Sunday, January 28, 2024

“As I Have Loved You” [Matt's Messages]

“As I Have Loved You”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 28, 2024 :: John 13:34-35  

In 2024, we must grow in our obedience to Jesus’ command for us to love one another.

I’ve skipped ahead in the Gospel of John this morning because I want to give you a taste of my annual report and my pastoral vision for 2024.

We won’t get to chapter 13 for several more months. We’ve only just finished up chapter 6 last week, but as I have been praying about what to write in my annual report for today’s meeting, my mind has kept jumping ahead 7 chapters to this “New Command” that Jesus gave His disciples in chapter 13.

You know ever year I try to sum up the year with a word or a phrase. Last year it was it “good.” I had been praying for a good year for us in ‘22, and the Lord gave us one, praise His name.

And the word I ended up choosing for ‘23 was “exceptional.” I had been praying that the Lord would “shalom” us or “prosper” us in ‘23, and I believe He gave us an exceptionally prosperous year. 

There has never been a year quite like 2023 for Lanse Free Church. One exceptional thing was the sabbatical that you gave me last year. You graciously relieved me of my pastoral responsibilities for an entire quarter of the year. I was gone from May to July, and you gave me a much needed rest. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I can’t tell you grateful I am for that. I really needed it. I had been burning the candle at both ends, and it was exactly what I needed. 

But you all didn’t rest while I rested. This church went full steam ahead. The church elders and other leaders carried all of my responsibilities and you all kept the pedal to the medal on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ! I was so proud of you, and it also showed me how exceptionally healthy our church currently is.

From my report: “In 2023, the Lord prospered us with more people! Our average attendance at worship grew 11.8% to 142 people per Sunday. We have a lot more than 142 people who call our church ‘home.’ Our attendance team tracked 293 distinct people who came onto our campus on Sunday mornings in 2023. A few of those were guests from out of town, but 235 different people showed up with some regularity."

The Lord also prospered us with many more members. We received 11 new members at our meeting in December, and there are 8 more for us to present for membership at today’s meeting. I’m not good at math, but that’s 19 new members since this time last year. That is a 24.3% increase in church membership in the last twelve months! That’s the most new members I’ve ever seen in my 25 years here and the most members we’ve had in my time here, too.

The Lord is doing something exceptional among us, and I praise Him for it! I say all that and a lot more in my annual report. Come to the meeting to hear more.

So what is my “vision” for ‘24?

As I think about the challenges that lay ahead, my mind keeps coming back to our Lord’s New Command for His Disciples, “You Must Love One Another.”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus gave this command to His followers on the night before the crucifixion.

It was at the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot had just the left the room to go betray Him. We just learned last week in chapter 6 that Judas was going to do that. Now he’s done it. And Jesus is teaching His disciples more about God’s glory. How the Father is going to glorify the Son and be glorified by the Son–paradoxically by His suffering. And Jesus has said that He is going away and that the disciples can’t follow Him there.  I can hardly wait to get to chapters13 through 17 and study that passage with you in depth.

But in that context, Jesus issues this command. He calls it a “new command.”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Do you hear the repetition? Three times in two verses, Jesus presses home this command, “Love one another.” “Love one another.” “Love one another.”

I’ve got three points of application this morning, and they are all basically the same thing, “Love One Another.”


It’s interesting that we have to be commanded to do that, isn’t it? Apparently this kind of love doesn’t just happen naturally. We have to obey Jesus to do it. There must be something hard about it. 

Do you find it hard to love other Christians? I do. All Christians do. Christians have been struggling to love one another ever since Jesus gave this new command. That’s because we’re sinners and we’re different from each other. We don’t all see things the same way. We don’t always want the same things.

And so it’s work. It’s hard work to love one another. 

Love always sounds good until you have to start doing it. Think about 1 Corinthians 13. The “love chapter,” right? We love to read about love in February which is right around the corner.

1 Corinthians 13 says this, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NIVO).

That sounds great, doesn’t it? Remember when we memorized that together? 2008 that was.

It sounds great until you realize you have to actually do it.

It’s hard to be patient.
It’s hard to always be kind.
It takes work to not envy, to not boast, to not be proud.
It’s hard to not be rude, to not be self-seeking, to not be easily angered.
It’s hard to not keep a record of wrongs!

But that’s what Jesus says we need to do with each other.

Love one another to obey Jesus.

Those words “one another” are super important. They show up again and again in the New Testament. 

And every time they do, they give us another facet of what it means to love one another. I think there are over 50 times when the New Testament tells us something we are supposed to do to or with one another.

One of these years, I could preach an entire year and just do a different “one another” each week.

Though a bunch of them are simply “love one another” or some variation of that. John, especially, is stuck on repeating the New Command so that we get it stuck in our little brains.

One another
One another 
One another.

It starts in many ways with knowing one another, right?

I think that’s one of our major challenges as a church right now. If there are 235 regular attenders and 142 of them on any given Sunday, it’s hard for us to love each other because we don’t know each other.

And every one of us has that problem. I hear that from our older members, and I hear it from our new attenders. “I just don’t know all of those new people.”

And who do you think has it hardest? It’s the newer people. Because they hardly know anybody!

So, I love the new feature that Jenni is doing in the bulletin, where we get to know our new members. And we have a lovely picture of Sue in this week’s bulletin and all about her. Thank you, Sue.

But we really need to do this for everybody, especially those who have been here for a long time. Because not only do we all need to know Sue, but Sue needs help to know everybody else.

So, there’s this amazing tool called The Church Directory. And Jenni is updating that. It’s a list of all the people who call this church their family and how to get a hold of them.

And we give this to everyone who calls this church their family. We put it in their mailboxes! Have you checked out your family’s information in the directory for Jenni?

Have you updated your photo? Just like we have a photo of Sue, and it’s so helpful to know who that is, we would like to have an updated photo of YOU so that people can put a name to that face. And how that face looks today. You don’t want a picture of me with wavy hair on top of my head. Nobody would recognize me. Some of your kids are tiny in those pictures, and they are not tiny any more.

But the Lord has something even more powerful than the directory that we can do to solve this problem as a church family that He has also commanded us to do in the New Testament to love one another.

And it’s really simple, but it’s really powerful.

Greet One Another.

The Apostle Paul is big on that command. Greet one another in the Lord. That means to say, “Hi.” It means to cross a boundary and welcome somebody. It means to shake a hand. It means to ask, “How was your week?” It means to say, “I see you there.” With a little kid, it’s to get down on their level.

And we’re doing it. I see you doing it. I see you greeting one another every Sunday. Keep it up, and do more. Don’t just greet your friends. Don’t just greet the people you greet every week. Keep greeting them, but expand. Go after others. Make it your goal to greet someone this week that you haven’t greeted yet or recently. Don’t wait for them to do it for you. Go and greet them.

If everybody does it, we’ll all meet in the middle!

Don’t worry about whether they have been a part of the church a long time and you’re a new person. Everybody is feeling disconnected right now. So many of you feel new. If you have been coming for a month or more then you’re part of the old group now. Greet one another. Welcome one another. Ask someone their name.

You might have to do it several times before you get it down. That’s okay. The Bible doesn’t say, “Remember everybody’s names.” It says, “Greet one another.” “Greet one another.” “Greet one another.” “Greet one another.”

And it says, “Pray for one another.” That’s another powerful way to show love for the other disciples. When people bring up prayer requests here in church. Jot it down and then pray for them. I know you do that. Keep it up!

And Denise is doing a wonderful job of keeping us updated on various prayer requests that come across on email. Do you get the prayer emails from Denise? See Jenni to get signed up for those. They come at all hours of the week into you inbox and then you can pray for them whenever you get them wherever you are.

You know one of the best places to pray? It’s right here in this room. Take a prayer request from the people you greet on a Sunday, and pray for them right then and there! Ten seconds of prayer on a Sunday can be used of God to answer their need and knit you together with your brother and sister in Christ in Christian love.

We’ve got to spend more time with one another. That might be just lingering a few more minutes after church on Sundays.  Don’t run out the door. Find somebody after church to build fellowship with.

The Bible says that need to “Show Hospitality to One Another.” To open up homes to another. To invite each other out for lunch. Everybody in this church eats. I know that for a fact. Everybody in this church eats. So the Bible encourages us to eat with one another. A bunch of us are going to do that in just a few minutes. We are OBEYING Jesus when we eat with one another!

Who could you invite out for lunch or over for lunch after church? Or on a Saturday or on a weeknight?

I’ve got a whole list of people right here you could choose from! We need each other. We need to build community with one another. Nancy just recently gave me a little devotional page that she had read and been encouraged by from the Daily Bread.

It says, “Community is essential for our growth and support. Don’t try to go it alone. God will develop that sense of community as you share your struggles and joys with others and draw near to Him together.” Amen!

That’s why we have things like the Ladies Fellowship Hour and the Skacel’s Community Group. And the youth group meeting starting tonight.  And the Prayer Meeting. Because we need to get into each other’s lives. In obedience to Jesus.

That’s not always going to be easy. Especially when we rub each other the wrong way. Another way we obey Jesus and show love for one another is to: “Forgive one another.” And to “Bear with one another.” These disciples of Jesus were going to disagree. They were going to sin each other. They were going to struggle to get along with one another. All Christians do.

But Jesus wanted them to love one another and that always means being ready to reconcile and forgive and bear with each other in our weaknesses and failings. And the more Christians you have, the more sin you’re going to have that needs to forgiving.

People ask me if I’m excited that our church has grown so much, and I am. But I also say, “More people, more problems.” “More sinners, more sinning.” And more people for me to hurt through my sin. We are going to need much grace for us to get along with another as we grow.

Our older generation is much larger than our younger generation. Even a lot of our newer members are older people. So our older generation (including me) needs to bear with the younger generation, especially as the younger generation steps up to lead us into the future. And our younger generation (no longer including me) needs to bear with the older generation as you step into leadership of church family into the future. New people will want do things in new ways. And we’ll need to be patient with one another as we work it all out.

And as we work it all out, we will not only obey Jesus, but honor Him.

As we love one another, we will bring honor to our Lord. We will show that we are His disciples. That’s what He says in verse 35.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

It’s a “distinguishing mark” of the Christian to have brotherly love. The world will know that we belong to Jesus if we love one another. 

Say to the person next to you, “We get to love another in ‘24.” Ok. That was easy. Now say it to the person in front of you and the person behind you. “We get to love another in ‘24.” 

And when we do, the world will have to sit up and take notice. There is a great need and opportunity for Christian love in our nation and world right now. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed it or not, but it looks like it’s another national election year in America. I thought we just did that! And it looks downright divisive once again. Will those that name the name of Christ be known for their love in 2024?

We have in this room Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Non-Voters–all Christians. We will love one another in ‘24? Will the world see the Christians loving each other say to themselves, “What is going on over there? I want some of that. Those people are really different from one another. And they disagree. Maybe strongly. And yet they obviously are loving one another.”

And of course, loving one another isn’t even the hardest thing that Jesus asks us to do. He commands us to love even our enemies. But that’s another message for another day. Do you see the opportunity the church has to honor Jesus in our world in ‘24?

There is an epidemic of loneliness in our society right now. There’s all kinds of causes for that. But whatever they are, it’s out there. People are lonely. They may be “connected,” through social media, to more people than ever but they feel disconnected. They feel alone. What an opportunity we have to BE FAMILY for those folks! So that we can all sing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.”

As we enfold people into our church family, we are honoring Jesus. We are acting as His disciples.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

By this! Not by what we proclaim about ourselves on our social media. Not by our bumper stickers. But by how we treat one another. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

How are you doing obeying that command?
When you read those words, what comes to your mind?
How does this sit with you this morning?
What changes might you need to make?
What is the Holy Spirit saying to you heart?
What is He putting His finger on?

Because just as we have a great opportunity to honor the Lord Jesus by loving one another in 2024, we can also greatly dishonor the Lord Jesus by failing to love another this year, as well.

And don’t think that even as I emphasize bearing with and being patient with and living in harmony with one another, that I don’t recognize that another key part of loving one another is exhorting one another and speaking the truth to one another.

We may need to be sharp with one another at times this year because love speaks truth even when it hurts. The wounds of a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Prov. 27:6)! But those kinds of wounds are always for the ultimate purpose of healing. They are always patient, always kind. Never rude.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

That is the command of our Commander.

Those are the orders of our Lord.

And He didn’t just tell us all to do it, He showed us all how it’s done.


In His example.

What is new about this New Command? Why does Jesus say that it’s new? I mean the Bible has told God’s people to show love for a long time before this, right? It’s the Law of Moses to show love. Love God and love your neighbor. That sums up the Law, right? So that’s not new.

I suppose it’s a little new that this is Jesus saying it to His disciples. So it’s not just love your neighbor but love your fellow follower of Jesus.

But I think the real newness of this command is the new standard of what love looks like. It used to be “Love you neighbor as you love yourself.” That’s in Leviticus 19:18. And it’s still a good guide for our conduct today. Love as you want to be loved. But He goes deeper here, doesn’t He? Look at verse 34 one more time. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

He has shown us how it’s done. Earlier this very evening, He started the meal by taking a bucket and a towel and walking around the table washing His disciples feet. He acted like a servant, putting their needs about His.

And in just a few hours, He’s going to get nailed to a Cross to show the true extent of His love. His love is so sacrificial and so powerful that He actually saves people eternally with it.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (Jn. 5:24 NIVO).

Because Jesus went to the Cross for you. You can cross over from death to life.

And you can love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Not just to love them as you want to be loved but to love our brothers and sisters like our Savior has loved you!

You can follow Jesus’ example and obey His new command. And if we do that (however imperfectly), people will have to stand up and take notice. And they will be drawn to Jesus.

And our church will be exceptionally blessed once again.

We must love one other in 2024.
We get to love one another in 2024.
And Jesus will get the glory.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15
08. "God So Loved The World" - John 3:16-21
09. "Above All" - John 3:22-36
10. "Living Water" - John 4:1-26
11. "Ripe for the Harvest" - John 4:27-42
12. "Your Son Will Live" - John 4:43-54
13. "Pick Up Your Mat and Walk" - John 5:1-18
14. "To Your Amazement" - John 5:19-30
15. "Testimony About Me" - John 5:31-47
Christmas Eve Bonus: "The Astonishing Gift" - John 3:16 Again
Christmas Eve Bonus: "We Have Seen His Glory" - John 1:1-18 Again
16. "Enough Bread" - John 6:1-15
17. "You Are Looking for Me" - John 6:16-36
18. "I Am the Bread of Life" - John 6:35-71

Friday, January 26, 2024

My Annual Report for Lanse Free Church: 2023 in Review

Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God
by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ
through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

The Annual Pastoral Report
Pastor Matt Mitchell
Year in Review: 2023

Dear Church Family,

This past year was exceptional. 2023 wasn’t as difficult or tumultuous as 2020 and 2021 or as pivotal as 2022, but it also wasn’t very routine either. In our 131 year history as a congregation, there hasn’t been another year like 2023. 

Not only did LEFC reach the milestone of being shepherded by the same pastor for twenty-five consecutive years (exceptional for us!), but you also granted me a three month sabbatical to celebrate that ministry anniversary and recharge my batteries. For an entire quarter of the year, I was graciously relieved of my pastoral responsibilities and freed to travel, reflect, and rest.

But the church family did not rest! Our faithful team of Elders and other wonderful church leaders stepped up to cover all of the pastoral functions during my sabbatical and led our congregation forward in our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Read the other reports in these pages to get a sense of all that was accomplished. When I returned refreshed from my sabbatical, I felt so encouraged that the church family missed me but didn’t need me. That spoke volumes about how exceptionally healthy our church family currently is. 

You can read about our adventures in Great Britain and some of the ways that the Lord gave rest to my soul in my sabbatical reflections which are included elsewhere in this annual report (along with some of the 3,000+ pictures I took!). Thank you for granting me the sabbatical, praying for Heather and me as we were away, and so graciously receiving us when we came back. It is a exceptional joy to be your pastor.

And on top of all of that, the congregation unanimously decided to approve a part-time ministry staff position and begin a prayerful search for our very first Director of Family Ministry. There has never been a year like 2023 for Lanse Free Church!

An Exceptionally Prosperous Year

In my last annual report, I wrote, “I am praying for the Lord to ‘shalom’ us in 2023....I long for Him to prosper us more.” We had been learning the wonderful promise of Jeremiah 29:11 and the LORD’s plans to “shalom” His people with a hope and future. I was praying that God would bestow on us “the fullness of blessing and comprehensive peacefulness where everything is as it should be.” Shalom does not always mean financial or physical blessing, at least not in the short run, but it does mean that God provides an overriding and underlying peace in the midst of any situation and gives us firm assurance that no harm will ultimately befall us. Shalom is a foretaste of all of the blessings to come.

I’m pleased to report that in so many ways the Lord gave us an exceptionally prosperous year in 2023. He provided for us at every turn. He gave Heather and me “shalom” on our “shabbath” (peace on our sabbatical), and provided all of the resources for our church to prosper while we were off and away. Over the course of the year, all of our needs were met, all of our bills were paid, all of our missionaries were supported, and we were also able to remodel the men’s restroom and give over and above to various ministry initiatives like the FBW Missions Project.

In 2023, the Lord prospered us with more people! Our average attendance at worship grew 11.8% to 142 people per Sunday. The lowest attended Sundays had 106 people present (January 1st and July 2nd), and the highest attended Sunday was Resurrection Sunday (April 9th) with 200 people counted.

We have a lot more than 142 people who call our church “home.” Our attendance team tracked 293 distinct people who came onto our campus on Sunday mornings in 2023. A few of those were guests from out of town, but 235 different people showed up with some regularity.

The Lord also prospered us with many more members. Including the ones we are presenting at this annual reports meeting, we have added 19 new members since this time last year. That is a 24.3% increase in church membership in the last twelve months! I’m excited to see how we are blessed by and can be a blessing to Bonnie, Sue, Les and June, Scott and Karen, Rob and Bev, Frank and Joan, Art and Shelly, Will, Joe, Denise, Darren and Judy, and Chip and Kim as they assume the privileges and responsibilities of membership.
In 2023, the Lord prospered us with several baptisms. We celebrated the joy of salvation with Ron, Natalie, Carter, Darren, and Simon.

The Lord prospered us with newborn lives. Miles and Jen were blessed with Lila, and Josh and Katie were given Claire. Our church family got to pray for both of them as their parents dedicated themselves to raising these precious girls in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

The Lord prospered us with new ministries. I love how the Ladies Fellowship Hour has become such a vital part of life for many of the women in our church each week and how the Skacel’s Community Group fills a similar void for some of our families. My favorite new ministry of 2023 is “Snack and Yack,” our sermon-talk-back time for kids who join one of the Elders and their wives in my office to interact about what they have just learned in church. Not only is it lots of fun, but I think it may yield a long-term spiritual harvest in their lives.

The Lord prospered us with new missionaries in 2023. I look forward to seeing how our deeper partnership with Peter and Deb Bors of ReachGlobal will bring more help and hope for people around our nation going through a major crisis such as a flood, fire, or other disaster.

In 2023, the Lord prospered us with great leaders and staff. Our LEFC Elders–Keith (chairman), Joel  (vice-chairman), Cody, and Abe were all-stars this year shouldering all the burdens of pastoral ministry. The stalwart Cindy  kept everything tidy. The unflappable Misty “held down the fort” in the church office while I was away and kept us all pointed in the right direction. And when Misty was led to transition out of the office, we were blessed by the Lord’s provision of Jenni to take her place. Jenni has a heart to serve, a desire to learn, new ideas for the future, and a fresh can-do attitude. Holly volunteered to carry the weight of leading our burgeoning new Family Ministry initiatives. Because of these and other leaders, we didn’t lose momentum even when I was taken out of the ministry equation.

Praise God! The Lord exceptionally prospered our church family in 2023.

Pastoral Ministry

For more than a quarter of a century now, I have had the high privilege of serving as your pastor which I have always envisioned as a blend of three major responsibilities: preaching, equipping, and shepherding.

Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2)

In 2023, I completed one major preaching project and began another. In the winter and spring, we finished “Uprooted,” our study of the Prophecy of Jeremiah. Fifty-two chapters in thirty-six messages! I loved getting to know Jeremiah the man and author and sharing his broken-record message about a broken covenant and the promise of a New Covenant that was on the way. 

When I returned from sabbatical, we launched into a study of The Gospel of John that we’re calling, “Life in Jesus’ Name.” It’s great to return to John’s Gospel which I preached before twenty five years ago and to see, feel, and proclaim once again how astonishingly wonderful our Savior is. His truth is mind-blowing and life-giving

Because of my sabbatical, I only got to preach 70% of the Sundays of 2023. I was out of the pulpit for more Sundays than I have ever been since I arrived at LEFC in 1998 (16 of the 53 Sundays). Our church family, however, did not miss even one nourishing spiritual meal! Our own LEFC Elders did almost all of the other preaching this year with Joel, Abe, and Cody taking on multiple weeks! You also heard from Kerry Doyal, Donnie Rosie, and a musical message for Mother’s Day with Jim Knepp. Special thanks goes to Keith Folmar for coordinating all of the pulpit ministry in 2023.

Equip the Saints (Ephesians 4:12)
I have often gauged my effectiveness in equipping others for ministry by noting how many ministry things happen without my presence being required. If I’m doing my job right, then very many good things are going on without my even knowing it!

By that standard, 2023 was an exceptional year for equipping the saints for ministry at LEFC. In the first four months, I focused on making sure all of the bases were covered for my departure, and in the last five months I worked hard at not taking back any of the ministry roles that someone else should be doing.

Of course, I still spend a lot of my time coming alongside our ministry leaders to encourage and resource them in their efforts and get involved in what they’re working on. But I’m also increasingly trying to stay out of their way.

One key development this year was seeing our Elders growing more into the pastoral side of their ministry. Joel led the baptisms for Carter and Natalie in April. Abe led the baptism for Darren and even taught his baptism class. Keith Folmar led the Child Dedication time for Lila. Cody is leading our search for the Director of Family Ministry. These may seem like small things, but I know that they are significant signs of ministry health, and I look forward to sharing ministry even more in the years to come.

As in previous years, I continued to be involved in equipping ministry beyond our local church. I chaired our Allegheny District Constitutions and Credentials Board overseeing two ordinations of district pastors, coordinating the Stay Sharp Theology Conference, and helping our team transition the credentialing process onto an online portal. I served on the EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee and coordinated the book review for the EFCA Blog. My book, Resisting Gossip turned 10 years old in September and is still helping new readers win the war of the wagging tongue.

Shepherd the Flock (1 Peter 5:2)

I loved spending meaningful time with our church families in 2023. When I wasn’t gallivanting across Great Britain, I got to visit in your homes and businesses, cheer on your talented kids at sporting events and concerts, and walk alongside you through hard things such as illnesses and deaths in your families. 

In 2023, I led funerals and memorial services for John Kendrick, Marie Krasinski, Carol Almgren, Albert Green, Janice Mitchell (my dad’s cousin), Rosella (Araway) DeyArmin, and Steve Lutz. I also got to spend precious time with Ron Bean and Betty Sankey in their final days.

I also got to listen and provide spiritual counsel to you as you made big decisions for your life and family. It is a great privilege to shepherd people at all ages and stages of life.

Thank you for allowing me into your lives and for praying and providing for me and my family, especially this year as you continued to pay me while giving me all of that much-needed time off and away. Thank you, also, for supporting the Allegheny District and my pastor, Kerry Doyal. I can’t overstate how helpful his shepherding is for me. Pastors needs pastors too, and I have an exceptional one.

2024 Vision - “You Must Love One Another”

As we travel through 2024, I am praying that we have yet another exceptionally prosperous year. I hope that this is the year that we find our first Director of Family Ministry. I am pleased that, after a couple of years of anticipation, we are finally getting to send a missions team to Malawi. I think we’re going to get another group of students together to return to the EFCA Challenge Conference for an awesome life-shaping experience. I expect us to make major progress on the Ark Park Pavilion project. I’m praying for more new members, new ministries, new leaders, and especially new disciples. I’m excited about our special outreaches like the Wild Game Dinner, Family Bible Week, and Good News Cruise and even more excited about our everyday witness to the gospel in our workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, and extended families.

I believe the Lord will prosper us in these ways and many more as we stay faithful to our mission–“the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace” (Acts 20:24). Our message is the gospel, our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and there is true life in His name.

One crucial thing I think we need to focus on in 2024 is actively loving one another as our Lord commanded us. Shortly before He was betrayed and went to the Cross for us, our Lord Jesus gave us these marching orders:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

As we contemplate the busy year ahead, we need to make sure that we are focused on  obeying this command, caring for one another and building each other up, pursuing each other’s best interests, and growing LEFC into an even more truly loving community.

Our church family has recently grown by leaps and bounds, and that is wonderful. But it also means that a lot of us don’t know each other very well. Loving one another will start with fixing that problem. We will all need to make a special effort to greet each other (especially those we don’t know very well), linger together after worship, use the church directory and mailboxes to make connections, check on each other, invite each other out or over for meals together, and pray for one another. We need to knit ourselves together into a loving community.

We’ll also need to bear with one another. Our church has changed a good bit over the last few years due to several factors including covid, culture, and the transfer of leadership from one generation to the next. New people also have new ideas about how to do things! While we are wrestling with that change and developing our plans for ministry into the future, we need to be patient with one another and bear with one another in our differences.

We must love one another for the sake of the gospel. Jesus said that the world will know we are His disciples if we love one another. The flipside of that is also true. We will wreck our witness in the world if we don’t. 2024 is another national election year which threatens to be as divisive or more in our country than the last one. Our society is beset with a massive epidemic of loneliness. Our globe is rife with strife and conflict. The world desperately needs to see followers of Jesus who exhibit counter-cultural love for one another (and even for our enemies). We won’t do it perfectly in 2024, of course, but we must make it our overriding goal to obey our Lord’s command.

Thankfully, our Lord Jesus has perfectly shown us how it’s done.

In His Loving Grip,

-Pastor Matt

Sunday, January 21, 2024

“I Am the Bread of Life” [Matt's Messages]

“I Am the Bread of Life”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 21, 2024 :: John 6:35-71  

Jesus is either bonkers or bread.

The things Jesus says! Who talks like this?! The things He says about Himself. We’re used to it. Some of us have been Christians for a very long time. Some of us haven’t known anything else. We’ve heard these things about Jesus all of our lives. So we’re used to Jesus talking like this about Himself.

But anybody else who talks like this either doesn’t really mean it (they are being silly or selling something) or if they do mean it, then they are crazy megalomaniacs. 

In this passage, Jesus keeps insisting over and over again that He is the bread of life.

He says it in verse 35, then again in verse 48, and then something very similar in verse 51. And He says a whole lot of other incredible things to go along with it!

And the people listening to Jesus don’t know what do with what they are hearing. But Jesus doesn’t back down. Instead He says it more strongly and shockingly than ever and forces His listeners to make a decision.

Is Jesus bonkers or bread?

What do you think?

Let me remind you how we got to this point in the story. We’ve been studying chapter 6 of the Gospel of John every Sunday so far this year (in ‘24). And bread has been the big theme. Bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread. Bread everywhere.

Except at the beginning of the chapter when there was almost no bread at all. Remember this? There was this huge crowd, at least 5,000 people. And they were hungry, and Jesus wanted to feed them, so He did. He took 5 little barley biscuits and 2 little fish, and He multiplied them and fed the entire crowd.
Bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread. Bread everywhere! There were 12 basketfuls of bread being lugged around by the disciples afterwards.

That was the day before what Keagan read to us just now. Overnight [we read last week], Jesus sent His disciples in a boat across the lake, and then when a storm whipped up around the boat, Jesus walked across the lake Himself to join His disciples, walking on the water[!] and then seeing the boat safe to shore. 

Now, if Jesus did those two miracles, then maybe [just maybe!] when He says big crazy things, they might be true?! But He does say some big crazy things!

On this day, Jesus is teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum. The crowd from the day before has found Him, and they want to be fed again. Jesus has gotten feisty and combative with them. He told them that all they really cared about was their bellies. They were missing the point of the bread.

The bread was supposed to be a sign, pointing them to a bread that lasts forever. And they keep missing the point. They’re like, “Great. A bread that lasts? Give us that from now on. We’re hungry. We just love your bread.”

And that’s when Jesus said (verse 35), “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.”

That’s a big claim and a big promise, and it’s a wonderful invitation.

“I am the bread of life.”

We said last week that there are seven great “I am” statements in the Gospel of John, and that this is the first of them. Jesus says, “I am” (Greek: “ego eimi”) and then fills in the blank with an awesome metaphor to truly understand His true identity.

Now, it is a metaphor. There’s a lot of metaphorical language in this chapter. Jesus is not saying that He is literally made out of wheat or barley or some other flour, maybe gluten free. He has not been baked into a loaf or cut into slices for toasting and making a sandwich.

It is a metaphor. But the metaphor is true. Jesus is the bread of life. He is what bread truly is. 

What is bread? What does bread do?

Well, fundamentally, it keeps us alive. Bread is food, and we need food to live. Bread stands for the simplest of food that sustains life. It is the fuel that keeps humans going. And if we run out of food, we run out of life.

And Jesus says that He is, in some ultimate way, the true source of life. He is the bread of life. Listen to verse 35 again. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

I’ve got four points of application this morning, and here’s the first one.

Feed on the bread of life and:


Now notice how He says that He is the bread of life and that what we need to do about that is to “come to” Him and to “believe in” Him.

In this verse, our “feeding on” Him is not literal or physical. That’s important, I think, to keep in mind when we get a little further into the passage, and his language becomes even more shocking.

Here Jesus is inviting us to come to Him (He’s going to say that again and again) and to believe in Him–which is the theme of this whole Gospel, isn’t it? It’s written so that we might believe in Him so that we might have life in His name. 

Faith (believing) leads to life (living). He is inviting us to believe that He is the bread that gives life. And it’s a life that is truly satisfying. It’s not here today and gone tomorrow. “He who comes to me [Jesus] will never go hungry, and he who believes in me [Jesus] will nver be thirsty.”

We talked about this last week. Jesus is truly satisfying forever. He is not just some kind of food for our bodies but food for our souls.

Some of these people Jesus is talking to still have His miraculous bread in their tummies digesting as He teaches. [If it’s miraculous bread, does that make it Wonder Bread?] But they are going to be hungry again. In fact, most of them are. Jesus knows that they are looking for another meal. 

And Jesus knows that we chase after all kinds of things that do not satisfy. But He does satisfy. And He does satisfy forever.

What are you tempted to chase as your cheap substitute for the bread of life? 

There’s a bunch of usual suspects: Money, Possessions, Fame, Status, Sex, Pleasure, Happiness. Those are all good things but we can easily treat them as the most important thing that we believe will give us true life and satisfaction. But when we do, we always end up empty.

Last week, I told you that Heather asked me what I’ve been chasing and that I didn’t want to think about it. I’d rather avoid that. But I did think about it this week, and one of my big ones recently has been the approval of others. I chase that around like it’s going to keep me alive and make feel good forever. I like to be liked and love to be loved. But all it takes is for someone to change their opinion of me, and I’m back to square one or in the negative zone. There’s no life there. It’s fake bread. Bread that will not last.

But if I come to Jesus and believe in Jesus, I will never go hungry and never be thirsty–forever. He will be my food. He will be my meal. Forever.

It doesn’t mean that I won’t feel longings on this side of eternity, but that there will be no longing that He will not fill both now and ultimately forever. Does that make sense?

You might think it’s bonkers. But Christians have believed it be true now for 2,000 years, and I’m one of them.

Here’s number two.

Feed on the Bread of Life and:


Listen to the amazing promises that Jesus makes in verse 37: 

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’”

What precious words!!

Notice all of the repetition there. What did you hear get repeated?

There’s “come to me” language that is what it means to “feed on the Bread of Life.” “Come to me.” That’s faith. He says that again and again. “Come to me.”

And also “come down from heaven.” He’s going to repeat that like six times in this passage. He has “come down from heaven.” 

And there’s God’s will. “To do the will of him who sent me,” “And this is the will of him who sent me.” That’s the Father sending the Son. He talks about that a lot in this book!

And the other phrase that gets repeated is “I will raise him up at the last day.” “I will raise him up at the last day.”

And He’s talking there about everyone who comes to Him in faith.

If you and I come to the Son in faith, then the Son will raise us up at the last day.

That’s the resurrection. [Like we learned about in chapter 5.] Even if we die, one day Jesus will raise us from the dead. 

That’s how safe we are! Even if we die, we are safe, because Jesus will raise us up at the last day. And He will not fail. Did you hear that? Did you hear how safe you are if you believe in Jesus? Listen again. Verse 37.

“All that the Father gives me will come to me [what percentage is that? 100%], and whoever comes to me I will never drive away [what percentage is that? 100%]. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me [what’s the percentage there?], but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.'"

What’s the percentage there? How many of Jesus true disciples will be raised up at the last day? 100% of them!

“All the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (v.37).

So come to Him, right? Feed on the Bread of Life and be truly safe forever.

Some people are afraid that they are not a part of the chosen. That they are not elect. And so they are afraid to come to Jesus and put their faith in Him in case it turns out that He doesn’t want them.

But that’s not what the bibical doctrine of election teaches. The biblical doctrine of election teaches that we should come to Jesus and put our faith in Him. And trust in Him and feed on Him (so to speak).

And if we come to Him, He will receive us. He will never drive us away.

And if we truly come to Him, then we’ll find out that it was the Father that drew us to Him in the first place. That, in fact, we were given to the Son by the Father. Given!

And that biblical doctrine of election teaches that none of those who have been given will be lost. 

No, we will be raised up at the last day. Look at verse 40 again. “For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

And what a day that will be! Safe forever and ever and ever.

So, come. Come feed on Bread of Life.

Does that sound bonkers to you? That is the gospel.

Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life. That’s John 3:16. That’s John 5:24. Right? “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” 

What does the next verse say? “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (5:25). 

“I will raise him up at the last day.” Do you believe that? This is an invitation to believe and be saved and be truly safe forever. ....

The Jews in that synagogue in Capernaum did not believe.

They listened to what Jesus had to say, these wonderful words, and their response was to grumble. Look at verse 41.

“At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?’”

“He hasn’t ‘come down from heaven.’ He’s come over from Nazareth. Isn’t Joseph his daddy? We know this guy.”

Isn’t it ironic that the children of Israel are grumbling about bread from heaven? They did that with the manna, too. They are hostile. They are rejecting Jesus’ claims. They are saying that what He’s saying is bonkers.  They don’t know about the Virgin Conception and Virgin Birth. They don’t believe that He has come down from heaven. They don’t see how He could be the Bread of Life.

But He is. And Jesus knows it. That’s why He says (v.43):

“‘Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ Jesus answered. ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life.” (vv.43-48).

Notice how Jesus repeats Himself. He reiterates that salvation is, in the first place, the work of God. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

But that isn’t to keep us from coming to Him but to let us know why we do. And if we do, then the promise is that we will be raised up at the last day.

That’s what the Bible means in Isaiah 54, verse 13, “They will all be taught by God” that is that “Everyone who listens to the [God] Father and learns from him comes to” God the Son, Jesus. And how do we listen to the Father? We look to the Son because He’s actually seen the Father and shows us what He is like.

That’s John 1:18 all over again, isn’t it? “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known” (Jn. 1:18 NIVO). We just studied that together on Christmas Eve.

The Son shows us the Father who draws us to come to the Son. And when we do, we get everlasting life. Because the Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Point Number Three.

Feed on the Bread of Life and:


Listen as Jesus says it all again. Verse 49.

“I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’” (Vv.48-51).

Bread, manna, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread!

The Jews’ ate the original bread from heaven which was a wonderful gift from God, but then they died in the wilderness. But God has now sent a new bread down from heaven that is like manna but even better. This is bread that if you ingest it, you will not die!

It’s living bread! It’s not just bread that gives life, it’s bread that is alive. And if you feed on this living bread, you will live forever. And this bread is Jesus. And this bread is His flesh...which He will give for the life of the world. Because God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son.

What’s He talking about? He’s talking about the Cross. He’s talking about giving His life so that we might live. And live forever.

Do you believe in that?

The Jews did not. They couldn’t accept what He was laying down. They thought he was talking bonkers. Maybe talking cannibalism? Look at verse 52.

“Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”

That’s the biggest misunderstanding yet in the Gospel of John. It’s not just how can a man go back into His mommy’s tummy to be born again. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

But Jesus doesn’t say, “Oh, I don’t really mean that.” He goes all in. Verse 53.

“Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

The things Jesus says!!! 

So, what does He mean? Whenever I read this, my mind always goes to the Lord’s Supper, but I don’t think that’s what He’s really talking about. He isn’t talking about communion here. This is long before that last supper in the Upper Room. 

He’s just using strikingly strong language to talk about true faith, isn’t He? He’s just saying the same thing He said in verse 35. There He said we need to come to Him and believe in Him, that’s what it means to feed on the bread of life.

Look at these verses 53 and compare it to verse 40. Verse 40 said, “For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Verses 53 says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

They’re saying the same thing. Jesus is just using extreme language to press home the point.

He’s not saying that you need to physically eat His body or drink His blood. Christianity is not cannibalism. [No, ewww!]

He is saying that true faith fully internalizes Jesus.

True faith treats Jesus like He’s the bread we need to live.

True faith looks to the blood of Jesus, His sacrificial death on the Cross, as our only hope. Without it we will die in our sins of spiritual thirst. But with it, we will be raised up on the last day.

It’s a metaphor, but what a powerful metaphor!!!

That’s why He says in verse 55, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

He doesn’t mean that His flesh is real food in the sense that you eat it physically. He means that His flesh is real true food in the sense that this is one of the reasons why the thing of food exists in the first place.

Food is a metaphor for Jesus!
Drink is a metaphor for Jesus!

We take those things in to remind us that we need to truly take in Jesus.

Does that make sense?  Understood that way, it does help us when we think about the Lord’s Supper. Taking in the bread and drinking from the cup reminds us that we need to fully internalize Jesus. That true faith fully internalizes Jesus.

But He’s not saying that we need to take communion to be saved.

That’s about the opposite of what He’s saying!

He’s saying that we need to receive Jesus by faith and find our life in Jesus now and forever. V.56

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. [Mutual indwelling.] Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.’”

We could spend an hour just marinating in those words.

There are words of relationship there. An eternal life-changing relationship. We “remain” or “abide” or “live” in Jesus, and He lives in us.

And there is so much life in there. The Father (who sent the Son) is the “living Father.” He’s alive with life-in-Himself (remember that from chapter 5), and He gives life to the Son eternally (remember that from chapter 5, we call it eternal generation) and so anyone who “feeds on Jesus” (or comes to Him, or looks to Him, or believes in Him–all the same thing) will live because of Him.

And live forever! Forever. Forever.

Do you believe that? Or do you think it’s bonkers? Those are the only two choices.

The Jews thought it was bonkers. And so did even some of Jesus’s followers. Look at verse 59.

“He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’”

This is hard. It’s hard to understand, at least at first. The language is so extreme. It almost sounds like cannibalism. But even after you understand it, it’s hard to accept.

Because it means you have to believe that Jesus and Jesus alone is the Bread of Life.

That He is the source of true satisfaction forever.
That He is the source of true salvation forever.
That He is the source of true life forever.

And that if you don’t receive Him, if you don’t take Him, if you don’t come to, believe in, look to...if you don’t feed on Him, taking Him into you fully, then you will be lost and not raised up on the last day. Those are the only two options.

It is a hard teaching. And some who had been following Jesus around decided that they were out. “I’m out.”

Many are doing that today. My friend Nick Boonstra who is the pastor at Blue Course Community Church, the EFCA Church in State College, told me and a bunch of other district pastors this week about a book called The Great Dechurching describes a phenomenon that is taking place across our country.

Nick reported that the book says, “More people have left the church in the last twenty-five years than all the new people who became Christians from the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and Billy Graham crusades combined.”

And the book tells some of the sociological reasons for that and some of the spiritual ones and gives some advice about how the church should try to reach out in the days ahead.

Some of those folks will return. Some of them have decided that following Jesus is not worth it. That following Jesus is bonkers. “He is not the Bread of Life.”

This did not and does not take Jesus by surprise. V.61

“Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! [I came down from heaven. At some point, I’ll go back up. Would that change things for you?] The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.’” (vv.61-65).

Jesus is not surprised. Disappointed, yes. Surprised, no. He had known it was going to be like this and even who was going to be like this. But it still made Him sad. V.66

“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. 

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’  Then Jesus replied, ‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’  (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)”

And that’s the first we’ve learned about that defection which is still to come. These disciples turned out to only be in it for the loaves and not for the Bread of Life. They abandoned Him. They turned back. They decided that the whole thing was bonkers.

But Peter did not. He said, “We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” “You have the words of eternal life.”

You are the Bread of Life!

What do you think? Jesus is either bonkers or bread. And we all have to decide which one we think is true.

Here’s point number four which is what gets my vote and what I want for all of us here.

Feed on the Bread of Life and:


I think Jesus is bread.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15
08. "God So Loved The World" - John 3:16-21
09. "Above All" - John 3:22-36
10. "Living Water" - John 4:1-26
11. "Ripe for the Harvest" - John 4:27-42
12. "Your Son Will Live" - John 4:43-54
13. "Pick Up Your Mat and Walk" - John 5:1-18
14. "To Your Amazement" - John 5:19-30
15. "Testimony About Me" - John 5:31-47
Christmas Eve Bonus: "The Astonishing Gift" - John 3:16 Again
Christmas Eve Bonus: "We Have Seen His Glory" - John 1:1-18 Again
16. "Enough Bread" - John 6:1-15
17. "You Are Looking for Me" - John 6:16-36

Sunday, January 14, 2024

“You Are Looking For Me” [Matt's Messages]

“You Are Looking For Me”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 14, 2024 :: John 6:16-36

So often, you and I can be experts at missing the point. Have you ever missed the point of something? I sure have.

I can be quite good at it, really. If you need any points missed, I’m your man.

I just recently learned what the point is of that little loop on the collar of most jackets? You know which one I mean? You can stick your finger through it? It’s really small and right back there? Do you know what that’s for? Did you know it has a purpose?

It turns out that loop is for hanging up your jacket. Did you know that?! I just always hang mine up by the hood or on the collar. But, it turns out, if you hang your jacket up on that little loop, then it doesn’t take up as much room on the rack, and it doesn’t fall off of the hook like my coats are always falling off their hooks! Who knew?! I was only 50 years old before I found that out. My Mom probably tried to teach it to me, but I can be an expert in missing the point.

In this story, Jesus tells some people that they are missing the point of something much more important than coat loops. In this story, there is a big search for Jesus. They are looking for Him. But when they find Jesus, He tells them that they have been looking for Him for all the wrong reasons. They have been missing the point.

And Jesus is quite feisty on this point. He confronts these people and points out their error. He’s really quite strong with them, because He does not want them to miss the point any longer, and He doesn’t want us to miss the point either. So let’s try not to.

Before we get to the part where they are looking for Jesus, we have to start with a time when they were NOT looking for Jesus, and they found Him anyway. That’s the story starting in verse 16.

This story follows right on the heels of the story we studied last week, the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 men with just the 5 small barley loaves and the 2 small fish. Because of Jesus there was enough bread.

What was the point of that miracle? We don’t want to miss it. We said last week that when you factor Jesus into your calculations, the impossible can be done. That God provides all that He requires. That was the point last week, but there much more to that story to not miss, as we shall soon see.

After Jesus fed the crowd, He slipped away so that they couldn’t force Him to be a king. This wasn’t His time, and it wasn’t His way. He slipped off on His own.

And, apparently, He sent His disciples off on their own across the Sea of Galilee. Look with me at verse 16. “When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.”
Twelve disciples in a boat. They had been on the east side of the lake, and they are headed for the west side. The lake is about 7 miles across at its widest, and it is night time. It is dark. And Jesus was, by His own design, left behind. ... And then the storm began. V.18

“A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.”

Can you imagine? I’ve never been at sea when it was rough. Heather has been. She told me about a time when she was on a ship and it was rocking and the waves were really high, coming up over onto the deck. These are twelve guys in a little boat at night. And these storms can come out of nowhere on the Sea of Galilee. It might have been really scary.

And then it did become really scary, because they weren’t looking for Jesus, but He came looking for them! V.19 “When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified.”

Walking on the water?! They were three and half miles from shore, and they saw Jesus coming towards them on the water. That’s like from here to Kylertown. Imagine if it was just a lake between here and Ruth’s house, and you’re in a boat that is in a storm, and you see a man walking across the lake on the sea from there to here.

How are you going to feel?

We tend to joke about this. There are all kinds of “walking on the water” jokes and memes on social media. It’s like a cartoon kind of thing. Something Bugs Bunny would do. 

But you can’t imagine it happening in real life. They were terrified! And rightly so. This is not normal. This does not happen.  You can’t just walk on the water! That breaks all of the rules.

Who is this Person?!

This is a Person Who rules the seas. This is a Person that all creation is under His feet.

This is a Person Who makes the rules, so He can break them if He wants.

So the disciples are scared. More scared by this Person than they are by the storm. And then He speaks to them. V.20 

“But he said to them, ‘It is I; don't be afraid.’”

And that makes all the difference. V.21

“Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”

That sounds like another miracle to me. They just hydroplaned across the rest of the lake. I don’t know. When they took Jesus into the boat, everything changed. They were safe. In fact, that’s the point I want to make this morning about this part of the story. If we find Jesus, then we find true safety.


It’s because they received Him into the boat that they were safe.

I’m not saying that Jesus is safe. I was working on this message yesterday, and I wrote that down as point number, “Jesus is safe.” And then I’m like, “No, I don’t think so.” Jesus is scary. He is so powerful. He is so in control. His disciples are terrified when they see Him come.

The waves are terrified when they see Him coming!

Jesus is scarier than the storm.

So if you are with Him, then you are safe.

The water lets Jesus walk on it. So if He’s in your boat, it will go where it’s supposed to go.

The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the Apostle Peter walked on the water, too, for a short moment before He took His eyes off of Jesus. And Matthew also tells us that the men in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

But John leaves out all of those details to focus on this one thing that Jesus says, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”

There is no reason to fear if we find Jesus.

What are you afraid of?
Is it scarier than Jesus?
Is it more powerful?

Do you know Jesus? Then you have nothing to fear.

The words (in verse 20) translated, “It is I” are in the Greek “ego eimi.” And they can be translated “It is I.” That is correct, and it is what Jesus was saying. 

But they can also be translated, “I am.” I am. And those words “ego eimi” are going show up up again and again in the Gospel of John, especially the seven times that Jesus says, “I am” and then fills in the blank with some amazing metaphor to describe His true identity. The first one is coming up in verse 35.

And I think that we’re supposed to hear the echoes of Exodus 3:14 when Jesus talks like this. When He says, “I am,” a bell is supposed to go off in our brains that reminds us that God says that He is the “I am.” And if Jesus shows up walking on the water and says, “I am; don’t be afraid,” we should not miss the point that He is also claiming to be God Himself.

And that makes all the difference. If we find Jesus, and Who He truly is, then we find true safety.

“Don’t be afraid.”

Now, the next morning, you and I know where Jesus is and the disciples know where Jesus is, but the crowd doesn’t know where He is. And they are confused. V.22

“The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus” (vv.22-24).

I almost titled this message, “The Search for Jesus.” Where did He go? They are confused. And I’m not exactly sure how they figured out where He was. Perhaps those coming in the boats from Tiberias in verse 23 had seen Him and let everybody else know where to find Him. Either way, the crowd is still in hot pursuit. They found Him yesterday and got fed by Him. They are after Him again today. In search of Jesus. 

Is it good to look for Jesus? It sounds good. But it really matters why you are looking for Him. King Herod was searching for Jesus when He was a baby. He wanted to kill Him. 

Why did these people want to find Jesus? That’s the beef that Jesus has with them. Look at verse 25.

“When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’”

Almost like, He's doing something wrong. "We've been looking for you!"

By the way, here’s Jesus’ chance to say, “I got here last night by walking across the lake all by myself. Check me out!” But He doesn’t do that. He doesn’t try to impress them. And He’s not impressed by them. He’s not impressed by the crowd showing up the next day. So often, we’re impressed by the crowd. Jesus doesn’t care about being popular, if He’s popular for the wrong reasons.

And Jesus says, “I know why you are here. You’re here for all the wrong reasons. You’re here because you’ve missed the point.”

Look at verse 26. This is the verse that we get our title from. V.26

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” 

You see what I mean about Him being feisty and confrontational? Yes, they were looking for Jesus, but not for Jesus. They were looking for Jesus to get more bread. Jesus knows their hearts. He knows that they saw the miracle yesterday. They saw His power. They saw 5 loaves became 15 loaves become 50,000 loaves. And all they are thinking about is...loaves.

They were looking for Jesus, but they were not looking for Jesus. They were missing the point.

Remember, all of these miraculous signs are signs. They are not just miracles but they are pointing towards something. They are pointing towards Jesus’s identity, towards Who Jesus really is. And these folks were seeing the miracles but missing the signs. We’ve seen that again and again in this Gospel, and we’re tempted to do it ourselves, aren’t we? To look for what Jesus can do for us instead of Who Jesus really is?

And the irony of that is that when we do that, we are actually setting our sights too low. We are thinking too small. That’s what Jesus says in verse 27.

“Do not work for food that spoils [disappears], but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’”

In other words, “You guys are focused on your bellies. You are focused on the here and now. You’re focused on this earthly food. But I am offering something much greater than that. This perishable food is pointing towards something imperishable and eternal.”

“And you will get it from Me.” “The Son of Man will give [it to] you. On Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.”

And here we are back to, “This is my Son, whom I love. With Him I am well-pleased. Listen to Him.”

We all are tempted to make this mistake, are we not?

We look for Jesus to make our lives better in the here and now.

We look for Jesus to heal our bodies and fill up our bank accounts.
We look for Jesus to fix our relationships and make our businesses flourish.
We look for Jesus to give us great sex lives and heal our nation and to make us happy. 

And to fill our tummies.

We do that, don’t we?

And, of course, Jesus cares about our bodies, our back accounts, our relationships, our business, our sex lives, our nation, and even our happiness and our tummies. That’s why we pray about them. But those things are all very small and temporary in the grand scheme of things. And Jesus does not exist to give them to us. They exist to point us to Jesus. Don’t miss the point.

Now, what do you think these folks heard Jesus say to them? What did they focus on. Jesus just said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

What key word do you think the Jews focused on in all of that? It was the word, “work.” He said all of that, but they just focused in on that little word. One of their favorite words, “Work.” look at verse 28.

“Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’”

“Now we’re talking. Is the answer going to be some kind of command from the Law?” They are always assuming that salvation is spelled, D-O. “What must we do?”

Do you think that “work” was the key word that Jesus would have had them focus on? 

Here’s a trick question for you: “When is work not work?”

Answer: When the “work” is faith. Because that’s not something we can boast about. It’s just trusting in the work of another. Verse 29. 

“Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”

The key word that Jesus would have had them focus on in verse 27 is “give.” The food that endures to eternal life is given by the Son who has the seal of the Father’s approval. Given. And our job, is simply to believe in Him and what He has done. God spells salvation D-O-N-E. Done.

All these miraculous signs were pointing us all along to who Jesus is and what He has done, and if we believe in Him, then we will be saved!

Or as John says at the end of this gospel, “These [miraculous signs] are written [here] that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31-21:1 NIVO).

Believe in the One that the Father has sent. That’s true safety! That’s salvation. Because God the Father sent God the Son to save us on the Cross and at the Empty Tomb.

Do you believe? If you have never put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I implore you to do so now. Because that’s why He came. Not just to give us happy lives in the short run but holy lives forever and ever with Him.

And happy lives forever and ever with Him. Because when we truly find Jesus, we find true satisfaction.


We don’t just find true salvation, we find true satisfaction. Just not the temporary kind that is here today and gone tomorrow. Those loaves that Jesus was multiplying were pointing towards something must greater and more lasting.

In verse 30, the crowd asks Jesus for another miracle. Verse 30. 

“So they asked him, ‘What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat'” (vv.30-31).

Again, they are experts in missing the point. And Jesus doesn’t let them get away with it. Verse 32.

“Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe” (vv.32-36).

Now, we’re going to get into this more deeply next week, Lord-willing. Jesus is going to hit this again and again from different angles the rest of this chapter. And He’s going to say it even more striking ways. But you see the main thrust of it, right?

There’s another misunderstanding going on. Like the woman at the well and her water. And Nicodemus and the second birth. Here it’s the bread. They are focused on bread like the manna from heaven that God gave during the Moses years in Exodus and Numbers and Deuteronomy. They think that maybe the feeding of the 5,000 means that the New Moses is here and going to feed them all with some more bread and more bread and more bread as the kingdom is arriving. 

And they are not all wrong but they are still missing the greater point.

The loaves were not just about loaves.
The bread was not just about bread.
The bread was pointing, pointing, pointing, pointing to the True Bread from Heaven.

And that wasn’t just manna bread. It was Jesus Himself.

He said, “Ego eimi.” “I AM the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believe sin me will never be thirsty.” When we truly find Jesus, we find true and lasting satisfaction for our souls.

Earlier in this message, I asked you what you are afraid of and if it is scarier and more powerful than Jesus. Now, I want to ask you what are you chasing after and is it more satisfying than Jesus?

What are the loaves to you? (Like in verse 26.)

What are you tempted to find your satisfaction in?

Heather Joy asked me that question yesterday, and I deflected. I don’t think I want to think about what I tend to chase after to have my “fill” (v.26). But I need to. Because I am often aiming too low, thinking too small, thinking too much about the short-run and not about the long one, not about forever.

But those loaves are here and then gone. But when we come to Jesus (v.35), we never go hungry and we never are thirsty for all eternity.

That’s true satisfaction. Jesus was frustrated with these people because they have seen Him and even seen Him do these miracles and still do not believe. They missed the point. Let’s not miss the point with them.

Because Jesus is Who we are looking for. For safety, salvation, and satisfaction forever.