Jesus Is Good 4U John 6:35, 41-51       August 9, 2009
 
 “If it’s true that you are what you eat,” said a man in line at a burger joint, “then I must be fast, cheap and easy.”

He’s not alone, of course. According to numbers posted by the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 34 percent of Americans are obese, and another 32.7 percent are overweight. About six percent are “extremely” obese. Americans clearly are good at consuming what isn’t good for us.

Some years ago, 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney created a stir when he posed the question “What are the two biggest categories of nonfiction best sellers?” Number one, he went on, is cookbooks. Number two: diet books.

Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? Hungrily, we page through cookbooks, searching out the most tempting and succulent recipes. Then we race right over to the diet books to find out why we can’t eat that stuff!

But we shouldn’t seem too astonished by that. Food always has excited strong — and sometimes contradictory — feelings in the human race. Most of the world’s peoples, in fact, are preoccupied with food and with worries about having too much or too little of it. We North Americans spend vast amounts of time, money and energy devising new and better ways to eat less, while most Africans and Asians spend a large portion of their waking hours finding enough food to survive.

The truth is, though, that Americans really don’t have an excuse for being so pudgy. These days there’s plenty of information out there about diet and eating right. All we have to do is pay attention to the labels.

Diet-conscious folks know that eating right begins in the grocery store, taking those extra minutes to check out the labels on all those cans and boxes before they go in the cart. Paying attention to serving size, fat, sodium, cholesterol content and nutritional values — and then eating accordingly — is one of the best long-term things we can do to promote our overall health.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture put together the familiar “food pyramid” a while back to give us a visual picture of what a healthy diet looks like. The base of that pyramid, the stuff of which we should have the most, consists of whole grains such as bread, cereal, rice and pasta.
The USDA recommends 6-11 servings a day from this group as a staple of good nutrition.
 
The other steps in the pyramid build on that foundation — fruits and vegetables, meats and dairy, with a very small amount of fats and oils at the top. According to the pyramid, though, it’s the bread group that provides a solid foundation for a good diet.

We need our DMR of Jesus

What’s good for our bellies is also good for our spiritual lives. We need our recommended Daily Minimum Requirement of Jesus. He uses strong language. He invites us to “eat” of himself. To consume him. To devour him. To ingest him. To feed on him.

Of course, it’s a grotesque image if we can’t get by the merely literal level, which some imperial authorities in the church’s early life could not. They accused Christians of being cannibals. Justin Martyr, among others, wrote eloquently to assure the imperial court that this was far from the case.

Truth is, “consuming” Jesus is good for us. It’s healthy for us. We’ll live better when we’re faithful and committed Jesus followers. It’s no coincidence that Jesus uses the image of bread to describe the most basic element of spiritual health. “I am the bread of life,” he said. “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
 
All of one’s recommended daily minimum requirements of grace, love, forgiveness — the food of “eternal life” (6:27) — are found in a life-giving relationship with Christ. Indeed, said Jesus, “…all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day” (v. 40). Believing in Jesus, following Jesus and relying on Jesus form the foundation of a healthy, whole and eternal life.

What’s on the Jesus label?

It’s important to read food labels because when it comes to nutrition, there’s often a debate as to whether a particular food is good for you or not. Take eggs, for example. A few years ago, we were told to avoid eggs because of all the cholesterol they supposedly contain. But, more recently, we’ve been told that eating eggs in moderation actually benefits our levels of “good” cholesterol.
 
Which is it? Some doctors say that having a little wine every day is good for you, while others say to avoid alcohol altogether. Coffee supposedly reduces the risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and colon cancer, but the caffeine raises blood pressure. You have to weigh all the information and make the best choice. It’s all in how you read the label.

The “Jews” looked at Jesus’ self-proclaimed label and were skeptical about his spiritual value. To them, the label said: Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter, son of Mary of Nazareth, a 30-something contractor from a nowhere town out in the country. They may have been thinking along the lines of

Nathanael, the disciple, when he first checked the label on Jesus: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (1:46). The religious elite decided that the old nutritional guidelines for a messianic feast were sufficient and that this Jesus, as a messianic pretender, was just the flavor of the month — a fad diet that would soon pass.

For those who believed, however, the Jesus label read: Manna. Jesus is life-sustaining, like the manna of their ancestors in the wilderness. Jesus reminds them it was the plain nutrition of manna that sustained their ancestors, enabling them to be free from slavery and enter into God’s promised land. But while manna was the basis of their sustenance, it couldn’t make them eternally healthy. “Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, and they died,” said Jesus. No matter how good our diet might be, eventually we all wind up dead; it’s just a matter of whether it’s sooner or later.

What Jesus was offering, however, was the kind of nutrition that will fuel us now and in the life of the resurrection body that is yet to come (John 6:40). “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” said Jesus. “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (v. 51). The foundational spiritual nutrition of Jesus’ own life, death and resurrection is what sustains us in our own journey out of sin and death and into the promised land of God’s kingdom.

Jesus labeled himself in other ways in John’s gospel through the “I am” statements. These are other ways in which Jesus and faith in Jesus are “good 4U”:

• “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5) — Jesus is good 4U because his presence in your life sheds light on the very real dilemmas we’re all facing in these troubled times.

• “I am the gate” (10:7, 9) — Jesus is good 4U because he protects you from the predatory effects of temptation and fear, and he offers us “abundant” life (v. 10).

• “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14) — Jesus is good 4U because he knows you intimately (v. 14), was willing to “lay down” his life for you (vv. 15, 17, 18) and, as Psalm 23 suggests, he leads you to still waters and green pastures, i.e., Jesus knows what’s best for you.

• “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25) — Jesus is good 4U because he’s the promise of life in the present and in the age to come. Because of his resurrection, death ultimately has no power over you, and our life in the present can be lived without fear and with purpose.

• “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6) — Jesus is good 4U because he shows the “way” to God through his sacrificial death and resurrection. Jesus embodies the “way” of God in his own person, giving you a model of the kind of life that reflects God’s own nature. It is the “way” of “truth” that leads to “life” for all who will follow. Jesus makes the truth of God available to the whole world.

• “I am the true vine” (15:1, 5) — Jesus is good 4U because he supplies us with the necessary nutrients of love and grace. Nourished as “branches” connected to him in relationship, we can begin to bear the “fruit” of service and ministry to the whole world.

Jesus is good 4U going forward and in the long term

Ultimately, we know the true nutritional value of food through long experience and observation. We see people who eat right, exercise and enjoy things in moderation and observe that they are healthy. When we watch someone else eat a steady diet of junk food and get their only exercise from thumb-twitching, mouse-clicking or channel-surfing, we know they’re headed for trouble.
 
Going from an unhealthy diet and lifestyle to a healthy one takes discipline, but it also involves beginning to experience the benefits of eating right. A smaller waistline, more energy, compliments from others — these are positive personal reinforcement.

The same is true of our spiritual lives. When we engage in the daily disciplines of cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer, study, meditation and service, we start to experience the benefits and want more. We learn that Jesus is, indeed, good for us on a lot of levels. We simply need to check the labels every day to know what he can do in us and through us. When we’re living on a steady diet of Jesus’ presence in our lives, others will begin to notice and want to know the secret.

Every time we come to the Lord’s Table in worship, we celebrate a meal that’s full of spiritual nutrition. Jesus said the bread he would give “for the life of the world” would be his own “flesh,” foreshadowing the lengths to which he would go to provide the ultimate spiritual nourishment of salvation in his own sacrificial death.
 
Every time we take the bread and cup, we are partaking in a life-giving diet of grace. It’s important for us to have fully checked the label and to know that with Jesus we have found all that we need. Amen.
 
Presented by Elder Chloe DeLong


 


Sources:
“Statistics show more obese than overweight Americans.” Fox News Web Site, January 9, 2009. foxnews.com/story/0,2933,478964,00.html. Viewed January 24, 2009. (Homiletics)



 
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