Pentecost 13B: August 20, 2006 – The Living Bread

22 Aug

**Due to a clerical error, our Gospel readings for Pentecost 11 and Pentecost 13 got switched.**

Text: John 6:51-58

The Living Bread

mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for the sermon this morning comes
from the Gospel which was read earlier.

If you ask
my wife, she will tell you that I like food, maybe even a little too much. While food is good, good food is even better. Give me a nice steak and I’ll call that good food. I can live off of sandwiches if I had to, but
I can live a lot better off of a good piece of steak.

In our text
for today, Jesus makes a statement that is a hard statement for the disciples
and other listeners in the Capernaum synagogue to swallow: “I am the living
bread that came down from heaven. If
anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”
Their attitude toward Jesus of Nazareth had
undergone a dramatic change since only the previous evening. Just a few miles away and only a few hours
before, Christ had fed five thousand men with five small barley loaves and two
small fish. At that time He filled the
role of Messiah much to the liking of the Jews. They wanted an earthly king. They
wanted a leader who would feed them by miraculous means every day. So when Jesus withdrew from the crowds and
returned to Capernaum,
many followed Him.

Those who
sought earthly bread from an earthly king were very disappointed once they
caught up with Jesus back in Capernaum,
however. He gave them no new miracles.
He produced not a single new loaf of miracle-bread. Instead He used their curiosity to go into a
discourse on much more important matters. “I
am the bread of life,”
He announced. This was a “hard teaching” for many; it still is. Yet it is a Gospel gem for those who hunger
for eternal life.

The Jews
had been trying to get another miracle out of Jesus. They had been talking about how the Lord had
once fed their forefathers with manna. Still impressed by that event in the desert many centuries earlier, they
challenged Jesus, “Can you top this?” So Jesus reminded them of something
they were overlooking: their forefathers had died. Even with a steady diet of
manna from heaven, an entire generation of their ancestors had died!

So it is
the same with us. All the food in the
world will fill our stomachs in this life, but in the end, we will still be
hungry. Only the “living bread from heaven,” Jesus Christ and His Word sustain life
for all eternity. Manna was limited to
Jewish fathers in the wilderness. It
could not give life. In fact, it could
not sustain life lastingly for the people died a temporal death. But the Bread of Life, heavenly in nature, is
for all men. It does not allow spiritual
death; in fact it gives eternal life.

The Jews
couldn’t accept it. They didn’t
understand what it was that Jesus was saying. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They
didn’t understand what was to come with His death and resurrection. They didn’t understand at all. Did they think He was urging
cannibalism? There might have been some
who found the concept of Jesus Christ as their bread of life much too hard to
swallow. They preferred the bread
of their own righteousness to the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  For
them, He was too much a flesh-and-blood person like themselves to be
their Bread of Life. 

How often do we too misunderstand? Can we grasp the concept of what it is that
Jesus Christ is offering to us? Of
course we can’t grasp what it is that He is offering us. Can we truly understand how He so willingly
sacrificed His life for us? Can we truly
understand what how when in just a few moments when we come to the Lord’s
Table, in simple bread and wine we will receive forgiveness of sins in Christ’s
body and blood?

What Jesus says is very
disconcerting to the non-Christian, but very comforting to the Christian. “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.”
Those who do not eat and drink the
crucified Son of God can be certain of their status. Christ speaks to them directly: “You have no life in you.” He voices a
similar warning later in John: “I told
you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I
claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”
That is what is available to those outside of
Christ; death. But for those who eat
Christ’s flesh and drinks His blood, they have eternal life.

This is the
joy of every Christian; life everlasting with the Bread of Life. The food the world provides is temporal and
will only last a short time. It will
sustain our needs in this world, but the things of this world cannot and will
not sustain us in the life to come in Christ. We rely solely on the Word of God and His life-giving Sacraments to
sustain us.

For those
listening to Jesus’ words, every word He spoke sounded stranger and
stranger. Did He really mean that His
body was bread? Did He really mean that
I had to eat His flesh in order to have life? Those at the synagogue were asking these and more of these types of
questions, trying to understand what exactly it was that Jesus meant. They still saw Jesus as a man and only a
man. He was to be their Jewish King, and
He was. However, He wasn’t King of the
Jews as they thought that He would be. His kingdom wasn’t an earthly kingdom. It never was supposed to be that way. He even told them that His kingdom was not of this earth, but they
didn’t understand that either. Jesus
Christ is more than just a man. He is true
God and true man. Since He is true God
and true man, it is He alone that is able to sacrifice Himself for our
sins. It is He alone that is able to
feed us with His body and His blood to sustain our bodies, but more importantly
sustain our souls and our faith.

Jesus makes
claims that only He can make: "For my flesh is real food and my blood
is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh
and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 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.”
is this bread and wine that gives life! Because of this meal that we eat, we remain
in Christ; in essence, we have life in Him. We have life in Him because the Father has sent Him. The Father sent the Son to defeat sin once
and for all, to restore humanity to its original intended position: as sons and
daughters of God.

This flesh and blood of Jesus Christ
will give to all who eat it eternal life. On the last day, we will be raised to life. That is the gift that all Christians and all
believers in Christ can look forward to. That is the gift that comes only from “the bread that came down from
The food of this world will
pass away, but the bread of life will sustain us forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Now the peace of God which passes
all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ
Jesus. Amen.

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