The Food God Gives

John 6:27 “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.”

Each year Americans spend over 20 billion dollars on vitamins and nutritional supplements they hope will make them healthier and live longer. I take a few myself each day. We do this in spite of the fact that more and more studies suggest that our supplements don’t make much difference. Some studies have even suggested that taking vitamins like A, C, and E could shorten your life.

The food for our souls that Jesus feeds us endures to eternal life. It doesn’t merely lengthen life and delay death. It removes death altogether. It is a fountain of youth par excellence. It promises something better than enduring youth. It gives perfection in every way that never ends. That’s a gift that deserves a serious look.

And it’s all free. As a way of comparing the relative value of our earthly food to his eternal food, as a way of confronting our misplaced priorities, Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life…” Then he turns around and promises, “…which the Son of Man will give you.” There is no charge to hear the gospel. Jesus preached it freely wherever people would listen. Over the past 2000 years, I know of only a handful of churches that have tried to charge admission at the door (and you wouldn’t hear the gospel preached in most of them anyway). In my own church, we just give it away. You can make a contribution afterwards if you like, but that’s not because you can pay for the gospel. That is always Jesus’ gift to you, and you can hear it and read it as much as you like.

This is how it always works with the gospel. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” He didn’t trade him to us for a cash sum and a number of future draft picks. Jesus promises in another place, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus gave his life for us as a ransom, a payment for our sins. He didn’t serve us on the basis of a contract which carefully outlined the salary we were going to pay him for his services. In Acts 5 the Apostle Peter preached that God raised Jesus from the dead seated him at his right hand in heaven “that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” These are gifts he has given to us, not commodities he has placed on sale for our purchase. Paul writes the Romans that we “are justified freely by his grace.” There is no fee structure mentioned in Scripture, no court costs or bribes to be paid to our Judge for his not guilty verdict. This is why “…the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The gift-nature of the gospel and eternal life is further demonstrated in the next exchange he had with the crowd. “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’” Note how the people in the crowd ask about the “works God requires,” plural. They are thinking about the many good works a person could do, keeping the 10 commandments, living a moral life. They can think only of earning eternal life.

Jesus turns this around by speaking of one work of God, singular. And the one thing he mentions isn’t really work at all. “Believe in the one he has sent.” Believing isn’t doing. It is receiving. It shifts our attention away from our actions back to the gift God has given us, “The One he has sent.” When faith is focused on Jesus, then the gift is no longer waiting. We hold eternal life in our hands.            

For a long time many people have believed that if you don’t satisfy people’s physical hunger, and fill their stomachs, they won’t be ready for spiritual food. Jesus himself asks us to feed the hungry. But don’t think that helps people see their greater, spiritual need. Jesus had already fed this crowd, as much as they wanted. In response they just wanted more bread. Only Jesus’ words can feed the gnawing hunger in our souls. Then we will see his greater gifts. Then we will have the food that endures to eternal life.

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