1 Kings 19: 4-8
Psalm 34: 1-8
Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2
John 6: 41-51
“Bread of Life: Part 2”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Today we continue with our four part sermon series, Bread of Life: Part 2.
In the Gospel last week we read that the crowds that followed Jesus only did so because of their stomachs and not because of the miraculous sign of Jesus feeding five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish. They followed Jesus and Jesus called them out for following their stomach rather their hearts, telling them that instead of following perishable things they should follow imperishable things. Instead of follow for food that sustains for only a while, follow food that sustains eternally. And that He, the Son of God, will give this eternal food. The crowd was excited for this everlasting food and asked how they could acquire it; what do they need to do? So Jesus said faith is all you need. He then also told them that He was the Bread of Life.
So this whole time, all the way up to the point that Jesus said He was the Bread of Life, revealing this bread to be a who rather a what, the crowds was of the misguided belief that Jesus was talking about something you consume. To tell the truth, they weren’t wrong, but that’s a topic for next week. So when Jesus identified himself to be the Bread of Life rather some consumable good, the Jews became disgruntled. Though their initial disgruntlement wasn’t because Jesus claimed to be food, it was because He claimed to come down from Heaven.
You see, these Jews who followed Jesus knew of Jesus and his family. Most knew his parents Mary and Joseph the carpenter. Thus they knew Jesus to be the oldest child of this family. Yes, he is a wise child, and probably a prophet of God. They knew that he was born from Mary and they witnessed Him grow up to the wise man He is today. They initially followed Him because of His wisdom and knowledge of Scripture and the great things He has done. And now they follow Him because of their bellies. So when they heard Jesus claiming to come down from heaven they grumbled because they knew His background and where He came from, how He was raised, and who raised Him.
How can He claim to come down from heaven to the very people who witnessed Him grow in wisdom. How can He claim to us who know his upbringing that He came down from heaven? Does He take us to be fools? Yet we know Jesus to be very wise, so how could say something so foolish Himself such as claiming to descend from heaven? So they grumbled; either second guessing their lofty opinion of Jesus, or trying to decipher Jesus’ words, or figure out if they accidentally misheard Him. Regardless, they were at the very least uncomfortable with what they thought they just heard leave Jesus’ lips. How could He claim to come down from heaven?
So Jesus provided a short speech. Reiterating that He is indeed the Bread of Life, Jesus tells the crowds that He was not only sent by the Father, but that only those who have heard and learned from the Father comes to Him. Basically, unless the Father wills it you will not believe in who I am, but if you come to me with faith that is because the Father has willed it. Had Jesus of stopped there we would probably hear of the Jesus grumbling again, but Jesus kept of speaking. Yet if the Jews did grumble it is because they would feel as if Jesus is smacking them offside the head with a heavy and seemingly disrespectful lesson. We are close to the Father, and we have heard of Him and learn from His great Scripture. Are you calling us, those who do not believe you to be from heaven, liars? Quite frankly, yes, though you may not be aware of the false shadowy realm of a lie you live in.
The reason why no one can believe in Christ, so not just the Jews but all people, is because of the veil of sin that closes our eyes to reality. The dominion of sin that we are born in, under original sin, prevents us, slaves of Satan, to ever realize of our own free will that Jesus is Christ, that He is the Son of God sent from Heaven not to condemn the world but to free us from sin. He came to save us, and this is the truth, but the shadow of sin prevents us from seeing this but rather only see a lie. So if we claim that Jesus of Nazareth did not come down from heaven then yes we are speaking a lie, though unintentionally, yet still a lie. For this is what Martin Luther says in the small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel.” We cannot believe by our own power, yet through the Holy Spirit, the Father draws us to believe that Jesus is Christ. It is for this reason that Jesus tells us that, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
So without the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, it would neigh impossible for any of the Jews, most especially those who witnessed Jesus’ growth, to believe that Jesus came down from heaven, sent by God the Father, with Him being God the Son. So how could Jesus fault the Jews who followed Him? He doesn’t but instead simply tells them not to grumble, and that the Father will draw them into believing. Instead of damning those present who have trouble believing, Jesus provides promises of hope for all who merely believes. He says that He will raise them up on the last day and that they will have eternal life.
God the Father provided the Jews many things in their times of struggle. After they escaped Egypt, when the Hebrews starved in the wilderness, God graciously provided for them manna and many other gifts so as to sustain their aching bellies. God did not abandon His people but looked after them throughout their long journey till they eventually found themselves at the Land of milk and honey. And here they didn’t conquer the land, in fact they were prevented from simply entering the land. So God conquered this land and didn’t just gift it to the Hebrews but also deemed them the rightful rulers of this land known as Israel, now and forever. God the Father provided them Israel. And then later in the history of the Jews after the prophet Elijah ran for his life from Jezebel, Queen of Israel, who ordered his death, God provided substance for Elijah. Elijah asked for death, but instead God provided him with hope.
These are all examples of God’s providence to his people, but they all pale in comparison to the most ultimate gift God the Father provides, His own Son who is the source of eternal life. And next to this gift is the faith to believe in Jesus Christ, a faith that can only come from the Holy Spirit. So worry not, faith in Him comes not from within, for faith in of itself is also a gift provided by God the Father, and it is through this gift that you are drawn to the real source of eternal life, the Bread of Life, He who is sent from God.
And again who is this Bread of Life? Who is it that was sent by God the Father from heaven down to earth? Why Jesus Christ from Nazareth, son of Mary and Joseph.
Again, Jesus gave the Jews no time to grumble, for as he speed right through this proclamation which would have most definitely cause the Jews grief, he blazed right into an even more troublesome topic. He started to harp down on the very fact that the point of bread is to be consumed. By claiming He came down from Heaven the Jews temporarily forgot that Jesus claimed to be the Bread of life, bread, a consumable. So now Jesus is bringing to the forefront this controversial subject; one that has not only troubled the Jews to no end but has troubled Christians to this day. What did Jesus say?
“This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.”
Jesus gave up his own flesh on the cross, as a living sacrifice, so that all who believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. He did this not for a select few, but for the whole world, to free all who believe in Him. This much we now is true, but why did he say, “If anyone eats of this bread”? Next week we will dive into this for the Jews will once again grumble with horror at the notion that Jesus is demanding cannibalism.
Instead I leave you with this. When Jesus presented the bread and wine during that Last Supper He said this is my body, and this is my blood, and then commanded us to eat and drink. We also know that Jesus is the bread of Life and when we eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, we are receiving the promise of Christ into our bodies; the promise of eternal life. Thus as we take communion, and to all who are baptized I ask that you do take communion, know this, by eating the bread and drinking the wine you proclaiming that you believe in Jesus and through the receiving of His body and blood are also receiving a portion of his grace, a foretaste of the feast to come, spiritual sustenance, the strength to keep on believing, and hope in his many promises.
“If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you have blessed us greatly with your Son who came as a living Sacrifice for all sin. Though we may have trouble believing in Him and in Communion, you and only you have drawn us into belief and have granted us the faith necessary to receive Christ always. We ask that you continually sustain our faith through Communion, and that your Spirit draws more and more to your altar table. In name we pray, Amen.