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Looking for Today, Receiving Tomorrow
12/30/2007
Scripture: John 6: 25-71
Track 2 of 6 in the Inside~Out: Getting Whom we need, not what we want series
Running time: 32 minutes, 43 seconds.


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Heath Williams Speaker: Heath Williams
Guest Speaker

View all sermons by this speaker.


"Looking for Today, Receiving Tomorrow" December 30, 2007 John 6:25-71

If you take a look at your bulletin, you'll see that at the top of it it says Looking for Today, Receiving Tomorrow. Many of you are visiting family and friends for the holidays, and you are looking forward to hearing from Chuck today, but I'm sorry. Today you are receiving me. And I don't know why he asked me. I think it fits in with the series, but -- I don't know if it just hasn't been coming across in English. He asked me to preach in Spanish. (Spoke some Spanish)

No. I'm just joking. Actually I'm just going to introduce who I am. My name is Heath Williams, and I am the fortunate fiance of Erin Schaffer of this church, and we've been down in Costa Rica studying Spanish hoping in the future to use that in a ministry capacity. But I guarantee you I can't preach in Spanish now. I told some of the guys this morning that I was to going to, but we would be here all day, and they said, you might. So we'll go ahead and skip that part.

But about a month ago while we were in Costa Rica, I went to a city called Cartago just outside of San Jose with my Costa Rican mom, the family that I live with, and as we were going there I thought I understood them saying that we were going to stop and visit a catholic church. It's a very famous catholic church in Cartago. As a matter of act, all of Costa Rica, they still do it from different parts of the country, will walk all the way to Cartago. I don't know how much you know about Costa Rica. It's very mountainous and very spread out, very hot, very rainy most of the year, and the people will walk miles and miles and miles. They basically would be walking from, I would say from here almost to Champaign depending on where they are at or from here to Springfield, and they will walk all the way there as a sign of their faith, and they will come to this catholic church.

And then when they reach the catholic church, they will stop at the main entrance. Which if you could envision this church, the main aisle is here, but it's very, very long. It's a very large church. And so the main aisle would run all the way out to the main glass doors. And when the people get there, they stop and they get on their knees and they complete the rest of the walk up to the front of the church on their knees. And so I witnessed this, and I started taking pictures just of the awe and reverence they had when they came inside of this church, and I respected it and I couldn't believe some of the different things that I was seeing there as the people were praying and as the people were doing different aspects of their faith.

And then we walked around the back, and I saw how the church started and different things of what had happened and the stories behind that. And then my Costa Rican mom asked if I wanted to go with her to the station where they receive the holy water. And so I walked over, and out of this wall where this mural was painted was streams of water just coming out of pipes or just out of the side, and just water was coming everywhere.

And they were selling large jugs or small jugs, large jugs, different size jugs, and people were taking the jugs and filling them underneath these pipes. Many people were bathing in the water and getting under it and washing themselves. And what captivated me the most about it was when we walked out of there, because right when you walk out of the area where the holy water comes out of the side of this wall is a large courtyard area, and there were people there that were selling all kinds of things, but the main purpose of them selling -- the main good that they were selling was lottery tickets. Fits, doesn't it? Get your holy water, you do your praying, and you come out and you are going to win the lottery.

And the first thing that I wanted to do was be very critical. I wanted to be critical and think, oh, look at this. They go in there and they do their spiritual thing and then they come out and they expect that today they are going to get something out of it. I wanted to be critical, but then I thought, you know what, how many times do I do the same? I come to church or I am a christian, and I leave and I think, God, I deserve something today. I'm owed something. There is something in today that I should get. And so as critical as I wanted,

I realized how much I do the exact same thing that we are trying to get at this morning. And that's looking for today, focused on today, And yet to fit in with this series we find out that God just doesn't give us what we want, does he? In Jesus Christ God gives us exactly what we need.

And so this morning we are going to look at John Chapter 6. We are going to look at John Chapter 6 about? The story is the feeding of the 5,000, and if you have your NIV bible, it's going to give it away for you right at the top. In black lettering it's going to say, Jesus feeds the 5,000. Depending on how much bible you know, you know that this is the only account that is recorded in all four gospels, the only miracle story that is recorded in all four. So this is very significant. And when you read that, many of us, if you're like me, automatically start playing the story out in my head.

Jesus feeds the 5,000. Well, I know I've heard this before in a sermon, and so I know that the ,000 means that that's only the men because they didn't count the women and children and so there is probably more and Jesus probably fed them as well. So we can call this the feeding of 10,000. And I know that Jesus took the five loaves and two fish and he fed everybody. Most of the gospel is in there, but John doesn't. John keeps going. John goes on and he does an entire specific teaching of Jesus throughout the rest of the chapter through Chapter 6. Broken up in there we are going to get the Jesus walking on water when he and the disciples try to get away from the crowd, and we have that miracle story, but Jesus' main purpose certificate here is going to be something totally different than what any of the other gospel writers record in Matthew, mark, or Luke. John gives us a specific teaching of Jesus.

And I couldn't figure out how this fit in and why John does this teaching or why Jesus gives it to him right after this feeding, until I came across something that should have hit me in the head in John Chapter 6, Verse 4. It says it right there, but I just didn't pick up on it. "The Jewish passover feast was near." As I was reminded in first service, I had classes with Chuck, so I should have heard him say this over and over.

Steve reminded us in his communion meditation. Chuck would say here, do you hear it? The Jewish passover feast was near.

Well, to me that doesn't mean much, and to you it probably doesn't mean much, because we don't understand what a first century Jew would have thought. We don't understand what the passover meant to them and how much anticipation would have been built up at this time. Because the passover for them was a meal they celebrated every year, and every year, no matter where they lived, they were to travel to Jerusalem to be faithful Jews. The faithful Jewish male would travel to Jerusalem to the temple. He would gather with his family and with his friends. They would take a one-year old male lamb without a blemish, and they would sacrifice it. There was a specific way they were to eat of the meat. They were to roast the lamb over a fire. They were to have no leaven in their houses for the entire week, and they weren't to eat leaven with this meal in any of their bread.

There were songs that they would sing. There were stories that they would tell. They would tell their children about how their ancestors were in slavery in the land of Egypt and how they pleaded with God and cried out to God and how God answered them by sending the prophet Moses. And Moses came and Moses performed all these miraculous signs and plagues on the nation of Israel and their Gods and he led them out of Egypt. But before he led them out, they had a passover feast where they sacrificed the lamb and they put blood over the door posts, so when the death angel came over the houses he would pass over the houses of anyone of the nation of Israel that had the blood over the doors. And it was a sign of deliverance.

But wrapped up in this sign was an anticipation because God promised the people after they had gone out of Egypt, he said, you know what? There is going to be a greater deliverance yet to come in the future. There is going to be a greater deliverance, and Moses tells us about this in Deuteronomy Chapter 18, Verse 18 and Verse 15. He says, "After me God is going to raise up a prophet, a prophet greater than me, and he will deliver you." Do you see where they would have had some anticipation with Jesus?

Because in the second verse of this text we find out that the people are following Jesus because of the miraculous signs that he is performing. They are hearing all of these stories, they are hearing all of this history, and all of a sudden here is this man who is doing things that no one can explain and teaching things that no one has ever heard. And so their anticipation, maybe this is the one.

It's kind of like Christmas. Whenever it's Thanksgiving, what do we know is near? Christmas is near. That means something to us in this country, doesn't it? To us as christians it means something. If you don't know what it means, you should take a girl who has grown up in the midwest in Quincy, Illinois, out of the winter season and take her to Costa Rica and then take her to Florida and have everywhere cards and everywhere shopping and everything saying that Christmas is near, and yet you will hear over and over, it just doesn't feel like Christmas. There is no snow. I guess for you guys it's been ice, ice, and maybe some snow. But it just didn't feel like Christmas. She didn't have the same food. She didn't have shrimp on Christmas Eve at her grandma's house. She didn't have the same friends and family gathered around. There wasn't the same anticipation. And it wasn't until we got here that she started to feel like it was Christmas.

You see, in this text they know, they know that the passover is near, and they are anticipating. They are anticipating the stories to be told. You see, we tell our children and we tell it every week in the month leading up to it, don't we? We tell the stories of the birth of Jesus Christ, the story. And what do we anticipate as christians? We don't anticipate the first birthday. We tell the story about that, but as christians we anticipate what? His coming. His coming again.

And so the Jews in this first century context are wrapped up in this anticipation that Jesus is this prophet that is greater than Moses. And then to top it off, guess what he does? He takes five loaves of bread, two fish, and he feeds thousands of people. And you know what they start to think? This is the one. Why wouldn't they? For 40 years when they were wandering in the desert, when their ancestors are wandering in the desert, guess what Moses provided for them out of heaven? Manna. Manna. It's a bread type substance. And so here out of nothing Manna fell down on the ground. They collected it everyday. It fed the entire nation.

All of a sudden now you are anticipating the passover and here is Jesus and he takes five loaves of bread and he feeds thousands of people and there is plenty left over. Their anticipation could fit, couldn't it? Surely this is the prophet who was to come. They say it in Verse 14. Look at John Chapter 6, Verse 14. "After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say. Surely this is the prophet who is coming into the world. Surely this is the prophet."

Well, Jesus leaves because he realizes that what they really want is just to make him king. They have been under slavery for years and years and years, ever since the time of king David and King Solomon. After those kings they have been under slavery for almost a thousand years under different empires, whether it's the Babylonians, whether its the Persians, whether it's the Greeks, whether it's the Romans. And all of a sudden they are saying, this is the prophet that is going to provide the deliverance that we have been waiting for and been promised. And Jesus leaves because he realizes that what they think they need is not really what they want. Or what they want, I'm sorry, is not really what they need. And so he leaves.

He leaves, but the people come and the people find him. Verse 25 we are introduced to Jesus being confronted by the people. They finally find him on the other side of the lake, but Jesus immediately addresses the problem. He immediately begins to start what he is trying to get across. He says to them in Verse 26, "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. On him God the father has placed his seal of approval."

You see, what the people do is they come because they want more bread. They ate and had their fill, and they are coming back to Jesus and saying basically, today we want the same thing you gave us yesterday. Give us more of what we had yesterday. We want it today. And they are so focused, they are so focused on the here and now, on the day-to-day, that Jesus is trying to get them to see, no, you are missing the point.

And he goes on to this teaching about how he is the bread of life, how his food is truth, how his blood is true drink, how it is his body that truly fills and truly gives life eternal. And all they were craving was manna like Moses gave. And Jesus tells them, he says, you know what, those people, your ancestors, they ate the Manna in the wilderness for years, and guess what happened to them? They died. They died. But I come to give you bread. I come -- if you receive me, I give you life eternal.

We are going to pause for this part of the sermon. We are going to pause because as believers in Jesus Christ we know what Jesus meant when he said, I give my body as true food and I give me blood as true drink. We understand what he said when he said, in me is eternal life. And so this morning we do as we do every week, and we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made, and we are going to take a small portion of bread and we are going to take some juice. We could put it all together, and I guarantee you that you won't come back later asking for more of what you just had, because it's not filling. We don't eat it because we are filled temporarily in our bodies, do we? We take of the bread and the juice because in them Jesus has given us life and life eternal.

(Communion was served)

As Jamie just described and as we will see in this text, sometimes it's easier to look back on something like this text and be critical of why they didn't see what Jesus was trying to get across, but when we look at our own lives, sometimes we miss the day-to-day workings of God, too, don't we? But that's what we are going to do. We are going to look into this text, and we are going to be critical of why they didn't understand it.

Jesus tells them very clearly with something that they are quoting. You see, they keep referring back to this promised prophet, and Jesus understands that their expectations are right, but what they want is wrong, and so Jesus quotes for them something that comes out of the very context that they are wrapped up in out of Exodus, the third chapter, Verse 14. You see, when God commands Moses to go to Pharaoh, when God says, go to Egypt and get my people out, Moses says, you know, who am I? I have a speech problem and all these other excuses. And then Moses says, who am I to tell them sent me? Then God says to Moses, you tell them I am sent you. I am who I am.

And so when these people are looking, when the crowd is looking for Jesus to give them what they want, when they desire more bread today, Jesus tells them, he says, I am. It's recorded five different times in John Chapter 6. It starts out in Verse 20 when Jesus appears to his disciples after walking on the water. He just refers to them and says -- when they are afraid and they look out in the water Jesus says, I am, don't be afraid. And they received him into the boat.

And then the people come to him and the crowd when they find him, and they are asking him about giving us more of this bread, more of what we had yesterday. And Jesus tells them, I am. I am. In Verse 35 he says, "I am the bread of life." You see, Jesus uses it over and over again, and the people actually get it. They know what he is getting at because in Verse 41 the people start to grumble amongst themselves. The crowd starts to grumble and say, "He says that he is the bread of life," and they say in Verse 42, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, I came down from heaven?"

You see, Jesus is placing himself on a plane equal with God saying that he is God. I am. I am. I am. I am. And they understand the connection, and all of a sudden walls go up for them, and they say, no, you're not. We know who you are. You can't be. But, you see, what Jesus is trying to do and what John is trying to get us to see is throughout the gospel of John he uses signs, not just to overwhelm us with different miracles that Jesus performed, but so that we see that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is the son of God. That's the whole purpose for the sign.

In John Chapter 2 the people come to Jesus, and the passover is approaching then as well, and the people come to Jesus and they ask him all these different questions. And Jesus says, here is the sign I'll give you. Destroy this temple, and I'll raise it up in three days. But Jesus isn't talking about literally destroying the temple and raising it up, we know, because John tells us that he is talking about his body, the temple of his body, that after he was crucified three days later he would rise again.

Well, Nicodemus comes in John Chapter 3 and says, we know that you are of God because of the signs that you perform. And Jesus says, okay, I'm going to take this, what your understanding about who I am, but I want you to understand something deeper because not only do you understand the signs that I do, I want you to understand that what I'm going to do is bring about a new birth. Well, Nicodemus is all confused, isn't he, and he starts asking, what is a man to do? Is he to enter into the womb again? And Jesus says, no, you are missing it, you are missing it. I came to give eternal life. Throughout the gospel of John you can trace it time and time again. Signs are used, and John records signs so that the people don't miss who Jesus is.

But in our text the people are missing who Jesus is. He says, I am the bread of life. Don't desire yesterday's bread today. Don't just want to eat more food like your ancestors did in the wilderness. They died. I offer you eternal life. It's easy to be critical of them just looking for their needs for today, isn't it? But isn't that the world we live in?

It was rough growing up because I was a Cubs fan and a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. We have had some rough years. Cubs still are having rough years. But the Tampa Bay Bucs were terrible. They had ugly uniforms, an old stadium, terrible players. As a matter of fact, they spent 12 years in a row in the '80's and early '90's with more than ten losses, ten or more losses every season. And in 1995 they hired Tony Dungy.

The name is probably familiar to some of you because he was the coach of the last year's Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts. He put out a book recently. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I want to read it. It's a lot about his faith and different things that he brings into the coaching environment. And that's why I admired him so much. That was why I was a Tampa Bay Bucs fan renewed was because of Tony Dungy. It wasn't whether or not we won, which he did. His first six seasons four trips to the playoffs. For 15 years, the 15 years before that the Bucs had not even known anything about the playoffs because they were so far from it that they never went. They just watched from their homes.

But you know what happened after his sixth year of coaching and his fourth playoff appearance? The fans started to complain. The paper started to complain. We need somebody new in here. We want a Super Bowl. We want a championship and we want it now. They wanted it today. They didn't look back on where they have come from and what this man has done for the organization and what he has done for his players and the class that they have and how well they handled themselves on the field. They wanted a championship. And so out goes Tony Dungy, and out I went as a fan and became an Indianapolis Colts fan. It was a good year last year.

But isn't that the world we live in? Give me what I want or I'll go find it somewhere else. I want my bread today. I'm not talking about literal bread. Neither was Jesus. He is not saying, I am bread, was he? He was trying to get them to understand that there was something more than just bread that they needed. They needed him. They needed the eternal life that would be given when he would offer up his body as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. But they want it today. They wanted bread and they wanted it now and they wanted it today.

And so we come to Verse 66, and we find out how they respond. It's often how many of us are tempted to respond and sometimes do. In Verse 66 it says, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." It was just too difficult. The teaching that he was trying to bring was just too difficult, and it didn't give them exactly what they wanted and so they left. They didn't follow him anymore.

And this text gets names and faces for a lot of us, doesn't it, because sadly we all know many disciples who no longer follow Jesus because everything just didn't work out the way they wanted or hoped, and so they no longer followed. It's a temptation that haunts all of us. It's a temptation -- in my opinion, this is one of the most difficult parts about being a christian, being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, is that we don't always get what we want, and we can't always explain why certain things happen and why things aren't so much different when we are christians. Because though we have hope, we also have pain and we also have struggles, and in the midst of those are our understanding of what that hope is is challenged, isn't it? But yet we are called to be faithful to what God promises us for tomorrow, even when today we don't get what we want.

It's so unpopular that one of the most popular preachings today and one of the most popular theologies is to get exactly what you want right now. It's everything I want now, your best life now, my best everything now. This is what I want. And as christians it is hard to live in that tension of what the world is trying to tell us we need now and what we should want now and trying to realize that Jesus Christ is giving us today and tomorrow, that by placing our faith in him we might not get what we wanted to but we get what we need forever and for all eternity. It's a tension living in that, isn't it?

It's a tension that we just came out of when children make Christmas lists of the things that they want and the things that Santa brings them, and we are trying to teach them as parents and as aunts and uncles and as relatives and trying to keep our own selves unstained by it as well that though we might want these things, if we don't have them, it's okay, isn't it? Because the real meaning of Christmas we say over and over again is what? It's been Jesus, isn't it? But the temptation of the world is to turn our eyes away from that and just to turn to what we want today.

We face another temptation with it as the new year approaches, because for many of us last year we want to put behind us, and we're anticipating the new year because it has so much new potential and there is so many new things that we would like to have in our lives, we would like for God to do for us, but the reality just may be that those things don't happen. Many of us want just what we had last year. If God would be the same for us this year as he was last year, then, man, I'm going to be more faithful than ever. And it's the tension we face as christians, because if we're so wrapped up in today, if we are so wrapped up in what we want, then what makes us any different than those in Verse 66 that stop following him and turn and walk away?

You see, I think the goal for this whole series, I think what Chuck has been trying to get at, I think what the worship team has been trying to get at is that no matter what, no matter what happens, no matter what we get, no matter whether or not God meets our every need right now, that in Jesus Christ we have everything that we've ever needed and more, because he is the one who gives eternal life. What if for the new year, what if in the midst of all the resolutions that are made and in a couple days that will be broken, what about in the midst of all of those if the resolution is made by us as christians is that we will live our lives with the same response that Peter does? Because Jesus is, you can see, troubled about this. Anytime that people don't follow him or anytime people turn away from him it breaks his heart.

And so he turns to the 12. If you look at Verse , he turns to the 12, and he said says -- he looks at them he says, "You are not going to leave, too, are you?" You're not going to leave, are you? And Peter says, Where shall we go, Lord, to whom shall we go, because you have the words of eternal life?" You have the words of eternal life. What if that is the way that we live our lives as christians. That though it's great when we get exactly what we want, that even when we don't, Jesus is still our Lord and savior who even in the midst of today promises that there is a tomorrow and that there is an eternity.

Today that's the invitation we offer. We don't promise you a God or a savior who's going to give you exactly what you want or is going to solve all your problems, but we do offer words of eternal life when you place your faith in his son Jesus Christ. There is tomorrow, and you can receive it today.