israel with manna in the wilderness.
Then Jesus withdraws to hide from the crowd who had a political agenda.
“Jesus knew that the people planned to come and take him by force and make him their king, so he left and went into the hills alone.” – John 6:15 NCV
So the crowd finds Jesus, and there are still many among the crowd thinking Jesus may be their best chance to overthrow their Roman oppressors. They saw Jesus as a political messiah.
You see, if we aren’t careful we might come to Jesus with our own agenda as well.
In fact, did you know the most pervasive understanding of God in our society among those in their 30s and younger is something not quite biblical. It sounds good, but it moves Jesus more into the Santa Clause category rather than who He truly is.
Most young adults in America believe in a God who wants us to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions, and we see the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. We don’t believe God needs to be particularly involved in one’s life so you can live however you want and do whatever you want. The only time we want God involved is when God is needed to resolve a problem. This type of belief also believes that all good people go to heaven when they die. This is called Moralist Therapeutic Deism. We reduce God to a cosmic therapist.
Are you coming to Jesus only for what you can get from Him?
When you pray, are you telling God what to do?
Or have you grown to the place where you are asking Him what to do?
Jesus knows some in the crowd had a political agenda, but he also knew that some had just showed up wanting to be entertained and to get some free filet o’ fish sandwiches like the crowd had the day before reducing Jesus to a manager at a Red Lobster.
“Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you aren’t looking for me because you saw me do miracles. You are looking for me because you ate the bread and were satisfied.” – John 6:26
There were some who were open-minded but needed more proof (apparently hearing about the other miracles wasn’t enough).
Notice this exchange between Jesus and this new crowd that had assembled:
So the people asked, “What miracle will you do? If we see a miracle, we will believe you. What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the desert. This is written in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven; it is my Father who is giving you the true bread from heaven. God’s bread is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
The people said, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Then Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:30-35
Jesus is saying that Moses didn’t feed the Israelites in the wilderness. God fed them, and then He proclaims that He is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world!
For anyone who thinks Jesus did not claim to be God, they miss the meaning of these passages, and they are all over the four eyewitness accounts!
Jesus uses the same phrase God did when revealing His name to Moses. Jesus begins with “I am.” In other words, “I am the One who was, who is, and who is to come. I am the I Am!”
Then he goes on to say that when you come to Jesus, you will never spiritually hunger or spiritually thirst any more. He provides all you are looking for. He provides all you will ever need to meet the deepest needs within.
Have you ever been hungry? Have you ever been thirsty?
For those of us in Austin, did you find yourself desperate at any point during our snowmageddon, our icepocalypse, our Snovid-21 a couple of weeks ago?
So for those of you in Austin, for how long did the power go off?
How long were you without running water?
We learned a lot a couple of weeks ago.
We learned that you can move items from your refrigerator and freezer outdoors when it’s below freezing and your refrigerator isn’t working.
We learned it takes a lot of water from the bathtub to flush the toilet.
We learned it takes even more snow to flush a toilet.
Some families whose toilets didn’t flush learned what it was like to poop in a Ziploc bag.
For many of us here in Austin, we learned what it means to be desperate for the basic necessities of life.
What did you learn when you were desperate?
As the power has come back on and the water has come back on, we should never forget that moment of desperation. It required us to rely on God more. It required us to be willing to ask for help. It inspired us to open our homes. It inspired us to become the best versions of ourselves.
We also learned that God provides in the most amazing ways.
God provides through His people!
Gateway, I was so impressed with you!
You were heroic in the ways you served, and there is more to be done to BLESS our neighbors and help with the clean up and rebuilding.
But now many of us know that feeling of not being sure where your next meal is coming from which is how many people in the world live their entire lives.
So when Jesus tells this crowd of hungry people, “I am the bread of life” He is speaking to a genuine felt need.
Here’s the amazing thing. God does provide for our needs that we have in the present not just our spiritual and eternal needs.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19 NIV
It may not always be in the way we want or when we want.
You may be asking: “But what about those who die because their physical needs aren’t met?!”
A man who suffered a great deal because of his faith named Paul wrote to his friend and apprentice named Timothy near the end of his life:
“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” – 2 Timothy 4:18 NIV
Paul had an eternal perspective.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21 NIV
It’s mysterious. It’s hard for us to understand. But we can entrust to God those who pass on from this life.
So back to the present: Often God provides through others at just the right time.
Remember the day before He had fed 5000 people (more than that really as that count only included the men). And do you remember how He fed them all? The generous gift of a poor boy. We know he was poor because he had barley loaves, the staple for the poorest of the poor in those days. And he didn’t have much, but he gave what he had to Jesus, and Jesus multiplied it!
So how do we have our deepest spiritual hunger met?
“Those who see the Son and believe in him have eternal life, and I will raise them on the last day. This is what my Father wants.”- John 6:40 NCV
Jesus was on a spiritual mission, not a political one. He had a mission from God that He would fulfill – offering eternal life to all who believe in Him.
For us, the last day is the end of physical time and the beginning of a new experience of eternal time.
Many of those listening in that moment would have been disappointed. Jesus was not willingly offering to help them with their political or religious agenda AND on this day he was offering spiritual bread rather than the miracle bread he had given out the day before. No free food for the onlookers who had come to see.
There were also some in the crowd who said “isn’t this the guy from Nazareth.” For some of us our familiarity with Jesus can cheapen our faith, and we miss the deeper things he’s leading us into.
See Jesus was, and is, always up to more than meets the eye. We want to reduce Him to what he can do for us. But His hope is that we would be so full of the abundant life He offers, that it changes us and the world around us.
He reiterates this later in an even more clear way:
46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. – John 6:46-50
The Importance of Bread in the Scriptures
In biblical times, bread was the staple food. Bread sustains life. We cannot live without bread – without food. In fact the word for translated as “bread” was also translated as “food.” It is similar in English. When someone says: “let’s break bread together” that means, “let’s eat together” or “let’s share a meal together.”
Let’s look at this idea from the context of how the word “bread” is used throughout the Scriptures.
Bread is mentioned at least 492 times in the Bible.
Let me just mention a few of the more significant in addition to the manna I already mentioned.
There was the showbread which was placed in in the tabernacle and later the Temple. The showbread was a constant reminder of God’s everlasting covenant with his people and his provision. It was also called the Bread of Presence, referring to God’s presence.
John in his eyewitness account starts with a beautiful creation poem that said that Jesus was the Word of God – the expression of God on planet earth and he dwelled among us – the literal translation was that he “tabernacled among us.” The tabernacle was where the people of Israel would go to be in God’s Presence. Now His Presence was with us in the person of Jesus.
And now those who follow Jesus are referred to as the Body of Christ. Through us heaven comes to earth. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray:
“Our Father in heaven, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Bread shows up in another important place in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Feast of Unleavened Bread which was originally celebrating the harvest and then later combined with the Passover – the miraculous time in the history of Israel when God rescued them from slavery.
To us on the other side of Jesus in history, the Passover is now associated with the suffering, crucifixion, and death of Jesus along with his resurrection from the dead.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which translates as the House of Bread.
Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in what we call The Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is actually a prayer for God’s provision.
So when Jesus says: “I am the bread of life!” This is hyperlinked to all of these other references in the Scriptures.
Jesus is God’s presence to us. He is God’s provision for us.
The One who proclaimed He was the bread of life and that anyone who trusted in Him would have their eternal hunger fulfilled.
The One who proclaimed He was the bread of life gave His life – willingly dying on the cross for the sins of humanity. He took on evil and it killed Him, but on the third day He rose from the dead and still lives to this day in the hearts of those who follow Him, those who have surrendered their lives to Him.
Another important time bread shows up in the Scriptures is the night before Jesus died on the cross. Jesus introduced Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper.
You see, in John 6 when the crowd wanted a miracle and free food, instead He proclaimed I am the Bread of Life. Not only did He not feed them on this day, He actually told them that to follow Him, they needed to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have life. At this many of the looky loos in the crowd left. But the disciples who had seen the miracles and saw how He loved the outcast and the oppressed stayed telling Him there is nowhere else to go.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:68-69
But on that night of the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus explained the fullness of what He meant when He said: “I am the bread of life.”
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. – Matthew 26:26-28
Here’s what I want you to do. If you are watching online, push pause and go get some bread or a cracker and some juice or something to drink. During this final song, we are going to take the Lord’s Supper together.
You see, if at some point in your life, you asked Jesus to forgive you and guide you, you are now His follower. When we surrender our life to Him, His Spirit comes to live within us. When we take the bread and the cup we are doing so in remembrance of what Jesus has done for us. And we live for Him out of gratitude for His sacrifice, His forgiveness, and the new life He gives us.
Now if you are not yet following Jesus, let me just encourage you reflect on the lyrics to this song and even pray: “God, help me have an open heart and open mind. Show me you are real.” Pray that prayer each day and pursue Him (reading the Gospel of John, watching one of the films I mentioned, and joining us next Sunday).
For those of us who do follow Jesus, during this song, examine your heart. Reconnect with God as you confess areas of your life you know need confessing. Experience His grace once again. After you do that, eat the bread and drink the cup whenever you are ready to do so.
So in this moment, let’s reflect on who Jesus says He is and what He has done for us.