Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Signs, Faith, and the Bread of Life‘
©January 12, 2014 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #648 (A Challenge to Faith – Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer
Opening Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I should Gain
Scriptures: Matthew 16:1-12; John 6:35-40; Matthew 27:50-54
Let us pray…
Just after 12:00 noon, yesterday, my son Jeff had a dental appointment in Maple. After more than a week of snow, ice and Polar Vortex frigid weather, I thought it would be nice that Sophie and I go for a drive, without concern of ice covered roads or heavy snowfall. I did not anticipate that the relatively warm +5⁰ Celsius temperature would allow the formation of thick fog which became progressively thicker as we left Toronto. Between the veil of low level clouds obscuring exit signs and the yahoos on the highway who insisted upon driving over the posted speed limit with a lemming-like desire to bring themselves and all those around them into a catastrophic pile up on the highway, the drive was more of a tedious white knuckle trip than expected. A couple of times, we either missed either a road sign or a turn, and ended up taking longer than we expected to reach our destination.
Fortunately, we left early enough so that we arrived at our destination only a couple of minutes late, rather than the expected 10-15 minutes early for Jeff’s appointment. It seems that even the Orthodontist had made a wrong turn or two on his way to the clinic, because of the fog obscuring road signs and the landscape.
Our message today is a different type of signs. These were signs that God provided to a lost and wayward people, whose faith had become lost or obscured. God provided these signs in order to provide proof of HIS presence, power and authority as the only true God.
Our first example of a sign from God comes from Exodus 16:4-8 (ESV), where the people of Israel had complained to Moses about their hunger and how God provided manna or bread from Heaven to sustain them:
Bread from Heaven
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” 8 And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”
In spite of the fact that the people of Israel had been delivered from bondage in Egypt, they complained. And by complaining to Moses instead of praying to God for a solution, they did not acknowledge HIS presence or authority. And Moses bluntly told them that their grumbling given towards their deliverer was the same as grumbling at God. In spite of this, God provided manna to feed His people.
Our second sign from God was the thunder and rain He sent to rebuke the people for not worshiping Him as their king, 1 Samuel 12:16-18 (ESV):
16 Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.” 18 So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.
Our third example of God’s sign was discussed in a sermon that I shared a few months ago, where Elijah asked God to light an altar so that they would turn away from the false god Baal and restore their faith in the one true God, 1 Kings 18:36-39 (ESV):
36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
And again in the Book of Isaiah, we see the love and compassion of God, where He extends the life of Hezekiah by fifteen years and even causes the sun to go backwards in the heaven in response to Hezekiah’s prayer, Isaiah 38:4-8 (ESV):
4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.[a] 6 I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city. 7 “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: 8 Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.[b]
I think that we a beginning to see a pattern here: that of God’s people drifting away from Him and repeatedly having to be reminded of His presence by way of supernatural signs through succeeding generations, often more than once to a particular generation.
It is not surprising that Jesus finds the Pharisees and Sadducees demanding a sign as proof that Jesus came from Heaven. This request shows how they have a problem of recognizing any authority other than their own, along with an arrogance to assume that they could command God in a manner reminiscent of the priests of Baal in the days of Elijah, Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV):
The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs
16 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them,[a] “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
Demanding signs from Jesus indicates not only a lack of faith and respect on the part of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but a defiance to God’s authority, which brings them the following rebuke, continuing in Matthew 15, verse 5:
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The best part of this passage is we learn an understanding that bread is used to describe the teaching of faith. And though the Pharisees and Sadducees had a large following of believers in the time that Jesus walked on earth, their religious teachings were not God’s teachings and therefore constituted false and without faith.
The only important teachings or “bread of life” are those lessons from Jesus, whose word became flesh and whose word is life, John 6:35-40 (ESV):
I Am the Bread of Life
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
And the promise and prophecy of Jesus was observed upon his death on the cross and resurrection resulted in several supernatural signs as proof of the Lord’s power and authority, Matthew 27:50-54 (ESV):
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son[a] of God!”
Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:54 Or a son
By faith in the sanctification of the cross, the promise of the resurrection, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we may have a continuous revival of faith and belief that Jesus died for our sins, to pave the way toward a new eternal covenant with our Father in heaven. Let us allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts to continuously renew a revival of a faith that abounds in belief in the restorative power of cross and hope for the promise of the resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And with a better understanding of the meaning of the ‘Bread of Life’, let us pray together the prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV), as he instructed his disciples to:
9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.[d] – Amen
Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence b. Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done c. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow d. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen
Closing Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God