John Starkweather - Feeding on the Bread of Life - Antiock, Nebraska Convention - 1975

In John 6, verses 5 to 12, Jesus uses one little lad that brought five barley loaves and two small fishes to feed 5,000 men, besides women and children. One of the reasons we have come here today is to be fed and to partake on that which the Lord has given us. The disciples told Jesus to send the multitude away, that they might go into the villages and buy themselves food. But Jesus said unto them: “...give ye them to eat.” The attitude of men is to send them away, but the attitude of God and His Son is to feed and take care of them, and meet their every need. In that multitude, one little lad had five barley loaves and two small fishes. It seems so little amongst so many. That could be the condition of the provision that is found amongst us today. It says that “... Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.” The little bit that lad brought, with the Lord’s blessing, was enough to feed the multitude. We know that the little we receive from the Father has the Lord’s blessing, and it can mean a great deal to so many. One little lad’s lunch was used by the Lord to feed many. He could have thought, “What can the Lord do with my life? How can He feed others with my life?” and then it says, “When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, 'Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.' Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.” I thought about those fragments being like thoughts we take with us and possibly share with others, even with those who are unable to be here today. Thoughts are like little things, small seed thoughts that return and are food to our soul. These little thoughts can be shared with others. We will never know how far bread cast upon the waters will go to feed and meet the need found within the hearts of our brethren. We are only glad today for God’s interest in our soul’s well-being.

When I thought of this meeting, I am reminded of God’s tender mercy towards man. Surely, in whatever condition we have come here, the Lord is concerned, and He wants to help us. The adversary of our soul seeks to discourage us and he tells us it’s no use, there is no profit in it for you - you aren’t going to finish anyway - and you go away feeling so badly because the adversary has convinced you that you are beyond all hope. We are glad that the message we hear today is a message of hope. God can restore us, He can build us up, and He can give us hope. With Jesus, no one is beyond His hope. His power is very present, and it will heal and help His people. That same power is here today if we receive it and make it our own.
John 6:27, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed.” This is that something that God’s people need to be concerned about. Jesus said in John 9, verse 4, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” We are very aware of that this morning. But there is a time coming for each of us, when we aren’t able to work and there’s no more opportunity to lay up this treasure in Heaven. Jesus was just encouraging the disciples to labor for those things that will not perish. We know the cares of life weigh heavily on the shoulders of men these days and it is a struggle to meet the needs of the family, but it’s well for us to remember that the most important thing is to labor for the meat that will not perish and to lay hold on those things that will continue when this life is over. I often notice how concerned you parents are for the needs of your children and how anxious you are to give them the very best, but the greatest thing you parents can give your children is a Godly testimony - that manifestation of His will being lived out in your life. Some people are able to leave an inheritance for their children, but the greatest inheritance you can give them is being right before God and having the right kind of influence and the right example. This will mean the most to them in Eternity.
John 6, verse 29 says, “Jesus answered and said unto them, 'This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.'” We have been studying about Abraham’s faithfulness and his righteousness towards God recently. Genesis 15:6 says, “And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” In John 9, verse 4 it says, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” He was encouraging the people just to work the works of God and to believe on His Son. If we believe on Him, we will be found following Him and doing what He has taught us - we will just be living like He lived. This is the proof of evidence that we believe on His Son. If we don’t do it, we don’t believe.
John 6 verse 35 says, “And Jesus said unto them, 'I am the bread of life; he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.'” In those days bread was the staff of life and if the people did not have bread to meet the needs of the body, they soon perished. This is one of the reasons why Jesus spoke of Him being the bread of life, for He is to our soul what natural bread is to our body. Apart from the food we eat, we cannot live very long; the same is true spiritually, apart from receiving that which comes from Jesus. “.... I am the bread of life; he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.” If we are found feeding on the life and teachings of Jesus, we will always have food and drink. That keeps us alive before God, and it will help us to face the trials and tests of the journey so we might live.
We read about those in the Scripture who, in their day and generation, have supplied bread faithfully. I often think of Joseph sold into Egypt; not a very pleasant experience, yet he gathered corn as the sand of the sea, and as a result, there was bread in Egypt for his brethren when they came seeking. Joseph was prepared and he could meet his brothers’ and others’ needs when they came seeking. When the famine came, Joseph had in abundance what his brethren needed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be like him? Every day Joseph sought God’s face for bread and shared it with those that misused him. What a wonderful Godly attitude – to share bread with those that were so unkind, that failed so miserably and come so far short. I know of nothing that would help another more than this.
I thought too of Gideon, threshing and hiding wheat from the Midianites. Here was a man who was faithful in his day. It is not an easy task to make bread. It takes effort and it’s a long process from planting the seed to the final loaf. First there is the sowing of the seed and then the seed growing, maturing, reaping and the seed finally being crushed; then there’s the mixing and the baking. It is a long process from the wheat seed to the table as bread. It also takes effort to have this bread of life, to get something from God that will feed others. I feel I fail in this so much and I would like to be more faithful in this, to keep the enemy from robbing me of that which would feed my soul and the souls of others. It is very necessary to have this provision
Jesus said in verse 31, “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, 'HE GAVE THEM BREAD FROM HEAVEN TO EAT.' Then Jesus said unto them, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.'” The children of Israel ate manna and it fulfilled its purpose but it cannot be compared to what you and I have of this true bread from Heaven. We can eat this bread and live forever and enjoy eternal life.
I am reminded of the Passover feast in Exodus 12. You will recall how the children of Israel were instructed to take a lamb, according to the number of souls in the house. They were to keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month, and then they were to kill it. It was to be without blemish, a male of the first year. When those people looked upon the lamb, they were reminded that it was without fault or sin - it was in no way responsible for the sins of the people. That little lamb died so they could keep the feast and do what God asked them to do. We think of Jesus as the Lamb of God, the One who was slain from the foundation of the world, the One that taketh away the sin of the world. Jesus was not responsible in any way for our sins, yet He willingly died so we could live. 2nd Corinthians 8:9, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” Exodus 12: 7, “And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.” Verse 12, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.” No one could escape; the first-born were slain in every home. This is the condition that is working in the world today among ungodly people; death is working and in the process of time it will result in an eternal separation from God unless they are willing to get to know the Son of God, the One who has made it possible for all men to live through obedience. God through His Son has made it possible for the hand of death to be stopped, so we can become children in His great family. It says in Exodus 11:7, “But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” God does make a difference by His Son between His people and the people of the world.
Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.” We are so grateful that God is concerned about His people today, that He cares for and makes provision for them – He makes a difference. Exodus 12:8, “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they eat it.” Verse 11, "And thus shall ye eat it; with loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s Passover.” This speaks to me of a people ready and prepared for the journey. They were leaving Egypt behind – and they were travelling toward the Promised Land God promised them. They ate with readiness to journey; they partook on all the lamb. It is so important we partake on all The Lamb, that we don’t refuse any part of Jesus’ life and death. I think of our Sunday morning meeting. It would be well if we gathered there with the thought that whatever the Lord says to me, I want to obey and I want to take those steps of obedience to all He has laid on my heart. If we are prepared to journey with Him, we will gladly take those steps of obedience. We need to go with the thought that whatever I glean from His word or whatever He speaks to me, I want to be willing to do it and to journey on with Him. This kind of attitude brings blessing.
Another little thought I had is this: they were to eat the lamb in the home and stay in the home all night till next morning. If anyone went outside the protection of the home, they had no protection. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” We need to remember the conditions and abide in Christ, feeding on Him and His teachings.
Jesus said, “If they didn’t eat His flesh and drink His blood, they would have no part or provision in Him.” Some felt “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?” The reason those people felt it was a hard saying was because they didn’t understand. We know that everything God has asked of any man is for our good, now and throughout eternity. This is difficult to get across to people in the Gospel meetings: that God wants to help them and make them rich. People are so inclined to think that God wants to take from them. We know that whatever God asks us to give up is not good for us anyway, and He repays many times over for anything we are asked to give up. He fills our lives with many good things. Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.” That’s why these men said, “This is too hard.” If we have understanding hearts, we know that God is only asking things of us that are for our good. Some of these people returned and did not follow Jesus again. Have you ever thought of the cost of that decision, of turning their backs on the Son of God, the bread of life? It was a costly decision. Jesus turned and said to the twelve, “Will ye also go away?” Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Peter was a man with understanding, who knew God and understood life and felt, “There is no place else, nobody I can go to that can help me; Jesus is my only source of help; apart from what He can do for us, we must die. There is no one that can do half as much for us. There is no place to go or turn – we cannot run from God. The scriptures teach us '... God is not mocked: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.'” If we run or jump off the ends of the earth, we will fall off into the hands of God. We think of listening to eternal words these days; we are hearing the living God. This meant everything to Peter and it means everything to us today to know God and His Son.