Thinking With Your Stomach

Series: Red Letters: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?

 “Thinking with Your Stomach” // John 6:26-40

EASTER Sunday, March 31, 2013 @ Jericho Ridge Community Church

Series: Red Letters


Good morning everyone!  My name is Brad Sumner, I’m part of the teaching and leadership team here at Jericho Ridge.  Thanks to our team from Guatemala for that report.  We here at Jericho are deeply privileged to have work not only in Guatemala, but also in many different parts of the globe.  In fact, one of our families, H & K just got on a plane this week to head over to Central Asia to begin long term service and work there with MB Mission.  Now, many of you have travelled to other parts of the world and one of the things that always strikes me when I travel is the amazing diversity of foods.  It’s always amazing and fun for me to experience another culture through food.  I can remember travelling in the Philippines a number of years ago and we were at a large outdoor sporting venue.  And so the purveyors came up and down the rows just like they might at a baseball or Canucks game here and the guy was saying “peanuts, popcorn, balut”.  The first two I recognized, but the last item on his list was a new one for me so I called the guy over and asked about it.  For the uninitiated, balut is a Filipino street food.  It’s a fertilized egg, usually, duck, that is allowed to develop but not fully develop so that the yolk and the chick co-exist side in the same shell.  This delicate balance of falvour and textures is prized in some SE Asian countries.  The ideal balut egg is 17 days mature, so you eat it just before the beak and the feathers start to develop – am I grossing you out yet?  Well, my practice in all of the places I have travelled in the world has that I will try anything at least once – but this time, I drew the line.  I had so many questions.  Who kept track of what day this was for the egg?  Do you eat it hot or cold?  Even though I was so hungry that day, I decided to pass it up. Perhaps you’ve had an interesting  food experience in another country.  If you want, tweet it to @jerichoridge.


It really is amazing how much you can learn about a culture by their food, isn’t it?  Food is often what fascinates and sometimes repulses us about various cultures from a distance.  They eat what?!  They cook that how?!  And the response from within the culture is usually hey “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!”  I can remember another time travelling through Sweden on our way to Russia and we were overnighting at a hotel near the airport.  And we had been flying all day and I was starving because the food they fed us on the plane the portion sizes were so small!  So I got to the hotel and I thought I would choose a sure fire winner and order pizza.  So I got on the phone and ordered up a simple pizza.  There was a bit of a language barrier, but I thought ‘pepperoni pizza’ that’s kind of internationally safe food, right?  Except that when the pizza arrived it was loaded to the brim with hot peppers!  And I was so tired and so hungry, that I threw caution to the wind and ate it anyways.  Have you ever felt like that?  So hungry that you could literally eat anything put in front of you? 


In the Gospel reading that I want us to look at today, Jesus encounters something of the same experience.  He is surrounded by people who so hungry they can’t quite think straight.  They are thinking with their stomachs.  So this morning, we’re going to look at claim that Jesus makes, a challenge that He issues and a promise that He holds out to each and every one of us today.  Let’s pray as we look into God’s Word this morning. 


We’re looking this morning into the fourth book of the New Testament, the Gospel of John, chapter 6.  If you want to find it quickly and easily, just take your smart phone, head over to and you’ll be there.  At the start of chapter 6, Jesus is facing a hungry crowd who can’t listen to his teaching anymore because they’re been there all morning and they forgot to bring their lunches.  Just like you will all be in about 40 minutes – hungry and grouchy!  But Jesus is a gracious host and so he borrows a young boy’s lunch and performs a miraculous sign – he feeds a crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children!  And these people are impressed.  I mean, what’s not to like?  You get hungry, Jesus whips up a miraculous meal for you... And so they decide that they like this idea so much, they are going to follow Jesus around.  They’ll listen to him a bit, they’ll get hungry, then Jesus will feed them again. Look with me at John 6:26-27.   


Jesus knows that they are thinking with the stomachs and so he turns to them and asks them “don’t you think there are more important things in life that food?”  You are working hard and thinking about how to obtain food which is perishable.  It’s important, but what about the deeper issues of life?  Why not spend at least some of that effort on thinking about finding something that nourishes not just your physical body but that has the capacity to nourish your soul for all eternity.  Jesus says “I can and will give that to you because God is my Father and I am His Son.” 


Embedded in this discussion about food is a foundational truth claim that Jesus makes of Himself.  He claims here, and consistently claimed throughout his life, that He is the Son of the Living God.  Now before we go any further, let’s explore this for just a minute.  We’re engaged in a teaching series here at Jericho Ridge called “Red Letters” the idea being that many translations of the Bible has the words of Jesus printed in Red ink.  And we’re spending the months of March and April asking the question “What If Jesus Really Meant what He said?”.  We’ve explored what Jesus said about politics and the poor, what He said about money and possessions and in April, we’ll be exploring what Jesus things like marriage and family, marriage and divorce and heaven and hell, so it should be interesting and I hope you’ll join us in person or listen online. 


But this claim that Jesus makes here in these verses is really the core of the Easter message: Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, come from heaven to earth with the express and Divine purpose of living a perfect life, dying a vicarious death on the cross where He willingly chose to take upon Himself the punishment for your sins and mine, and then on Easter Sunday morning, he demonstrated His power and victory by rising from the grave and ascending into heaven, from whence the Apostles Creed reminds us, He shall come to judge the living and the dead.  When Jesus says that God is His Father therefore He is the Son of God, we need to assess this claim.  And as many careful researchers and thinkers before me and much more eloquent speakers than I have laid out, there are three basic options for us to consider:


The first option is that Jesus is a Liar.  That he knew that He was not fully human and fully Divine and yet He intentionally chose to deceive those around Him.  We might call this type of person a charlatan or a con artist.  But the historical witness and contemporary view of Jesus hardly fits into this category.  He is a wise teachers & historical figure who is well respected to this day, and so the accusation that He is a liar just doesn’t fit. 


So what are our other options?  Well, a second possibility is that He wasn’t the Son of God but that He still made often repeated and very public claims that He was.  In this scenario, He wasn’t lying to people, He was just a lunatic.  This would mean that Jesus was completely detached from reality and as he went around the Judean countryside telling people He was God.  But this falls apart a bit when you begin to ask “then why would people have followed him like they did?”  The people of Jesus’ day, and many others down through history have seen something in Him that is deeper and more compelling than a crazy person who makes divine claims     


The other possibility to consider is that this was in fact, a legitimate truth claim by Jesus.  That He was indeed who He claimed to be: the Son of God.  His miracles and the historical records of His life and the impact of His teaching not only on His contemporaries, but down through history and on many of the people gathered here in this room bear witness to the truth of that claim: that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, very God of very God who clothed Himself in human flesh and for 33 years, lived here on this earth and who died with one purpose: to reconcile humanity with God and to make it possible for you and I to have our sins forgiven, our guilt taken away and our eternal hope secure in heaven.  Each of us, friends, at some point in our lives needs to consider the question who is Jesus and assess his claims for ourselves.  If you’re in that place of inquiry, I would love to sit down with you over coffee and explore your questions and objections and see where we come to together. Email me.  


So coming back to Jesus’ conversation with the crowds, they had seen His miracles first hand and so they were at minimum curious about the possibility that this guy had some special connection with God.  So they asked him what I think is a fascinating and very relevant question in John 6:28-29.  They say OK, we’re interested in God… Curious about the things you are up to and we may even want to participate.  What should we do?  And Jesus’s response would have sent a mild shock wave through the crowd because of its directness but also because it pushes against every fiber of our beings as humans.  Jesus says it’s pretty simple…  there is only one thing God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”  This is the challenge that Jesus puts out there for them and for us today. 


I want you to pause for a moment and chew on this.  It’s certainly good Food for ThoughtHow would you answer the question “what does God require of me?” For my family growing up, the answer to that question was “try to be a good moral person.  Do a little bit of religious activity every now and then” but one thing we began to realize was that there is a profound lack of clarity if that is your measuring stick.  How good is good enough?  What if God wants just a little bit more?  But right here in His answer Jesus gives what I think is perhaps the most profoundly good news you might ever hear.  God only wants one thing from you.  Just Believe.  Your primary work as a human being is being receptive to God.  Jesus’ work, he will explain later in verse 43 is to reveal the Father and our work is to receive that revelation and to align our lives with it.  Called Faith. 


But the crowd is thinking not with their souls but with their stomachs.  So they say to Jesus in 6:30-31 – If you want us to believe in you, perform a miraculous sign.  (Remember, Jesus just did that not but 24 hours earlier. And the crowd in effect says to Him, “yeah, but that miracle was yesterday… Today is another day and my stomach isn’t full any more.  “Feed me Jesus”  But intriguingly, the crowd remembers a food story from the Old Testament about miraculous bread.  The manna that God provided to the children of Israel as the migrated from Egypt to the Promised Land and got sidetracked for 40 years in the dessert.  6 mornings a week for 40 years God provided little round coriander seed-like flakes of bread for over 1 million people to eat.  Now that’s a miracle!  And since this miracle is a part of the national psyche and heritage, they appeal to Jesus by saying “hey, if you want us to see and believe, you better keep the food coming!” 

18th century theologian John Wesley once said “most people have just enough religion to be miserable”.  This was certainly true of this crowd.  They were missing God’s gift of life because they were thinking only with their stomachs. 


And it is in response to this question that Jesus connects the dots for them and gives them, and us, a powerful metaphor and an even more powerful promise.  Listen to John 6:32-34.  The crowd is thinking with their stomachs – they want continuous sustenance.  So Jesus offers it to them.  He says “I AM the bread of life.” 


Now what in the world does Jesus mean when He says this?  It’s a bit ‘out there’ like balut, when you first encounter it.  But in the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 6:3, God said to people “Humanity will not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  In other words, there is a dimension to each of our lives that is beyond the physical that requires nourishment.  Each of us has a soul that doesn’t draw its sustenance from what we shove into our mouths, but needs a deeper and more sustained source of nourishment.  I don’t know what you are trying to feed your hungry soul with.  Many people in our culture try to nourish their souls with all kinds of things – What are some things you can think of that people use to feed their souls – good, bad or indifferent?  [money, personal accomplishments and successes, social standing, religious or spiritual activities]   Jesus here says something simple but profound.  That He is food for the hungry soul. 

  • He is claiming to be that which one needs in order to have life on an ongoing basis

Life that begins now and continues into eternity. In other words,

Jesus is capable of satisfying your deepest spiritual hunger


He is the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. 37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.”


This doesn’t mean that hunger and thirst will never rise up in our souls again but it does mean that when your soul gets hungry, you know where to turn for healthy nourishment.  Later on in this discussion, Jesus actually deepens the offense when he says in 6:56 “anyone who feeds on me will live because of me” – And in the first century, this actually led people in Rome and other cities to accuse the early Christians of cannibalism because they thought when they gathered that there were literally eating someone’s flesh and drinking their blood!  But what these early disciples were doing was that which is practiced by the church around the globe still to this day – the Eucharist.  Or communion, where we take bread, which represents Christ’s body, and the juice, which represents his blood, and we eat and drink as a way of remembering and drawing attention to the spiritual nourishment we receive from Him.  In that celebration which we will participate in next weekend here at Jericho, we look backward to the first Easter, but we also look forward to the time when Jesus comes again at the end of all human history and we will experience His gift of eternal life


And this is where Jesus finishes this part of his discussion with the crowd – with a focus on the resurrection, which we celebrate at Easter.  Look with me at John 6:38-40.  Jesus here makes his final promise – that just as the first Easter morning some 2,000 years distant, God the Father raised his physical body from the grave, those who have faith in him will also experience this.  But Jesus draws a clear parallel between those who merely observe resurrection and those who participate.  You haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me, Jesus says.  And as we close this portion of our time here this morning, I want to ask you to

For Reflection and Response


  • Seeing isn’t believing, it’s just seeing – you can observe all you want, but if you don’t sit down at the table to eat, you’re not full. 
  • Believing means that I affirm that I need far more than just sustenance; I need life itself. 


Dustin and the team are going to come and lead us in a time of response in worship.  The first song is one that expresses this deep longing and hunger that Jesus says that He is capable of fully filling.  Perhaps you are here this morning and you have a kind of ache or longing in your soul.  You may not have given it a lot of thought before this morning but I would encourage you not to leave here without attending to it.  Jesus says that if you come to Him in faith, that He will fill that longing.  And not only in this life, but also in the life to come.  Our prayer team would love to pray with you today.  It doesn’t have to be for something huge, it can be to say thank you to God for something that He has done or is doing in your life.  The prayer team is here to serve you in this way.


I am going to invite you to stand with me as we pray and move into a time where we invite God to grow hunger in our hearts.

Let’s pray together as we worship.    

Have you ever been so hungry you could eat anything put in front of you? In this Easter message, Pastor Brad explores spiritual hunger and why Jesus makes a very strong claim and a promise to each of us about how you can find nourishment for your soul.
March 31, 2013
John 6:25-41

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