September 4, 2016
“Design the car for the life you want.” I saw this advertisement for Jaguar on Twitter the other day. “Design the car for the life you want.” Wow! What kind of life do you want? Do you know? And does a car have anything to do with it? Are you living the life that you want?
Does the life you want revolve around material things? Does it revolve around significant relationships? Does it revolve around having a certain kind of character and conduct? Is God a part of the life you want?
I recently read about a Jewish man named Andrew Klavan. He was raised by atheist parents, and yet they did observe Jewish customs. At his Bar mitzvah he declared himself a member of the Jewish faith. But he was lying and he knew it. In a leather box he kept the jewelry, watches, pens, and savings bonds worth thousands of dollars that had been given to him as gifts at his bar mitzvah. He knew he had betrayed his own integrity and so one winter night at the age of 13 he buried the box into the trash can so it would not be discovered by the garbage men. And he lived his life as an atheist.
What kind of life do you want? This morning I want to commend to you the life that only God can give through Jesus Christ. And as we have the Lord’s Table before us, let me say that the saving mercy of God is revealed at the Lord’s Table.
I. MANNA: GRAIN FROM HEAVEN. Ps.78:17-24
Psalm 78 is a very long psalm. It has 72 verses. Basically this psalm recounts the history of Israel up until the time of King David. Over and over in this psalm we read about how the people of Israel rebelled against the goodness of God in unbelief and disobedience. It recounts how the Lord chose the tribe of Judah by raising up David as the King of Israel. The psalm ends with King David reigning, as if to indicate that with David on the throne all is well. David is Israel’s ideal king. Of course we know that while David was a man after God’s own heart, he was flawed. He was Israel’s greatest king in the Old Testament. But a greater King was coming out of the line of David. His name is Jesus.
In v.17-24 we read, “Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, "Can God spread a table in the wilderness? He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?" Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power. Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven.”
What do you think? Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Most of us are familiar with this grain from heaven. It was called manna, and it appeared every morning on the ground. The people of Israel had to go out and collect enough to feed themselves for the day. If any was left over in the evening, it rotted. God provided this manna even during the 40 years of wilderness wandering until the entire generation who came out of Egypt died.
Despite Israel’s unbelief, rebellion, and disobedience, God mercifully set the table. He delivered his people from starvation. Manna was bread from heaven. The people were unable to provide food for themselves. They were in the desert. This manna was food that only God could give. And yet they continued to complain. In Num.11:6-8 we read, “But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at." Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil.” They developed various recipes for manna, but they grew weary of it.
There is a very obvious application for us. This is suggestive of how easy it is to take God’s saving mercy and grace for granted. Manna was something no human ever thought up. It was completely God’s doing. But after many days it became boring. I’m sure I don’t need to remind us that the same is often true in regard to our salvation in Christ. Day after day of living in God’s grace can become boring. The joy of the Lord becomes old, even though his grace and mercy to us in Christ is renewed every day just as the manna came every morning. Surely this is one reason why the Lord’s Table is so important. It is a place of physical and spiritual remembering, renewal and refreshment.
II. FEEDING OF THE 5,000: JESUS THE TRUE BREAD FROM HEAVEN. Jn.6:1-15; 28-35
In Jn.6:1-15 we read about how Jesus had gone over to the east side of the Sea of Galilee. It was close to the time of the feast of Passover. A large crowd of well over 5,000 gathered to him because of the miracles that he had been doing. Luke tells us that he “spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.” As the day wore on people were hungry. Since it was a desolate place food was not readily available.
Well, we know the story of how from 5 barley loaves and two small fish, Jesus spread a table of abundance in the midst of great need. By the way, barley bread was a poor man’s bread. In v.11 we read that, “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.” Just as God did in the wilderness when Israel was being led by Moses, so Jesus, God in the flesh did for the people on that day by the sea of Galilee.
If you look at Jn.6:14, it says that, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, "This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!" Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
What does it mean when it says that the people said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come”? Well in Dt.18:18, towards the end of his life, Moses said to the people of Israel, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” Even in Jesus’ day Jewish people were looking for this prophet like Moses that God was going to raise up. When they saw Jesus perform this miracle of multiplying the 5 loaves and 2 fish, they concluded that Jesus was the prophet like Moses who was to come. Jesus miraculously provided bread.
Even though the people wanted to make Jesus their king, Jesus withdrew because he was not the kind of king they were looking for. On the next day the people found Jesus again and in v.26-27 Jesus says, “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."
Clearly, Jesus was talking about a different kind of food, a food that endures to eternal life. Well they were interested and they wanted to know how to work for the food that endures for eternal life. Jesus responded in v.29, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said, “Well okay, what sign do you do to prove your claims.” And they quoted from Ps.78. They said, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat."
Now, look at v.32-35. Jesus is the bread of life. In other words, Jesus is the one who satisfies the spiritual hunger and thirst that every person experiences in life. As this chapter goes on, Jesus explains that the life he gives is eternal life. All who believe in him will be raised up on the last day and will live forever.
In v.41-42 we read that, “the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Then in v.51, Jesus again says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." Well, Jesus miraculously spread a table of bread and fish before that large crowd. They ate and were fully satisfied. But Jesus wanted them to understand that that miracle pointed to an even greater miracle. God was concerned to provide food for his people in the wilderness. God in Christ was concerned to provide food for the people on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. But God is even more concerned with providing for our deepest need of life in the kingdom of God. Jesus himself, is the true bread from heaven who gives eternal living. And that brings us to another, more important table
III. THE LORD’S TABLE: JESUS, THE BREAD OF LIFE
In Lk.22:14-20 we read, “And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
What was Jesus doing here? He was spreading a table. They sat down for the Passover observance but Jesus was spreading a new, a different table. The Passover table reenacted with food, the miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt that Israel received from God. Their time of slavery was over. God redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. Now Jesus was spreading a new table of deliverance, salvation. And this salvation would come through the giving of himself through death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. This salvation would be a salvation, a deliverance from the sin and death that is destroying our lives and our world.
Was God present when he provided manna, bread from heaven in the wilderness? He surely was. Was God present when Jesus miraculously provided bread by the Sea of Galilee? God was right there providing bread from heaven through his Son. Was God present when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Table in the upper room? He surely was in the very person of Jesus, God in the flesh. Is Jesus here at the Lord’s Table today? Yes. He is here as the Bread of Life.
O his presence is not bound up in the bread or the cup, as if eating a little piece of unleavened bread and drinking a little shot glass of grape juice could contain his presence. No. But Jesus, the living Son of God, the true Bread of heaven is here. This is his table. It is through faith in Jesus the Bread of life that we receive his eternal living in the kingdom of God. Wherever the bread and cup are observed, the Lord Jesus is present. He is present with you as you eat and drink. And so as you come to the table do not come as if this was just another day of manna. Do not come because you want Jesus to do a miracle for you like the people did at the feeding of the five thousand. Rather come because Jesus is the saving bread of your life. Come because you are trusting in Jesus as your Savior, Lord and King.
For the next 35 years Andrew Klavan, the man I referred to earlier, lived as a philosophical agnostic and a practical atheist. He is a writer, a novelist and one night during his 40s he was lying in bed with one of Patrick O’Brian’s great seafaring adventure novels. A character in the novel he admired said a prayer before going to sleep. Klavan thought to himself, “Well, if he can pray, so can I.” He writes, “I laid the book aside and whispered a three-word prayer in gratitude for the contentment I’d found, and for the work and people I loved: “Thank you, God.” Listen to what Klavan writes, “It was a small and even prideful prayer: a self-impressed intellectual’s hesitant experiment with faith. God’s response was an act of extravagant grace. I woke the next morning and everything had changed. There was a sudden clarity and brightness to familiar faces and objects; they were alive with meaning and with my own delight in them. I called this experience “the joy of my joy,” and it came to me again whenever I prayed. Naturally I began to pray every day. And over time, this joy of my joy became a constant companion: a steady sense of vitality and beauty that endured even in periods of sorrow and pain. I was living in the beautiful Southern California town of Santa Barbara when I realized that prayer—that God—had transformed my life utterly, giving me a depth and pleasure of experience I had never known. I drove up into the hills one day, and with the forest and the city and the sea rolling by my windows, I asked God, “How can I thank you for what you’ve done for me? What could I possibly offer you in return?” And as clearly as if he had spoken aloud, God answered, “Now, you should be baptized.” The thought had never occurred to him before. Listen to the ending: My bar mitzvah had been an empty ritual, devoid of God—and truth. But my baptism was the outward expression of a deep and authentic inner conviction. The moment I rose from my knees by the baptismal font, I knew I had stepped through some invisible barrier between myself and a remarkable new journey. Within a week or so, my wife noticed it too: a new joy and easiness. My soul had found its northern star. And that star still leads me on. Andrew Klavan found Christ and is walking with Christ today. The life you need is found in Jesus Christ. You can turn to him today for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal living in the kingdom of God.