Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / August 16th / John 6:51-69 / Even More Of The Bread Of Life
Even More Bread You Didn't Make - The Bread of Life: Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / John Chapter 6 Part 3. (John 6:51-69)
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 like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as He taught at Capernaum.
When many of His disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.) And He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted Him by the Father.”
After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Like last week, our Gospel reading begins where the previous lesson ended, Jesus says, "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.” And with those words Jesus drew a line in the sand. The obvious question that erupts out of these words is this, "do you believe them?" Do you believe the one who said them? The one who uses me this day to say them to you, because these words are just as much for you as they were for those first people who heard them.
"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.”
Our text tells us that upon hearing these words, "The Jews then disputed among themselves, [note they've moved from grumbling to disputing: they disputed among themselves ] saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”" Now remember those gathered around Jesus that day were all Jews, so basically what John is saying is that everyone there who heard these words asked, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” - 'is He going to cut off His arm and make us eat it?' 'What on earth can this Jesus mean when He says this?' Remember this whole conversation following the feeding of the 5,000, the feeding of the 5,000 with the five loaves of bread and the two fish, started with a discussion about faith and where the manna from heaven, that God gave the Children of Israel in the wilderness following His rescue of them from Egyptian slavery, had come from. They said Moses, Jesus said God, which is actually what the text of Scripture says. At any rate the whole thing is about faith - If Jesus says He will do it, do you believe that He will, if He says, "My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink." Do you believe Him?
Hit the pause button right there, we'll come back to that question. First take a moment to think about the Gospel of John. This conversation Jesus is having, that we look at today and have looked at for the previous two weeks, took place around the year 32AD, about a year before Jesus' crucifixion. So these people, including the Disciples, including the twelve men Jesus had handpicked to be His closest disciples, none of them knew anything about Holy Communion. Holy Communion was instituted by Jesus on the night He was betrayed by one of those twelve, Judas Iscariot, so it hadn't happened yet. Holy Communion wasn't a thing yet.
Now keep in mind Saint John, who was there that day, is no court stenographer; he's no investigative journalist furiously taking down every word of Jesus in a note pad: As John later describes it in the Gospel of John, he says, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name." In the Gospel of Luke as they were hiding in fear, the resurrected Jesus came to John and the remaining disciples who were present that day, locked in the upper room on that first Easter Day, and while Jesus was speaking with them He, "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" so that they would know “that everything written about [Him] in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” [And had been fulfilled in their witnessing] Then [Jesus], and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."
Now they had all been eye witnesses of the ministry and teaching and miracles of Jesus, John had even been at the foot of the cross with Mary as Jesus died, and as Saint Peter puts it, "we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty." So what does this mean, John wrote the Gospel of John not as dear diary entries along the way, but with the Scriptures opened to him by Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit John wrote the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John was almost the very last of the books of the Bible that was written. He wrote it after the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were written and John knew about those Gospels as He wrote his.
Why is this important? Well like I said the people who were with Jesus that day had never heard of Holy Communion when Jesus says things like, "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,” and, "My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink," but the people, the Christians who first read the Gospel of John had heard of Holy Communion and had been receiving it for a generation or more in some cases. John himself would have at the very least received it every Sunday, every Lords day for almost 60 years before he sat down and wrote the Gospel of John.
For the hearers that day, when Jesus first was speaking of this, Jesus was pointing forward to Holy Communion, pointing forward to the placed where He would give His flesh to the world, pointing forward to the cross, and it is that same body that hung on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins that you eat in Holy Communion, you receive that very same Jesus today as He comes to you with the bread and the wine. What Jesus said that day was something we often call foreshadowing, Jesus was foreshadowing Holy Communion to them, and in His foreshadowing, in His hinting-pointing-prophesying Jesus is asking - 'do you believe this?' 'do you believe these words?' Do you believe that "My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink," and that, "If anyone eats of this bread, [they] will live forever." 'Do you believe it?'
For the readers of the Gospel of Saint John Communion is something they've received instruction on. They've been baptized. Catechized. They've confessed their sins and received absolution, forgiveness. And they know that in Holy Communion Jesus comes to them with His forgiveness and gives Himself and His forgiveness directly to them personally and not to someone else, to them for no one can receive Holy Communion for you, you receive it from Christ yourself for you. Just as no one can be baptized in your place, the Words are spoken into your ears and the water is applied to your body and not to another's. Just as the Holy Food of the Lord's Supper is put in Your hands and taken by mouth by you and you alone. So when they read the Gospel of John in Chapter six it is hardly possible that they would not have thought of Holy Communion as they heard these words from Jesus.
There is a directness to this, just as there is a directness to everything Jesus is saying in our Gospel lesson today. So we've already sort of un-paused the pause button. We've come back around to that question of whether Jesus will do this thing of which He speaks, when He says, "My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink." We've already come back around to that question of whether you believe that He has done it and still does it today. Again this is that dividing line, the line He draws in the sand with His words. The Jews as a whole that day disputed this amongst themselves and even those closest to Jesus were now grumbling about it so Jesus says to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?"
Some find the teaching that Jesus is really physically present in Holy Communion to be an offensive thing even today, there are some Christians even that prefer to think that Jesus is only symbolically present in The Supper. For us, here in this place, we take Jesus at His word when He says, “Take, eat; this is My body.” We take Jesus at His word when He takes the cup, gives thanks, gives it to us and says, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." We take Jesus at His word when He say is, "this is My body," "this is My blood." He is the one who makes it so, it is not made so by what we think, or what we feel. It is though taken in faith, we eat it in faith, if you don't believe it what can you receive from it? Faith clings to what Jesus gives and the Holy Spirit gives the faith by which we cling. Today little Curtis is given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of faith, and you in your baptism have been given this same gift, and by it we cling to Jesus' words.
When Jesus says, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?" He says, if you don't believe Me when I tell you this teaching how will you believe when you see Me standing before you after I've been risen from the dead? How will you believe when you see Me ascend to the right hand of the Father, My Father in heaven?
Because this was all very hard for them, "many of His disciples [who had started following Jesus in those days] turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” [And] Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Now we come full circle, two weeks ago I ended the sermon talking about how there were these words written down on a scrap of paper, that Dr. Martin Luther had in his pocket on his deathbed, “We are beggars; this is true.” I had said to you that we are the ones, the beggars, who know where to get the Bread of life, where to get Jesus, Saint Peter is saying the same thing when he says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life," that is why the twelve stuck with Jesus and that is why we are here today.
When Jesus says of Himself, "This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Whoever feeds on Him will live forever. Jesus is pointing out a hard truth. When you eat your food each day it keeps you alive, should you stop eating food you would starve and die. The food that Jesus gives in Holy Communion, His very body and blood, is a physical food yes, but it is at one and the same time also a spiritual food, as a Christian if you refuse to eat this food you will spiritually starve and you will be in danger of spiritual death. Avoiding the communion rail, avoiding the Word of God preached, avoiding Jesus who gives Himself to you is dangerous. If you have drifted away, if you have avoided the gifts He gives, if you have grown cold in your heart, if these words have felt hard today, fear not you have forgiveness in Christ Jesus. In our lives, in our world, we don't need less of God's Word, less preaching the Gospel, less Holy Communion, less Jesus, we need more. For it is Jesus and Jesus alone, with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, who has "the words of eternal life." You will find them nowhere else. Come follow Jesus and receive what He was for you: forgiveness and eternal life in Him.
If you are not currently receiving Holy Communion here at Mount Olive come talk to me, I would love to help you, and teach you, to prepare you, to start to receive this gift of Jesus' and if you have no Church home where you receive this gift, I would love to talk to you about that too. If you know someone who needs a church home, who needs the gifts of forgiveness and strength that comes in Holy Communion and they are starving alone in the wilderness bring them here so they can feed on Jesus, hear His Word and have Holy Communion. Invite them saying, "come, taste and see that the LORD is good." This is for you, it is for them, it's for everyone. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 John 20:30-31
 Luke 24:44-47
 2 Peter 1:16
 Matthew 26:26-28