In Ypsilanti there is a gathering of pastors called Ypsi Love. Every year we gather for Thanksgiving and Valentines Day services. It is one of the most beautiful things that I have been a part of in my life. Sunday night we were The Church. The racial barrier was broken and we worshiped together as The Body. I was honored and humbled to preach the gospel at this gathering. Here is my manuscript from Sunday night (it is similar to what I said, but I don’t preach from notes so it’s not exact, but you will get a sense of the thing), I was preaching from John 6:
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 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.” 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 then 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 life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 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.
Many of you are on Facebook. Every year in November people begin to write “Thankfulness” posts. Everyday they post something they’re thankful for. It’s really heart warming. Everyone shares how thankful they are for the things and people in their lives. It’s probably one of my favorite things that happens on Facebook. I love seeing people share their gratitude. But, it always stops with the blessings in our lives of stuff and people.
I am struck by how similar we all are to the people of Israel. Our lives reflect the story that we just read moments again from John’s gospel.
1. Fill our Stomachs
Let me set the scene for you. Jesus had just fed the 5000. This number was just men. If you include women and children the number is conservatively guessed to be around 20,000. The people ate their fill and there was still leftovers!
The people were so thankful for the food that they jumped in boats and crossed the sea of Galilee to meet Jesus on the other side. They wanted more! They had been blessed by God and they wanted more blessing. They knew they were experiencing the same kind of blessing that their ancestors had in the wilderness with Moses where manna had come down from heaven. And they wanted more!
God’s grace had been overwhelming as he filled their stomachs. They wanted more bread.
It’s in this moment that Jesus calls them out. Often times in the gospels we see Jesus talking to the disciples and the religious leaders, with the masses as the backdrop. But here, he speaks to them directly and challenges them. He calls them out for what they really want. They didn’t want him, they wanted what he could give them.
They wanted him to fill their stomachs. But, they didn’t necessarily want him.
Aren’t we the same? We experience God’s tremendous blessings and we declare our thanks and gratitude for what he has given us. Things, food, friends, and family. We are thankful for the daily bread that he provides, but could it be that we are missing something?
Could it be that we are missing out on what God wants us to have even more than the things, food, friends, and family?
2. Thanks for the Bread
Jesus looks at the people and says, “you’re missing it!” He looks at these folks and says, you’re not even here for the signs and wonders. You’re just here for the bread. But guess what? This bread goes away just like the manna from heaven. The people say they want the bread that lasts forever.
Jesus changes the bread and says, “I am the bread of life.”
In John Jesus states who he is through seven, “I am” statements. Here he says, I am the bread of life. He is pushing into one of our core realities, our appetite, and wants us to know that it is in relationship with him that we find our ultimate satisfaction.
Yes, we need food. But we need something even more, we need the bread of life. What I love about what is going on here is that Jesus, after providing for their physical need, offers himself to them. He tells them right off the bat that he will give himself to them. Jesus holds nothing back.
He wants us to say, “thanks for the bread of life”. He wants us in relationship with him and united with him so that we can have life to the full. In John 17 during the high priestly prayer Jesus says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
As we enter into this Thanksgiving season what are you thankful for? Where does your gratitude lay? Is it found in the blessings that you have received? The things and people that God has so graciously given you? Or are your eyes and heart being pointed to the one giving the blessings?
There are many problems in our city. There is a lot of brokenness. We can do much to help in providing for basic needs. However, this will not fundamentally change our city. We need the people of God to turn again to Christ and to trust him. Our city needs revival. As we continue to trust in Christ and him alone, we turn and invite others to join us. This is how our schools, neighborhoods, and city will be transformed. They will be transformed through the gospel alone.
God the Father through God the Son is offering himself to us. He wants us in relationship with him forever. Trust Christ. Rest in him and know that he is God.
Remember as you give thanks, that it is not the blessings that matter but the one who gives them. Turn to him and embrace him in faith.