Sermon August 23, 2015
Text: John 6:51-58
I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” 52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed,and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
Eat the Living Bread and be Satisfied
In the name of Jesus who sustains us in life and in death, dear fellow redeemed:
The words which we just read are short and simple. They could be used in a reading book for a lower grade classroom. There are no difficult vocabulary words. Yet when we put them all together these words provide for deep thought and contemplation.
For some they are words that are misunderstood or rejected. Verse 52 tells us how the Jews quarreled among themselves. In the verses that followed even His own disciples called these words hard sayings. Some have understood Jesus to be talking about the Lord’s Supper. Even The Lutheran Hymnal contains two communion hymns based on John 6. However, the context and the words used here do not support that.
There is a spiritual eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, but that is a unique communion with Him available in the sacrament. Here Jesus presents Himself as “Living Bread.” Eating of that Living Bread simply is consuming Him by faith. That is how you receive nutrition for your soul. Unlike anything else, eating of Living Bread in this manner provides satisfaction for the soul. While your stomach may be growling when you leave church today because of all the food metaphors, we pray that our souls will be well satisfied by the feast of Living Bread.
1. Jesus is to be eaten as is
After hearing Jesus refer to Himself as “Living Bread” they asked, How can this Man give us His flesh to eat? I don’t know that they had a problem understanding the picture of what Jesus was saying as much as they were disturbed that He was the one presenting it. They seemed to know that He was using a metaphor and was not talking about a literal eating of His flesh. The problem they had was that they were not satisfied with who He was. They could not see past His humble appearance and regard Him as the Messiah that they had been waiting for. They saw Him merely as the carpenter’s son.
Living Bread, however, needs to be consumed “as is.” Normally, if you see “as is” on a car or piece of equipment for sale your assumption is that it has problems. But with Jesus, He is perfect “as is.” There is nothing you can add to Living Bread to make it better. By calling Himself the living bread which came down from heaven, He identifies Himself as both true God and true Man. Even if His human form may dissuade some from seeing Him as being the all powerful God. Even if the mystery of the Creator of the world lying helpless in a manger befuddles you, this is who our Savior is.
Christ needs to be received and consumed by faith because the mystery of His two natures goes beyond our comprehension. Yet He had to be both true God and true Man in order to be our Savior. He is human in all the ways that we are, yet without sin. He had to be that way in order to be born under the Law, and have the opportunity to fulfill it. He had to have human flesh so that He could give it for the world (vs. 51). He had to be true God in order for that sacrifice to be complete and sufficient for the sin of the world. There is only one way to get perfect blood for that sacrifice and that is the Person of Christ. Living Bread from heaven is defined as Jesus as true God and true Man.
Years ago when I would come home from Immanuel I would automatically add salt to my food without even tasting it because I had grown used to food that needed it. In the same way, many want to add or take away from what Jesus says because it does not fit in their mind. Living Bread needs to be eaten as is to be effective. Unlike the manna which though miraculous could not stave off death, Jesus says, He who eats this bread will live forever.
2. Jesus is provided as the only life-giving food
Jesus emphasizes in verses 53-54 that He is the only such bread. Most assuredly, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Faith must center on Him alone. You either have life in you through Him or you don’t. We live in a society that sees most things in shades of grey. We like to find loopholes and make exceptions so that nobody will feel bad. Politically correct speech has infiltrated much of organized religion. This black and white picture that Jesus presents is difficult for the world to swallow. It gets stuck in their throats. How can there be only one way to heaven? How can there only be one correct God? How could billions of people have the wrong religion?
To believe that there is another way to heaven besides Christ is like eating poison. It is a death sentence. The promise is found is verse 54, Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day. The spiritual life that Jesus brings is enough to stave off spiritual death and eternal death, and will see you through even physical death. Jesus alone solves the separation that is death. Instead of emphasizing the words flesh and blood in this verse, emphasize the pronoun “My” and that will help you get the flavor of the importance of Christ alone for salvation.
Furthermore He says, For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. The picture of faith eating and drinking shows that faith is indeed consuming our Savior. In other words, believing in Jesus is not just thinking about Him. Martin Luther gives the example that thinking of someone baking bread or brewing beer does nothing to satisfy hunger or slake thirst. So also faith is not just thinking of Jesus, but having that complete trust in Him. That is how your soul will be fed. Eating of that Living Bread is taking Jesus at His Word. Faith receives Jesus completely not just considering that He exists, but taking Him all in.
3. Jesus remains in you
The result: He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him. If spicy foods give you heartburn, you know how that sticks with you. If you say, that sweets go right to your thighs, you know also how that sticks with you. Living Bread remains in us and beyond the scope of imagination we also dwell in Him. Eating of Christ by faith means that He is not at a distance from you, but that He dwells within you.
This is a tremendous comfort when Satan is railing against us and working to literally destroy our souls. Christ is there. You don’t need to go far to find Him. When the pressures of life seem like they’re squeezing you and will crush you, there is your Savior pushing back. We read in Galatians 2:20, It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in Me. He gives you power to say no and yes at the right times. He gives you power to proclaim what is true and what is false, and with all the voices of false religion out there, to be able to discern what is true and what is false. His strength and power are there for you more closely than any friend.
This closeness is emphasized in verse 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feed on Me will live because of Me. You cannot get any closer than the relationship of Jesus and the Father. He says elsewhere in John, I and My Father are one. That is what He is comparing His relationship with you. This is incredible to contemplate!
We need to see Him in other Christians as well. Saul was imprisoning and persecuting Christians, yet when Jesus spoke to Him to in Acts 9, He said, Why are you persecuting Me? In Matthew 25 He says, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. So however you act toward your fellow Christian, whether it is good or bad, you are doing it to Christ. How much more fulfilling our relationships would be if we could remember that Christ is also in our fellow Christians.
There are endless options for eating when it comes to our stomachs. No less so when it comes to our souls. Eat of the Living Bread that is Christ by consuming Him by faith and your soul will be satisfied unto everlasting life. Amen.