Forever Bread

Paul Brill, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Synopsis: Dissatisfaction with life is at an all-time high. Now is the time to do what we have been called to do: integrate the personal self with our Higher Self, the Christ. It is only when we know who we are and act out of our one true desire that we can finally taste the “Forever Bread” that satisfies for all eternity.

Scripture Reading: John 6:24-35

Click here to listen to an audio recording of this sermon.

How many of you have ever eaten Wonder bread? It’s the oldest sliced bread around.  It’s been around since 1921 and in pre-sliced form since 1930. I used to eat Wonder bread, and it always made me wonder what was in it that made me crave more of it less than an hour after eating it.

In an article entitled “The 18 Unhealthiest Breads on the Planet,” Olivia Tarantino lists Wonder bread as #2. Yes, she gave it the silver medal for best in unhealthy. She gave the gold medal to Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White.

Ms. Tarantino put an end to my wondering about my Wonder bread cravings with a simple explanation. The simple carbohydrates in Wonder bread digest quickly, and that causes a sudden blood sugar spike and just as sudden a drop, leaving my stomach growling a short time later. So, Wonder bread doesn’t satisfy our hunger; it actually makes us hungrier.

Who would want to eat bread that doesn’t satisfy and why? How can we find bread that does satisfy – better yet, bread that satisfies forever – you know, “Forever bread.” That is what our scripture reading for today is all about.

It comes from the Gospel of John. This gospel was actually written by John the apostle. As you know, Jesus’ first disciples were two sets of brothers: Peter and Andrew and the sons of Zebedee, James and John.

John is known as the “disciple Jesus loved.” He was the only disciple who was not martyred; however, he was exiled to the Island of Patmos. Eventually, he was released because of his old age, and he died peacefully around the age of 95.

The writer of each of the four gospels wrote it for a specific audience and purpose. John’s gospel was written around 85-90 AD – after the destruction of Jerusalem but before his exile to Patmos. His audience was new Christians and searching non-Christians, and his purpose was to prove conclusively that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in him have eternal life.

John seeks to prove that Jesus is the Son of God by revealing eight miracles. By the time we reach chapter six, he has already revealed three of those miracles: turning water into wine, healing a royal official’s son, and healing the invalid at Bethesda.

Chapter 6 begins with Jesus near the sea of Galilee. Many people were following him because they had seen him heal the sick. Jesus had just walked up a mountainside and sat down with his disciples when he noticed that a huge crowd was coming up the mountainside toward him. Here John reveals Jesus’ fourth miracle: feeding the 5000.

When evening came, the disciples took a boat out onto the Sea of Galilee, but Jesus was not with them. The wind started blowing though the wind tunnel of that valley, creating rough waters on the sea. Here John reveals Jesus’ fifth miracle: walking on the water.

And that brings us to our scripture reading for today. During the night, the crowd lost track of Jesus, so they go in search of him. They find him on the other side of the lake, and ask him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

They were confused about how Jesus got to the other side of the sea without passing them by. They knew the disciples had taken a boat to the other side without Jesus, so they didn’t expect that he would be with them. They didn’t see him walk on the water.

Now, if Jesus had been a politician seeking to be appointed King of the Jews, he might have said, “Well, since the disciples had taken the boat without me, and I needed to get across to the other side ahead of you, I simply used my supernatural powers to walk on the water. So, you see, folks, that’s just added proof that I am the Messiah, your king.”

But Jesus didn’t want that, so he didn’t tell them about that miracle. If the crowd had seen it, they might have made him their king by force. Jesus didn’t commit to people with sign-based faith – people who required seeing grand signs to believe in him. He knew that if people didn’t want to believe in him, all the signs in the world wouldn’t change their minds.

The miracle of his walking on water was for the disciples’ eyes only. They had already made a commitment to Jesus without insisting on grand signs. I believe Jesus was providing them with some much-needed reassurance that they had not left everything behind to put their faith in some spiritual con artist. He was the real thing.

The people were already excited enough about the arrival of the Kingdom of God due to Jesus’ performing the miracles they had witnessed – especially feeding the 5000. By the way, that was 5000 men. The women and children didn’t count. If the accompanying women and children were counted, how many people did Jesus likely feed?

How many of you have ever been to a minor league baseball game – maybe an Iron Pigs, Reading Phillies, or Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Yankees game? Those stadiums can seat 10,000 people. Imagine 5,000 men sitting in one of those stadiums. They would fill up half the stadium.

Throughout the history of the Jewish nation, getting married and having children has been encouraged to keep the nation strong. So, if each man brought his wife, the number of men with their wives would fill up one stadium.

Now, the average number of children in a Jewish household is three. So, if each couple brought at least two kids, the total number of people would fill up two stadiums. 20,000 people. That’s how many men, women, and children it is believed Jesus probably fed.

Impressed? So was the crowd following Jesus. Now you can better understand their enthusiasm in this text. Jesus understood it quite well. He knew exactly why the people sought him out: they wanted free bread.

Jesus wasn’t willing to give them the kind of bread they were seeking. The bread they were seeking would satisfy their physical hunger, but not their spiritual hunger. And, like Wonder bread, bread that satisfies physical hunger satisfies only for a short time. Jesus wanted to give them bread that satisfies spiritual hunger – for all eternity.

The people asked, “What should we do?” The truth is they didn’t need to do anything but accept the truth – the truth about who they are, the perfect example standing right in front of them – the Son of Man on whom God has placed his seal.

A seal makes a statement about the authenticity of a product. When we see the seal, we can trust that we’re getting the real thing, not some knockoff. There is no higher “seal” than that which the God the Father placed on the Son of Man.

Now, in the Bible there are two contexts for the term “son of man.” In general, the term son of man refers to a human being. I don’t believe Jesus was using it this way in this passage. I believe he was referring to the Son of Man described in the Book of Daniel – the integrated son of man (or human being) and Son of God (or divine being) who would bring salvation to all.

But you see, we humans don’t want “free” salvation. The mind of me insists on doing something to earn it. But salvation does not arise out of anything we do. It arises out of who we are. What we do is simply the natural expression of who we are. If we think we are this body with its mind of me, we will act that out and never be satisfied. If we accept who we really are, we will act that out and be forever satisfied.

Jesus knew that the people required him to miraculously give them the kind of bread Moses gave the Israelites in the wilderness – at least 40 years’ worth – in order to believe in him. Jesus offers them better bread, and he makes it clear to them in doing so that he is even better than Moses.

Jesus immediately corrects their mistaken perception about where that bread Moses gave actually came from. It came from God. But that wasn’t even the best bread. It wasn’t meant to satisfy them forever – just long enough to survive in the wilderness.

“Forever bread” is the “true bread from heaven.” And that bread Jesus can give them. In fact, he was giving it to them at that very moment. He is that bread. The people didn’t like this teaching at all. Here is where Jesus’ rock-star popularity tanks.

This lesson has important implications for us in these times. We humans are driven by three sources of desire. We have the desires of the body, the desires of the mind of me, and the desires of the soul. It’s important to understand that since we are not in reality this body with its mind of me, desires coming from these two sources are not our “real” desires.

Our desires for physical pleasures come from the body, and our desires for power, wealth, and status come from the mind of me – a mind full of mistaken ideas about who we are. These desires are all part of our human programming, so they are more like addictions than real desires.

We don’t necessarily want to indulge them; we just can’t seem to help it. I don’t really want to read the news or scroll Facebook, but I find myself doing it anyway. I recently had an epiphany around why I do this: The mind of me craves drama. It’s constantly looking for something to get all riled up about. Drama gives the mind of me a temporary “sugar high.” But what inevitably follows that? The crash.

Why does the mind of me crave drama? Because peace is the enemy. Peace is the enemy because it belongs to the realm of the mind of me’s rival: the Mind of Christ. The mind of me doesn’t want us to experience peace for fear we might want that instead – and for good reason. Peace satisfies.

The mind of me working so hard to get us to chase after things we don’t really want accomplishes another purpose. It keeps us away from feeling gratitude. That’s another threat in the realm of the rival Mind of Christ.

Not only does it work hard to keep us chasing after things we don’t really want, but it also works hard to convince us that we don’t really want what we already have. There’s always something better, and we should have it. The mind of me doesn’t want us to experience gratitude because gratitude satisfies.

Now, we all have the body, the mind of me, and the Mind of Christ. We are all both human and Divine. Jesus was human and divine just like us. The difference between us and Jesus is that Jesus integrated his humanity with his divinity. He married his personal self to his Divine Self. That is why he is called Jesus Christ.

How did he do it? Well, I believe that at some point in his development, he learned how to tell the difference between his human self and his Divine Self. He learned how to differentiate between the desires of the physical body, the mind of me, and the soul.

Once he was able to tell the difference between these desires, he made meeting the desires of the soul his top priority. He paid more attention to the desires arising out of the Mind of Christ than the cravings of the physical body and the mind of me. Eventually the Christ was promoted to the driver’s seat of his life, and the personal self with its mind of me was demoted to the passenger’s seat.

Now, I’m not saying that we should ignore the desires of the physical body. Some of those desires are necessary and healthy. For example, we need to pay attention to the body’s desires for food, water, and rest. I’m not even saying that we should ignore the desires of the mind of me. Sometimes it is necessary to gain some power, wealth, or status in order to accomplish the soul’s desire.

The problem is when we indulge the desires of the physical body and mind of me at the expense of the soul’s desire – which is to express Love. Indulging in any desire that is not loving toward ourselves or others is not good for the soul.

We are being called to marry our personal self with our Divine Self, and now is the time to do it. But how do we do it? Well, we start by paying attention to our desires. When a desire comes up, we need to center ourselves in our hearts, and ask, “Where is this desire coming from, and would indulging it be good for the soul?” Then we need to listen for the response. Be prepared – the mind of me usually responds first and loudly. Wait for the still, small voice.

We also need to pay attention to our thoughts and feelings because Creation interprets them as desires – as if we were saying a prayer. That goes for both positive and negative thoughts and feelings. So, if we’re indulging in thoughts and feelings around something we don’t want – like something we fear – we need to stop the moment we become aware of that. This is how humanity creates its own suffering.

We need to stop immediately and begin generating thoughts and feelings about what we want. What exactly do we want, and what would it feel like to have it? It can be anything – even a car. It’s OK to want material things as long as we are willing to bow to the Will of God. If something we want isn’t for our highest good and the good of all, we must be willing not to receive it. That is spiritual maturity.

People who are unhappy will begin to notice those of us who are happy. Some might think we are insane. That’s OK. They thought Jesus was demon-possessed, remember? The truth was he was Christ-possessed. Others might be curious. They might ask, “What do I need to do to be happy like you?” Well, you know how to answer that. “Do nothing – simply be who you are.”

Why is now the time to marry our personal self with our Divine Self? Because people’s dissatisfaction with life is at an all-time high right now. People are looking for something new – a truly satisfying life. And what truly satisfies is the same for everyone. The desire of everyone’s soul is the same because it is of one essence, one soul. It is the desire of the Christ to be who Christ is – the perfect expression of God’s being, which is Love.

What do you think will happen when every human being recognizes that it has one true desire, and that is to express love? When all of humanity unites in this one desire coming from the one soul that is the Christ? My friends, human beings united in this one desire coming from the one soul that is the Christ is, in my opinion, the meaning of the second coming of Christ and the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven.

And we are here to help the rest of humanity “wake up” to its one true desire. There will be no stopping it, because every human being will be united in that one desire to create a world that expresses Love.

The extreme dissatisfaction is setting up the choice, and I believe that most of humanity has chosen love. They just don’t know it yet. It is up to us to show them what they know. To demonstrate it, so that they can say, “Yes, that’s it! That’s how I really want to act. That’s how I really want to live.”

Let’s pray together: Lord, we are willing to serve you the way you served God – by standing before our fellow human beings as examples of those who, in knowing who they truly are, find their sustenance and contentment in the Living Bread alone. Give us the wisdom and courage to be that example so that You may come soon into the hearts of all humanity and usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. AMEN.

Resources

Deffinbaugh, Bob. “16. The Bread of Life (John 6:22-71).” Bible.org, 19 Aug. 2004, bible.org/seriespage/16-bread-life-john-622-71.

Life Application Study Bible. Zondervan, 2011.

Tarantino, Olivia. “The 18 Unhealthiest Breads on the Planet?” eatthis.com, 7 Sept. 2020, eatthis.com/unhealthiest-breads-on-the-planet.