Monday, August 31, 2015
“Where’s the Bread?”
August 30, 2015Second Reformed Church
We will remember that Jesus fed five thousand men – plus women and children – with five loaves and two fish – and they ate until they were stuffed, and there were twelve baskets of pieces left over. This sign was performed for the sake of the disciples – in particular – and for the crowd more generally, but they still didn’t understand.
The point of a sign, we will remember, is to point to something or someone else. Signs are given so we will look at them and understand a greater meaning. The signs Jesus performed – the miracles that Jesus performed – were done so those who saw them and believed would receive Jesus as God the Son and Savior.
Jesus sent the disciples to the other side of the sea, while He spent some time in private, praying. Then, during the night, a violent storm rose up, and Jesus walked across the water, through the storm, and met the disciples in the center of the sea, and transported them to the other side safely. The point they were to understand from this sign is that Jesus is God, Who is sovereign over the Creation, and time and space.
Our text continues the next morning, and we see:
First, the Son of Man is bread to eternal life.
“On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.”
Apparently, after the crowd ate their fill of the bread and the fish, having spent the day with Jesus and walking around the sea, they lay down in the grass where He had been teaching and slept.
When they woke up, they remembered that Jesus and His disciples had crossed the sea in a single boat, and Jesus had told the disciples to go back across the sea ahead of Him. The boat was gone and the disciples were gone, and their stomachs were rumbling – they remembered how Jesus had miraculously fed them the day before, and they looked for Him.
The crowd searched for Him, but they couldn’t find Him. And His disciples were gone. And the boat was gone. So they made their way around the sea – again – as they looked for Jesus – Who had provided them with such a large meal the day before. They still didn’t understand the sign.
“When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.’
The crowd made their way around the sea and found Jesus on the other side, and they asked Him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
“We know You only have one boat, and You sent the disciples on ahead last night while You went up the mountain to pray. When did You come here? How did You come here?”
They were puzzled about how Jesus got from one side of the sea to the other without a boat, overnight, with none of them seeing Him leave.
But Jesus understood what they were really after. Yes, they were curious about how He got there, but they were looking for another meal. “Do it again, Jesus. Feed us until we can’t stand up. Fill our stomachs.”
They didn’t get it: Jesus fed some fifteen thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish and had lots of food left over. He could solve the hunger problem in the world. (And He is, in fact, able, but that was not the point He was making.) But for now, it was breakfast time, they had walked around the sea to find Him, and they wanted more food – more bread – “Where’s the bread?”
Now, we do need food to live. And we are to be wise in providing for our physical needs. But these people were more interested in bread than in Jesus being God the Son and Savior.
Jesus was not offering an all-you-can-eat buffet, and He wasn’t going to be forced into it. The point of the sign was for them to understand Who Jesus is, to believe in Him savingly, and to trust Him for all of their lives.
As Jesus said, “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? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow or reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet, I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:25-33, ESV).
God willprovide for our physical needs through various providences; we are to be about seeking His Kingdom and His Righteousness. We are to be about seeing and acknowledging His Sovereign rule over all of Creation and following after Him in faith and obedience.
We are to be seeking and knowing and understanding the eternal – the non-perishing bread – that bread “which endures to eternal life.” We are to prefer the eternal over the temporal. We ought to desire to know God and His Word better above our favorite TV show. We ought to desire to know what God would have us do and be and to strive after Him above having a full pantry.
Jesus tells the crowd– and us – not to come after Him for the sake of a free meal – not to come to worship for the sake of Costco bread or coffee hour – but to come to learn about Jesus and the salvation that He alone gives as the approved Savior Who comes in the Name and the Authority of God the Father.
And we might well ask why Jesus says that He is the “food [or the bread] that endures to eternal life.”
The point that Jesus is making is not that He is a loaf of bread or that He is an everlasting source of physical food for our physical body. “Food” or “bread” is being used here to mean the thing that sustains life – and just as “food” or “bread” sustains physical life, so Jesus is the “food” or “bread” that sustains all those who believe in Him toeternal life.
So, the crowd comes after Jesus, and Jesus rebukes them and tells them, “You missed the point – the point is not ‘where’s the bread?’ The point is: I am God the Son, the Son of Man, the Savior, ‘the food that endures to eternal life.’”
Jesus – the Son of Man – is bread to eternal life.
Second, the bread of the Son of Man is a gift from God.
“Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives his life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
“Eternal food” was appealing to the crowd, so they asked Jesus, “What must we do – what works must we do – to get – to earn – to merit – the bread of the Son of Man?”
They didn’t get it. They were still thinking that salvation was something you could earn – eternal life was something you could earn. They didn’t realize that it is impossible for anyone to do anything that would merit eternal life.
Paul explains it this way: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once waked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, bring rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even while we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved by faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand,that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV).
What do we have to do to be worthy of eternal life? Nothing. We cannot be worthy of eternal life. Eternal life is given to us as a gift of love from God. God does the work of making the Way of Salvation through the Incarnate Son of God – Jesus Christ – the Son of Man – and all who believe in Him – in Who He is – in what He has done – these will receive the gift of eternal life through faith alone.
Does that encourage you? It encourages me over and over throughout each week. We very easily compare ourselves with others and think, “Well, I’m really not so bad compared with him and her.” But that is the wrong way to think, because we are not to compare ourselves with each other, but against the standard of God – the thrice holy – perfect, sinless, pure God – and then, especially as we repent of our sin – if we are truly repentant, we ought to find ourselves covering our mouths with Isaiah, saying, “woe is me” – and then, having repented, rejoice and give thanks and praise to God, because I am forgiven only for the Sake of Christ and you are only forgiven for the Sake of Christ – and all we who believe are received into eternal life – not for anything we have done or not done, but only because God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son – Who has done the work to save a people for Himself through faith and belief in Him.
We cannot do anything to receive the “food to eternal life.” The bread of the Son of Man is a gift from God to those who believe through faith alone.
But they still didn’t get it; the crowd asked Jesus for a sign. Even though they had seen Him heal many people and feed some fifteen thousand, they were still stuck on getting breakfast. They said they needed to see more signs to believe Him, because Moses had provided their fathers with the sign of manna to eat for forty years. Yes, one giant lunch was impressive, but Moses had provided food for them for forty years.
Jesus explained to them that though Moses led their fathers through the wilderness, it was not Moses who produced the food, but God the Father Who gave them bread from heaven – physical food for their physical bodies that they would physically survive the forty years in the wilderness. However, in the Son of Man – in Jesus – the Son of God and Savior – the Father has sent the true bread from Heaven – Jesus, God the Son and Savior – to give eternal and spiritual life to everyone who will believe.
The bread of the Son of Man given by God is superior to the bread of the manna in the wilderness, because the manna only sustained their physical bodies, whereas the Son of Man – Jesus – sustains all those who believe spiritually and eternally.
And the crowd responded by crying out, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Does that sound familiar?
We may remember in chapter four of John’s Gospel, Jesus spoke with a woman of Samaria and said, “’Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water. … Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:13-15, 26, ESV).
Just as Jesus had explained the He is the Living Water, He explained to this crowd that He is the Bread of Life.
Third, the Son of Man is the bread of life Who saves irresistibly and finally.
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I say to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.’
Jesus explains on the one hand that those who come to Him by faith alone, believing that He is God the Son and Savior will eternally be satisfied, but one the other, He tells them that they have not yet believed savingly and received Him by faith alone.
“’All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’”
Then Jesusexplained that God the Father has chosen a people to come to Jesus through the gift of the bread of the Son of Man – God has chosen a people – out of all the people throughout the world and time and space – and these people – without a doubt – will absolutely come to Jesus by faith alone and believe in Who He is and what He has done – the Gospel. Everyone that God has chosen to save will be saved.
What that means for us is that the burden we often put on ourselves to convert someone is lifted. We are commanded to go and to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world – we must go and tell others Who Jesus is and what He has done. But God converts people, not us. Everyone God has chosen will believe. Our job is to proclaim the Gospel; God’s job is to save.
And then Jesus says something that is very comforting: “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” If God has called you and me to respond in faith in believing savingly in Jesus Christ, He will never, never, neverlet us go. God saves Who He will. God has a people He intends to save. Those people that God saves cannot do or not do anything that will ever cause God to take their salvation away.
When we are down and discouraged and can’t believe we have sinned that sin again – be encouraged – repent wholeheartedly – and be encouraged – be assured – that we who believe have been saved by God for God and nothing will ever change that. God will never allow us to totally fall away.
Because the Son of Man – Who is the Son of God – came down from Heaven, incarnating in the person of Jesus to do the Will of the Father, and the Will of the Father is this: that Jesus, the Savior, will not lose even one person that God has given to Him, but everyone that Jesus saves, Jesus will physically raise from the dead to eternal life in His Kingdom on the last day.
This is the Will of the Father – everyone who looks on the Son savingly – and believes in Him savingly – will have eternal life and Jesus will physically raise Him to eternal life in the Kingdom on the last day.
We may remember the imagery that is being used here: when Moses and the people were in the wilderness, they complained about not having food and water, and God sent fiery serpents to kill the people. When they repented, God told Moses: “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8b, ESV).
This was a foreshadowing of Jesus and the work He would do in being hung on a tree for the sin of the people God has chosen for Himself. All we who look upon the pieced Savior in faith and believe are saved.
At the end of the age, all people will see Him when He returns, and we read, “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pieced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Revelation 1:7, ESV).
And so, as Jesus begins His response to the crowd, He tells them:
The Son of Man is bread to eternal life.
The bread of the Son of Man is a gift from God.
The Son of Man is the bread of life who saves irresistibly and finally.
Let us repent of being obsessed with the things of earth and not trusting God to provide for us.
Let us strive to know Jesus and His salvation more and more, for in Him is eternal life.
Let us recognize and be relieved that the work of salvation is God’s Work, and He has given us His Son as a loving gift of salvation.
And let us be comforted in knowing that God will bring every single person He intends to bring to salvation, and all we who believe savingly in Jesus cannot possibly lose our salvation.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank you for the gift of Your Son and the Salvation He has brought us. Help us to desire You and trust You for all that we need, knowing that You are our loving Father. Let us go forth will renewed courage and desire to tell others the Gospel, leaving the results to You. And we ask all these things in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
For the Love of God’s Word: An Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Richard D. Patterson is an abridgement of their Invitation to BiblicalInterpretation(9). The abridgement consisted largely of removing biblical language passages so this work could be more readily used by those who do not have training in the biblical languages.
The text is well and consistently set up for use in the classroom setting, though individual readers may use it without detriment.
Each chapter is prefaced by chapter “objectives” and a chapter “outline.”
Each chapter concludes with “guidelines” relative to the material in the chapter, “key words” – which are defined in the concluding “glossary,” “assignments” – to put the material to work, and “key resources” – for further study.
The authors’ methodology of interpretation is to look first at the history of the text, then the literature of the text, and, finally, its theology (13).
In looking at the history of the text, the authors give dates for the text and the periods covered and align it with the relevant historical setting across culture (33ff).
The literature takes up the largest section of the book (61ff). The authors begin by distinguishing between the two major sections of the canon: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Then, the divide the text into Old Testament narrative, poetry and wisdom, prophecy, Gospels and Acts, parables, epistles, and apocalyptic literature. Finally, they consider the language of the text including “discourse content” and word meanings.
Finally, they consider how the reader receives the theology presented in the text via all of the examination that has been done first (359).
Overall, I found this text very readable and user-friendly. For the sake that many people read the Bible and draw unwarranted conclusions because they have not done the necessary preparation prior to interpreting the text, I recommend this book and others like it that take a gramatico-historical approach to interpreting the text.
The one area I was disappointed in was seeing how they slipped in not following their own guidelines as they considered prophecy. For example, the “fact” of the “rapture” is stated, when there is no backing up via their hermeneutical triad (94). (The Reformed tradition, of which I belong, does not find Scriptural warrant for the “rapture.”) And in the chapter on the Apocalypse, the amillennial view seems to be ignored, and a quick support is given to “modified futurism and historical premillennialism” without backing up the conclusion (275-277).
Basically, I think this is a very good introduction to biblical interpretation. The one area I would suggest some editing would be in the sections about prophecy – preferable to state the variant views and their pluses and minus without drawing a conclusion which could make the text troublesome for use by some schools of thought.
[I received this book free from Kregel in exchange for an honest review. This review appears on my blog and on Amazon.com.] #FortheLoveofGodsWord
Monday, August 24, 2015
I like the title: Gaining by Losing – not so much the subtitle: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send. I was suspicious of J. D. Greear’s new book.
Greear argues through his book that the churches that God blesses and uses are those churches that intentionally help their people understand that Christians are all missionaries and then sends them out to the next door neighbor and throughout the world.
Greear argues against the idea that churches should – first and foremost – be concerned about growing their numbers, but, rather, in fulfilling “the Great Commission.”
The majority of the book is a presentation of ten “plumb lines” or principles under which every Christian is sent out as a missionary.
I applaud Greear’s passion and desire to have every Christian engaged in being a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ –as we are so plainly called to be throughout the Scripture: Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim that gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15b, ESV). And Paul explains that the power of the Gospel is witness through us and obviously not of us – or caused by us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that they surpassing power belongs to God, and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV).
Yet, there are theological problems for which I cannot recommend this book:
First, Greear argues that we are not to be building our kingdom (true!); we are to be building God’s Kingdom (false!) (44ff).
Paul explains that the Kingdom of God is something that is inherited (I Corinthians 15:50), and Jesus says it is given to the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). We do not building the Kingdom of God. Our work is to respond to God’s salvation of us through faith and obedience.
Even if Greear means that we are to disciple people (which he comes close to equating as “saving people”), we do not cause a person to be saved, and we do not “win” people to salvation (in the popular sense). In “the Great Commission,” we are sent to preach – or proclaim – the Gospel – what God does with that is according to His Will. Then, those who respond by receiving the Gospel, after being regenerated, these we are to disciple – to continue to teach to grow in faith and obedience.
Second, Greear confuses the Gospel (apparently with Keller) with growth in faith and obedience: “the gospel is not just the A-B-Cs of Christianity; it is the A through Z. Every virtue of the Christian life grows out of the deeper experience in the gospel” (60).
On the other hand, Paul says that the Gospel is the set of historical facts of the Incarnation Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-11, ESV). The Gospel we are to preach is Who Jesus is and what He did – not everything that is involved in the Christian life, per se.
Third, Greear rightly argues that all Christians are “priests” – called to proclaim the Gospel. But he pushes hard against their being anything unique about the call to the ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament – which is to the opposite detriment (69-ff).
The Westminster Shorter Catechism rightly begins: “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
Greear – in his good passion to save the lost – seems to be arguing that the chief end of man is to save the lost and build the Kingdom of God. That is just not right.
Skip this book.
[This review appears on my blog and Amazon.com. I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]