Pentecost 1318 (PR 15) – “What Are You Eating?” John 6:51-69
Pentecost 1318 (PR 15) – “What Are You Eating?” John 6:51-69
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Gospel account of St John, the 6th Chapter:
“Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.””
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Most Friday nights we have a family dinner. There is an open invitation to our children and their families to join us for a meal and an activity. Those who are available come over and we have a good night around the dinner table.
The week before we get together there is always a question that is asked. You probably can guess what that question is – “What are we eating?” Well usually we eat fairly well. There may be grilled hamburgers and brats, or meat loaf, or spaghetti and meat balls, or tacos and salsa. Sometimes the food may not be to everyone’s liking, but there is usually something for everyone to eat. They have to try it even if they may not like. This is especially true if you have the courage to make a face or a comment when the food is placed on the table. When that happens there are no options. You can’t say yuck and get away unscathed.
Jesus gives an open invitation to a meal. This meal is different than the meals we know. The menu for this meal has only one entrée and one drink. It seems to be a simple meal and drink. Yet, when the Jews heard Jesus offering this meal, they turned up their noses at the thought of eating it. Jesus is offering these people something had never eaten or drank before. They were not curious about how the meal would taste. They were not interested in how they were to eat the meal. No, they were immediately turned off by the menu. They wanted nothing of the good food which Jesus offered to them.
People will sometimes think the food they are given is not the right food. They might hear someone else say the food is terrible. They might hear someone else say the food has no flavor. They might hear someone else say the food doesn’t look very appetizing. They might hear someone simply say I don’t like that food and they never will put the food to their lips.
They won’t put the food to their lips because they are afraid what others say will be true. They are afraid the taste will be off. They are afraid color or texture of the food will make the food inedible. They are afraid the food will not be what they like.
Growing up in a large family this was sometimes the case. The older children would influence the younger children when it came to what we ate for dinner. The younger children would hear the older children complain to mom about what was for dinner and they would not want to eat the meal that was prepared. However, our opinions didn’t hold any water when it came to mom or dad. What was set out on the table was all there was to eat. If you had a plate and silverware in front of you, the plate received the food and the silverware lifted the food to our mouth.
In contrast to this, God always gives us good gifts. The food Jesus offers is the bread of heaven. Jesus says this is true bread. This true bread is His flesh which Jesus will give for the life of the world. When we hear this bread being the true bread this does not mean that the bread we normally eat is not bread, fake bread. The English word does not give us the full meaning of the word in the original language.
When Jesus speaks of His flesh being true bread, we must think of this bread as being superior bread. Superior in quality and benefit to bread that is normally eaten. The bread we buy or make indeed sustains life and gives nourishment. There are many different types of bread we can buy or make but they do not compare to the bread which Jesus gives. His bread is superior. The bread we buy is inferior.
What is the difference? Consider earthly bread. This bread must be eaten again and again. Its nourishment lasts briefly. When the calories and nourishment is consumed and used up, the hunger that moved us to eat will return. Now consider the bread of Jesus flesh. Jesus says this bread is living bread. This living bread not only sustains life, but also gives life. The life spoken of is eternal life. It is life after this world is destroyed. It is life given only by God to those who eat the bread offered by Jesus.
More than that, Jesus also speaks of true drink. This true drink is His blood. In the same way, we drink water and other drinks to sustain our body and life. When we have consumed and used the water we drink to quench our thirst, this does not last. We become thirsty again. We need to quench the thirst again. We need to drink the water again.
However, Jesus blood being true drink is superior to the water of this world. There is a thirst which cannot be addressed by the water o this world. It is the thirst for righteousness and salvation. It is a thirst for life to continue even when faced with death and the grave. Such a desire is part of our being. God created us with a strong will to live. This is nowhere more evident when you are at the bedside of a family member or friend who is close to death. They struggle to live until their last breath leaves their body.
Why is it this way? It is this way because God created us to live forever. It was the blessing given to Adam and Eve when they were formed of the dust of the earth. They were created to walk in eternal fellowship with God and with each other. Life was not to end in death. Death is not a natural part of creation, but an enemy who comes to all because of our disobedience. Such disobedience does not erase the will to live.
We want to live but we need the food and drink that will give life. That food and drink is Jesus flesh and blood. Many people are offended at these words. They do not understand the words of Jesus. They fail to even ask the questions whose answers will remove the offense. How is Jesus going to feed people His flesh and give His blood for them to drink? This is not the true question. The true question is what does it mean to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink Jesus’ blood?
At first glance we may think Jesus is speaking of Holy Communion. These words are sacramental in a sense, but they do not direct us immediately to Holy Communion. To understand we must return to the words of Jesus earlier in this same chapter of John’s Gospel account. The 35 verse of this chapter give us the understanding Jesus teaches. Hear those words of Jesus. He says, “I am the bread of life, the one coming to me shall never hunger, and the one believing in me shall never thirst at any time.” Jesus says of His Father’s will, “This is the will of my Father that everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I shall raise him in the last day.”
So we are to understand, Jesus is talking about faith in the One who gives His life for the life of the world. As Jesus progresses in his speaking with the Jews and with us, the connection between faith and eating becomes stronger. Jesus begins with less forceful words for eating and in this passage uses a word for eating that speaks of fellowship with others in a meal that is eaten.
This fellowship meal begins with the Father drawing sinners to see the sacrifice for sin and believe that sacrifice is Jesus. The Gospel account of John begins with this proclamation and command, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Look upon this lamb in faith and see your salvation, your forgiveness, your eternal life. Look upon the Lamb of God in faith and you will be raised from death on the Last Day and be ushered in to eternal fellowship with God.
The table is set for you. The meal is prepared for you. There is a place at God’s table for you. This same God will turn your heart and mind to see and rejoice in what is prepared for your eternal life. The Son will feed you true bread and give you true water to drink. He restore and renew you through Word and Sacrament and prepare you for the feast that is yet to come.
What are you eating? What are you drinking? May you always eat the true bread and drink the true drink given you in Jesus the Bread of Heaven.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.