Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 7

“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” John 19:23

We are discovering lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. Thus far we have learned the following:

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 17-18a).

– The two crosses teach that God gives each of us the freedom to choose (John 19:18b).

– There is no person or language God will not use to proclaim who Jesus is (John 19:19-22).

Today we discover in the seventh picture the apostle John presents to us, that JESUS’ GARMENTS WERE REMOVED SO WE COULD WEAR THE GARMENTS OF SALVATION (John 19:23-24). The words “when they had crucified Jesus” (John 19:23b) refer to the time when they nailed Jesus to the crossbeam and set the cross in place. 1  While Jesus is writhing in pain on the cross, John informs us, “Then the soldiers… took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” (John 19:23a, c).

Four Romans soldiers under the leadership of a centurion were assigned to each person being executed. “It would be the privilege of the soldiers conducting the execution by crucifixion to divide the personal property of the crucified among themselves. In keeping with custom therefore, the four soldiers took Jesus’ garments and divided them into four parts among themselves.” 2

It is significant to note that the Greek word for “garments” (hamatia) is plural. “When this word occurs in the singular it refers to the outer robe that most Jews wore. Here, because he used the plural, John evidently had in mind all of Jesus’ ‘outer garments,’ including His robe, sandals, belt, and head covering.” 3

The “tunic” (chitṓn) that was also removed from Jesus “was a garment worn next to the skin, but it was not what we would think of as underwear. It was more like a long shirt.” 4  The Jewish historian, Josephus, used this word to describe the high priest’s tunic that was woven in one piece (Antiquities 3.161). 5 This undergarment “was without seam, woven from the top in one piece,” and therefore, was more valuable. Not wanting to tear this expensive article of clothing, the soldiers “said therefore among themselves, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be.’ ” (John 19:24a). What a contrast between the innocent Lamb of God who was nearly stripped naked before a watching world to bear the shame of all our sin while Roman soldiers ignore Him because they were more concerned about accumulating wealth.

The Bible often describes our behavior as the clothes we wear. For example, Peter encourages us to be “clothed with humility” (I Peter 5:5). King David writes of the wicked person, “As he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment.” (Psalm 109:18). Garments represent character, and like His tunic, Jesus’ character “was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” (John 19:23a, c). Christ’s life was like His tunic: “uninterrupted perfection.” 6

When John says Jesus’ tunic was “woven from the top,” Lucado suggests it means  “Jesus wasn’t led by his own mind; he was led by the mind of his Father. Listen to his words: ‘The Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise’ (John 5:19 NRSV).

“’I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge’ (John 5:30 NRSV).

“The character of Jesus was a seamless fabric woven from heaven to earth… from God’s thoughts to Jesus’ actions. From God’s tears to Jesus’ compassion. From God’s word to Jesus’ response. All one piece. All a picture of the character of Jesus.” 7

But when the Roman soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross, Christ took off His tunic of seamless perfection and put on a tunic of shame. Imagine what it was like for Jesus to be stripped down to a loin cloth in front of His own mother and loved ones. He was shamed before His family.

Jesus was also shamed before His accusers. While Jesus hung on the cross for a few hours, it seemed as though the religious leaders were the winners, and Christ was the Loser.

Worst of all, Jesus wore the shame of sin. Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” (I Peter 2:24a). He not only was shamed before His family and before His accusers, He was shamed before heaven. Although Jesus had never murdered anyone or committed adultery, He felt the shame of the murderer and adulterer. Though He never lied or gossiped about anyone, He experienced the disgrace of the liar and the gossiper. Though He never lost control of His anger, He experienced the embarrassment of those who do. Though He never had any pride or selfishness, He felt the shame of the proud and the selfish. Because He became our Substitute, He felt “the collective shame of the world.” 8

Jesus experienced the shame of all our sin while hanging on that cross in our place. Why? So we can wear the garments of salvation. His garments were removed so we can wear the robe of His righteousness. Only those who believe in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life can say, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10).

The Bible tells us,But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). God clothes with His righteousness the person “who does not work.” Getting right with God is not based upon our works. It is based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. If our works could gain us the robe of God’s righteousness, then there was no need for Jesus to remove His garments and die in our place.

God puts His robe of righteousness on the person who “believes on Him who justifies the ungodly.” Getting right with God is not based upon behaving, but upon believing in Jesus Christ “who justifies the ungodly.” It does not matter how well you have behaved, you are still “ungodly” before a holy God. You may say, “Well, I’m not as bad as him or her.” You need to understand that God is not comparing your life to other sinful people. He is comparing your life to the only perfect Person who has ever lived on earth – Jesus Christ. And the Bible says, we  “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). We all fall short of the seamless perfection of Jesus Christ.

The fact is that all people are “ungodly” sinners who deserve to be separated from God forever in a terrible place called the “lake of fire” (Romans. 3:9-23; Revelation 20:15). But the moment you believe in Jesus Christ alone, God gives you a right standing before Him as “your faith is accounted for righteousness.” He clothes you with His righteousness so that when He looks at your life, He sees the seamless perfection of His Son.

Even though it seemed like Jesus Christ had been defeated by wicked men as He suffered on the cross, John then reminds us that God is still in control when he writes, “that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.’ Therefore the soldiers did these things.” (John 19:24b). The soldiers’ dividing of Jesus’ garments and casting lots for His inner tunic fulfilled the Messianic prophecy in Psalm 22:18. Satan has not won a victory here. God used the wicked actions of wicked people to provide for our salvation. 9

Even though Jesus was shamed before His family, His accusers, and before heaven, He did not let this shame keep Him from finishing His work on the cross. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus “endured the cross” by “despising the shame.” The word “despising” comes from a compound Greek word, kataphronéō, which means “against, down” (kata) and “to think” (phronéō).” 10  Literally it means “to think against” or “to think little of.”

Jesus was able to endure the embarrassment or humiliation of the cross and the sins He bore by “despising the shame” associated with them. He simply did not pay attention to that shame because it was not His and it was contrary to God’s original design for humanity (cf. Genesis 2:25). This shame was of little consequence compared to the surpassing “joy that was set before Him” when He would sit “down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Christ endured the pain and shame of the cross because of the joy that awaited Him on the other side when He would sit down on His everlasting throne next to His heavenly Father (cf. Hebrews 1:8-9).

Christ endured being abandoned by His closest friends, being falsely accused, being beaten, mocked, spit upon, stripped down to His undergarments in public, and nailed to a cross like a terrible criminal to pay the penalty for all of our sins (Matthew 26:47-27:44; John 19:1-24). Worst of all, Jesus endured being rejected by His own Father in heaven when the sins of the world were placed upon Him because God is holy and righteous and cannot be around sin (Matthew 27:45-46). Did Jesus enjoy this shameful treatment associated with His crucifixion? No!!! He despised or looked down with contempt toward the shame associated with His sufferings and our sins. Jesus is showing us that just because something bad happens to you does not make you bad.

Like Jesus, we may have experienced shame by being falsely accused. During our childhood we may have been told, “You are no good.” “You cannot do anything right.” “You will never amount to anything.” Or like Jesus, some of us have been abandoned by those closest to us. Perhaps a parent abandoned you physically at an early age or they abandoned you emotionally. They lived in the same house with you, but they did not provide the emotional nurturing and support you needed. Like Jesus, you may have been beaten physically by those in authority over you. As a result, the voice of shame told you that this happened to you because you are bad. You may have been mocked and verbally mistreated and the voice of shame said you deserved this. Like Jesus, we may have experienced the humiliation of being put on display with minimal clothes on (or no clothes on) in front of others.

Or may be you have been shamed because of your commitment to follow Jesus. Perhaps you have been abandoned by those closest to you, falsely accused, beaten, mocked, or stripped naked all because of your love for Jesus. Please realize that Jesus understands how you feel because He has been through something similar (cf. Hebrews 4:15). Knowing He understands and sympathizes with us can embolden us to approach Him in prayer for His supernatural assistance. So instead of looking to our own shame whether it is based on our actions or the actions of others, we are to look to Jesus who despised the shame when He endured the cross on our behalf (Hebrew 12:2).

Prayer: PreciousLord Jesus, thank You for loving us so much that You were willing to have your garments removed so our shame could be replaced with the garments of salvation the moment we believe in You. Thank You for enduring the cross by despising the shame associated with it and the sins You bore, so we could be clothed with Your robe of righteousness. Knowing that You understand how we feel when we are abandoned by those closest to us or falsely accused, beaten, mocked, or stripped naked all because of our love for You, emboldens us to approach You in prayer for Your supernatural assistance to keep running the race You have set before us. We love You our Lord and our God. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 560.

2. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 482.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 354 cites Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. 1 (New York: Longmans, Green, 1912), pg. 625.

4. Ibid.

5. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 347.

6. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pg. 73.

7. Ibid.

8. Adapted from Max Lucado’s He Chose The Nails, pg. 74.

9. Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 347.

10. https://biblehub.com/greek/2706.htm.

How do we reach the materialistic for Christ? Part 3

“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’ ” John 6:35

The third and final way to reach a materialistic person is to CHALLENGE THEM TO TRUST THE SAVIOR (John 6:35-40). Jesus tells the crowd how to do this using two simple things everyone understands: hunger and thirst. “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’ ” (John 6:35). The materialist hungers and thirsts for power… possessions… and popularity! But the greatest hunger and thirst of all is for immortality. Jesus says to look to Him to satisfy our hunger for immortality. Look to Him to quench our thirst for eternal life. What do you do when you are hungry? You eat. What do you do when you are thirsty? You drink. Jesus says that if we come to Him in faith, we will never hunger for eternal life again. If we believe in Him we will never thirst for eternal life again. One bite of the bread that Jesus’ offers an one drink of the water that Jesus offers, satisfies our spiritual hunger and thirst forever.

What if a person stops believing in Christ? Will he hunger or thirst for eternal life again? No. Because the spiritual need which Jesus meets can never reoccur. Once you receive eternal life, you have it forever. After all, how long is “never”? It is forever, right? If a person could hunger or thirst for eternal life again after believing in Jesus, then Christ just told a lie. Jesus says one bite… one drink satisfies for eternity. The results of believing in Christ are permanent even if we don’t keep on believing.

Jesus said, “But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.” (John 6:36).Not all who see will come to Christ. Although they had seen His miraculous power and had heard His claims, this crowd still refused to believe in Jesus alone for eternal life. They were not convinced He could give them eternal life simply by believing in Him. This is hard for the materialist. He has always provided for his own needs, and now he is being challenged to trust someone outside of himself for his most important need.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” (John 6:37a). The reason these materialists wouldn’t believe in Christ was because the Father had not given them to Jesus. No matter how much we have prayed and planned… no matter how persuasive we are in sharing the gospel… people will not come to Christ unless the Father has given them to His Son. Does this mean that no one can get saved if the Father has not given them to Jesus? Some Calvinists refer to this verse as proof of unconditional election.

But I believe there is a better explanation. Anthony Badger astutely observes that Jesus spoke the words of John 6:37-39 just before speaking of building His church in Matthew 16:18. Because of Israel’s final rejection of Christ (Matthew 12:22ff), Jesus “anticipated an end of the Dispensation of the Law and a transfer into the Dispensation of Grace… Jesus spoke the words of John 6:37-39 at the time of His final rejection by the nation. He certainly knew that Israel was to be judged for their rejection and that the Church age intercalation was at hand. Israel would be temporarily set aside, and the Church would become God’s select, corporate instrument for His service during the Dispensation of His Grace. And it will continue to be so until its translation/rapture prior to the coming Tribulation period (the 70th week of years spoken of in Daniel 9:24-27. At that time God will resume His plan for national Israel). Prior to this transfer of believers from Father to Son in anticipation of the new age, they belonged to the Father by faith. The transfer (the Father giving believers to the Son) merely acknowledged the reality of the coming Church Age.”

“This fits contextually as well. When Jesus began to set His face toward Jerusalem (Mt 16:21) it was evident that a new day was coming. No longer could the old ways be continued. New, fresh, rejuvenating wine cannot be stored in old, outdated, dry, cracked wineskins. A transfer of ownership of Old Testament believers to Christ was necessary. God the Father putting all things into the hands of His Son. This is further supported in Jesus’ discourse with the disciples in John 14-16. Believing Jews who belonged to the Father, having only the promise of the Messiah, were at this point delivered over into the Son’s hands for keeping. Now they belonged to the Messiah. The lack of dispensational understanding of Calvin, the Reformers, and Reformed Theology allows them to misunderstand John 6:37-39.” (Anthony B. Badger, Confronting Calvinism: A Free Grace Refutation and Biblical Resolution of Radical Reformed Soteriology [Anthony Badger, 2013], pp. 185-186).

Jesus than said, “And the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37b). The phrase “I will by no means cast out” is emphatic in the Greek language (οὐ μὴ ἐκβάλω ἔξω). Literally it means, “I will no not ever cast out” the one who comes to Me. No matter… what your record or what you have done… where you have been or how proud, arrogant and self-sufficient you have been, when you come to Christ you will be welcomed by Him. You will not be cast out. Jesus will never reject you no matter what you do after you come to Him. This is God’s amazing grace. It cannot be earned and it cannot be undone. Once you come to Christ in simple faith, you are God’s child forever.

Some of us come from backgrounds which are filled with rejection. The main reason some of us have a hard time trusting people today is because we have experienced so much rejection while growing up. Perhaps a parent criticized us for everything we did… a teacher humiliated us… a friend betrayed us… a spouse left us… an employer terminated us. Jesus guarantees you will never be rejected by Him. His love and acceptance of you is unconditional. The materialist needs to know this because he has grown up trying to buy or earn people’s love. But now he is challenged to believe in Someone who loves and accepts him regardless.

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38). And what is the will of the Father who sent Jesus? “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:39). Is staying saved a matter of a Christian doing the Father’s will or of Jesus doing His Father’s will? Jesus doing His Father’s will. If Jesus lost one person who believed in Him, then He would have failed to do the will of His Father. And that presents a moral dilemma. For if Jesus failed to do His Father’s will, then He would have sinned and could no longer be God.

But listen to me. Jesus Christ has never lost one believer and He never will because He is God (John 1:1; Titus 2:13) and He always does the will of His Father. This is the ULTIMATE SECURITY. Something every materialist (and every person) needs. The materialist lives in fear of losing his possessions, power, and popularity. But when he comes to Jesus he is safe forever. We need to get a grip on this. Too many believers are being taught that you cannot know for sure you are going to heaven because they are taught that it is based on your performance instead of Christ’s. This contradicts what Jesus is saying here. Assurance of your salvation is not based on you doing God’s will, but on Jesus doing the Father’s will.

Jesus concludes, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). Does the word “everyone” mean everyone? Does Jesus include all the homosexuals, drunkards, drug addicts, liars, psychics, terrorists, the wealthy, and the most moral people who see the Son of God and believe in Him? Absolutely! God’s gift is for everyone who will receive it by faith.

Has your thirst for immortality been quenched? Do you know for sure that you have eternal life? If not, why not take Jesus Christ at His word right now? Place your trust solely in Him to save you. Give up confidence in anything else: your prayers, giving, church attendance, baptism, obedience, commitment, or  the reformation of your life, etc. Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to all who trust in Him as their Savior.

Let us share this message gladly and often. It is glorious news! It is the greatest news! Don’t worry so much about method. Concentrate on the message. Tell people eternal life is a free gift and that the sole condition for receiving it is believing or trusting in Christ alone. Leave the results to God. After all, eternal life is the gift of God. He is the One giving the gift.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for this incredible free gift that lasts forever! Please give me a love for the materialistic people in my life. I need Your Holy Spirit to help me to confront their selfish desires, to correct their misconceptions about salvation, and to challenge them to trust the Savior for eternal life so that they can discover the joy of everlasting security in Jesus Christ. Security that cannot be lost or taken away. Lord, I pray that those of us who know You will seek satisfaction in our relationship with You and not the things of this world. Enable us to live in light of eternity. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

How do we reach the materialistic for Christ? Part 2

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’ ” John 6:29

The second way to minister to the materialistic person is to CORRECT THEIR MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SALVATION (John 6:28-34). When the people realized that Jesus was talking about something other than physical bread, and He was talking about laboring for that, they said to Him, “Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ ” (John 6:28). This question is often asked today, almost always by someone who has begun to realize that life has a spiritual dimension to it. It is a religious question: “What can I DO to make God happy? What good works must I do to get to heaven?” This marks a common misconception among materialists today. They think God owes them.

One of the questions God will not ask us in determining if He should let us into heaven is, “How many good works have you done?” Why? “But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). Why doesn’t God accept human works as even a partial payment for our salvation? “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” (Romans 4:4). If God accepted us based upon any good work we have done, He would be paying a debt – but God is not in debt to anyone. He doesn’t owe us anything. After all God is perfect and we are not. He is holy and we are sinners. We owe Him.

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’ ” (John 6:29). The Lord Jesus makes an important distinction between “the works” (plural) about which they ask (6:28) and “the work” (singular) God actually requires (6:29). Anyone who believes in Jesus has done “the work” (singular) God requires. Believing in Jesus is a work in the sense that it is an act. But it is a passive work as John 4:10 shows: “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ ”

Believing in Jesus is not a work in the sense that Paul talks about: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul is thinking of active works (plural) of obedience to God’s commands, not a passive work whereby we receive a free gift by faith in Christ alone.

The word “faith” means to trust or depend upon. The materialist has always relied on his own abilities and resources to provide for his needs. But now Christ tells him to rely on someone outside of himself to give him the gift of God which (unlike their material possessions), lasts forever.

But the materialist is still thinking about satisfying his own selfish desires:30 Therefore they said to Him, ‘What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” (John 6:30-31). The crowd is asking,“Why should we believe in You? Sure, You made more bread and fish, but they come from earth. Manna, though, comes from heaven! Can you top that?” They want just one more proof. They want the evidence that Jesus is better than Moses. When the evidence is in, then they will believe. That is their attitude.

32 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33). Jesus immediately corrects them. It was God that gave the manna, not Moses. I’m amazed at their interest in manna. Manna tasted very much like corn flakes. Imagine eating corn flakes morning, noon and night for forty years like the Israelites did in the wilderness, and thinking that was wonderful! The word “manna” itself means, “What is it?” Can you imagine eating “What is it?” for forty years, every day, without fail, and then looking back on that as a great experience?

“No,” Jesus said, “You are quite wrong! Moses did not give you that bread. Furthermore, what came in the wilderness was not the true bread from heaven — it was only a picture of the real thing to come. The real bread from heaven is Me! (Jesus says) I came down from heaven to satisfy the spiritual hunger of people forever. The true bread is He who came down from heaven who will give His life (not merely for Israel, as Moses did with the manna), but who will give His life for the whole world. Anybody of any ethnicity at anytime, can find the true bread from heaven.” And by the way, this bread is much better for you and much tastier than corn flakes.

“Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ ” (John 6:34). When the crowd began to understand that Jesus was talking about something better than physical bread they immediately wanted it. Isn’t this true of people all over the world? You cannot go anywhere on earth today without finding people hungry for something more than a full belly and a comfortable home. There is a restlessness in us that cries for more. Jesus recognized this. Everyone in this crowd wanted whatever it was He was offering. They did not understand what it was, but they wanted it.

People are no different today. They sense there is more to life than bread… than working 40-60 hours a week to make payments on a new home or new vehicle. Christ’s example reminds us to confront the materialist’s selfish desires and to correct their misconceptions about salvation so they can believe or trust in Jesus alone for their salvation.

Prayer: Father God, please give me a love for the self-sufficient people of this world. Increase my burden for the materialistic people of my community. I need courage from You to confront their selfish desires and correct their misconceptions about salvation so they can believe or trust in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life. So many people in the world today think they can work for their salvation as I once thought. Please use Your Word to convict people of their need for Jesus’s work on the cross, not their own, for salvation. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

How do we reach the materialistic for Christ? Part 1

“Jesus answered them and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.’ ” John 6:26

America has been blessed with incredible prosperity. We give a lot of attention and worth to that which is not eternal. Our inflated value system lets sports figures and movie stars make far more money than a governor, a doctor, or even the President of the United States. We have become gluttonous not only for food, but gluttons for sex, drugs, money, and power. And as a nation, we are becoming less aware of our need for God.

As a nation , we spend long hours at work to accumulate things. Many Americans have learned how to make money, but they have not learned how to live. Something is missing from their lives. How do we minister to people who are more concerned about temporal things than eternal things? How do we reach those whose wallets are full but whose hearts are empty? In other words, how do we reach the materialistic for Christ? We follow the example of Jesus who was speaking to a materialistic crowd in John 6:22-40. The first thing Jesus does to minister to the materialistic is to…

CONFRONT THEIR SELFISH DESIRES (John 6:22-27). If we are going to be effective in reaching the materialistic people of our society, we must confront their selfish desires. Remember in John 6:1-13, while on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus miraculously fed thousands of men, women and children with  five loaves of bread and two sardine-sized fish? Well, what happened to that crowd? After Jesus walked on water out to the disciples’ boat and miraculously transported the boat the remaining two miles to the other side of the lake (John 6:14-21), we read: 22 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone— 23 however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks— 24 when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, when did You come here?’ ”(John 6:22-25).

Upon reflection, the crowd realized that there was no way by which Jesus could have crossed the lake. But instead of asking Jesus how He got to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the crowd asks Him “When?” Their failure to ask the right question shows that they didn’t seek to understand Jesus’ miracle of walking on the water to get to the other side of the lake. Jesus ignores their question and moves straight to the real issue.

“Jesus answered them and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.’ ” (John 6:26). Jesus says, “You came not because you understand Me to be the Messiah but because you wanted another free meal.” They were more interested in Jesus’ ability to satisfy their physical appetites than their spiritual appetites. I noticed during our church planting experience in South Des Moines, Iowa (2003 – 2006), the best attendance at our outreach events was when we offered free stuff. For example, at our Family Fun Fest, we had a good turnout for games, food and entertainment. But when I got up to share the gospel after we announced the winner of the Grand Prize drawing, people were out of there in a flash. No good bye or thank you – no nothing. That experience reminds me of this crowd Jesus is speaking to. What do we say to these kinds of people?

Jesus said, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:27).Jesus is not saying, “Do not work for a living.” Many might take these words literally and go on welfare! But Jesus is not advocating that. What He means is, “Don’t work merely to get food that does not last.” Food is important. It is necessary for life, and you must earn it. But don’t let that be the sole reason for your working. Rather, “Work for the food which remains forever and produces life that lasts forever.” Jesus can give eternal food “because God the Father has set His seal” of approval on His Son. This crowd was like many people today. They felt that the most important thing in life is to keep alive, to be healthy, strong and economically sufficient. That was what life was all about, they thought. Yet they were starving spiritually.

In an essay written by George Orwell, he describes a wasp that (as he puts it) “was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him.”

This wasp and people without Jesus have much in common. Severed from their souls, but greedy and unaware, people continue to consume life’s sweetness. Only when it’s time to fly away will they grasp their dreadful condition. Jesus encourages the materialist to seek after something better. To seek after bread which lasts and produces life which never ends.

Prayer: Lord, before I knew You as my Savior, I sought after food that perishes rather than food that lasts. Life revolved around me and my selfish desires. Thank You for confronting my selfishness at the age of nineteen, so I could see my need for You and Your gift of everlasting life. Lord, there are so many people in the USA whose wallets are full but their hearts are empty without You. They are angry and searching for meaning in their lives. Please break through to them so they can see that what they need is You, not a politician who makes empty promises. They need a Savior who always keeps His promises and gives life that never ends the moment they believe in Him. Thank You my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.