I don’t want to make you hungry if you are trying to hang in there before lunch, but if you like food, aren’t there some meals you just wish could go on and on? I mean if our bodies were constructed in such a way that you didn’t have to worry about gaining weight or increasing your bad cholesterol, wouldn’t it be great to be able to keep eating more and more of that delicious thin-crust pizza or that scrumptious multi-layered lasagna or that perfectly cooked steak or stuffed pork tenderloin?! Or if the ongoing eating of food doesn’t sound all that good to you, maybe the kind of meal you wish could go on and on is the one you enjoy as part of a far too infrequent family reunion or an absolutely filled-with-joy wedding reception or an evening with those special friends or someone who means everything in the world to you.
But it doesn’t work that way, does it? It obviously would not be healthy for meals to go on and on, and, obviously, even the most meaningful meals and banquets and reunions must come to an end, often leaving us happy, but tired and exhausted — and just wishing we could instead have some sleep that could go on and on.
Isn’t that just the way life it is? Nothing goes on and on. Nothing goes on and one that we enjoy, even things that are wonderful earthly blessings from God. We are healthy, but we get sick; people who aren’t supposed to die, die; unexpected bills come when they aren’t expected; our friends are not always friends. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a grand statement, but it often seems to us in our weakness that God did not get the memo, because in our existence there is death; there are slaveries to addiction; and the only pursuit we often experience is the pursuit of sadness and anxiety and worry ever chasing – and seeming to always catch – me.
Nothing goes on and on in this world…, except one thing. And that one thing that does go on and on is the reason why nothing good goes on and on: the ongoing reality of sin – the ongoing reality of us blaming God, disobeying God, questioning God, not caring about God – and the ongoing reality of how those attitudes toward God display themselves in us mocking other people, in hating other people, in slandering other people, in marginalizing other people because they aren’t like me or as good as me or as smart as me or as whatever as me, because it is me that is the only one that counts. Sometimes we are recipients of those kinds of attitudes and actions, and we know how those things sting and hurt, often causing difficulties in our lives that go on and on for long periods of time. Sometimes we are the agents of those kinds of attitudes and actions, often oblivious to – or not worrying about – the stings and hurts our sins have caused.
Jesus wants us to think about why we tend to keep emphasizing the things of this world that can’t go on and on, when we know they are caused by the sins of this world around us – and ourselves – which do go on and on… The crowds of people who found Jesus on the other side of the lake where he had fed the 5000 were
“searching” for him, we are told. But hear again what Jesus said to them in verse 26 of our Lesson: 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.” People, I love you, so quit searching for something that cannot last. Search instead for something that goes on and on.
What is so ironic about what Jesus told them, which I pray is so important for us to see and remember for ourselves? They did see the miraculous signs, and, as we were reminded last week by Pastor Casmer in the sermon about the Feeding of the 5000, miracles like that were meant to be signs that pointed out to the entire world that there was more here than just a miracle worker. This was the promised Christ, who provided all this earthly food as a proof that he was the one promised by God above to be the Savior or the world from its sin, which was also meant to be such a relief because that meant there was something good – something wonderful – something holy – that would go on and on – the food which Jesus here says “endures to eternal life.”
That is the food you and I need, and that is the food which Jesus Christ our Lord wants to make so sure you and I know that we have. Yes, we are genuinely thankful for our food and our clothes and our cars and our homes and our educations, but if that is what dominates our thinking about what makes God good, we will end up just like those Galilean crowds who were searching for Jesus, but who never found him, even though he was standing right there in front of them and offering them the meal that goes on and on.
That’s the meal you and I enjoy every single time we hear the words of Jesus. The people that day heard the words of Jesus, but they asked the wrong question: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus redirected them to the work he had come to do. Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” – yes, to believe in the one who came to pay the punishment price for us being the ones who cause everything good to have to come to a halt – the one who came to live in such a way that it could never be said of him that he was the cause of every earthly joy coming to a halt – yes, the one who said that his life and death before God was our life and death before God, so there is no work to do. Believe, he said. Believe in the one God has sent.
The crowds that day were no different than people are today, because those kinds of things go on and on. Even after this they said they wanted more. “Give us a miraculous sign,” they said, “so that we may believe you. Moses gave a sign. When our forefathers were wandering all those years in the desert, he gave them manna from heaven.” What is sad is that Jesus had just given them one of the most wondrous signs imaginable, when he fed thousands of people with such a meager amount of food. But isn’t that the way it is when we are concentrating on the things we can taste and see and that we think make us happy and secure. We always want more. We want things to go on and on that just can’t go on and on.
But Jesus gave them what they needed – just as he does for us. He first of all corrected any thought that Moses was responsible for that manna in the desert, but then he said, there is more. It’s the more that you need. Verse 32: 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.” The bread of God is the one who then said, “I am the bread of life.” And this bread – Jesus Christ our Lord — is the meal that goes on and on.
So, don’t listen to the devil, when, after failing to get us set our hearts on the things of this world because we know they are temporary, he tries to get us to think that there is no hope for anything to go on and on. Jesus says when you believe in him as your Savior, you will never go hungry or thirsty again. Your joy will go on and on, no matter what is going on around you. Don’t listen to the devil, when, after failing to get us to think we need more proof that Jesus really loves us by doing something more for us because we know that he has already given us all the ultimate proof of his love on the cross and the empty tomb, he tries to get us to think that that is only for people who have their lives all figured out and are really living in the way God wants. Jesus says when you entrust yourself to him – the only one who has it all figured out and the only one who perfectly lived and died in the way God wants — you will never go hungry or thirsty again. Your joy will go on and on, no matter what sadness may enter your life. Don’t listen to the devil when he says that there will come a time when the food of Jesus – the promises of Jesus – the love of Jesus – will all have to wear out, because nothing that good could possibly last forever. Jesus says, “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” “Never” really does mean never when Jesus says “never.” In Jesus you have a meal that goes on and on – just as you yourself will, because by hearing and believing these words, you are eating the food that endures to eternal life. And knowing that is what lets you truly enjoy every wonderful blessing the Lord sees fit to give you along the way. Amen.