Friday, August 10, 2012

John 6:41 – 51; The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost; August 12, 2012;


Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston Iowa;

41So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I 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.” John 6:41-51 (ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sometimes when you read these texts that are assigned for us to read, it’s kind of hard to figure out what’s going on. Sometimes that’s because you don’t have the whole story. I think that’s the case here with the Gospel for today. It seems to be talking about bread. Jesus says, he’s ‘the bread come down from heaven.’ But to really understand what’s going on here it’s important to know what been going on right before…

John, the Gospel writer, tells us about the great crowds are following Jesus at this time in his ministry. He’s attracting lots of attention because people who gather around him are coming away healed from diseases. Blind people can see again, and crippled people are walking. You can understand it; even in our day we will go great distances to be healed. Just think of how far people will go to get to Mayo clinic.

So on this occasion, John tells us, a very large crowd had gathered because it was close to the Passover. Jesus pointed at the crowd as they were gathering and asked his disciples. “Where will we buy food to feed all these people?”

“What? Philip complained. “You’ve got to be kidding, it’d take 8 months to earn enough to even give this crowd just a bite each!”

Andrew spoke up next, “Well, I don’t know about the crowd but here’s a boy whose brought his own lunch. It’s pretty small, five small loaves and two small fish. It’s not going to go very far!”

“Have everyone sit down.” Jesus instructed. You see, Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do and was setting up the disciples to learn a new lesson. He took the loaves and fish and blessed them and began to pass the small lunch around. Amazingly, that little lunch basket didn’t empty out, instead everyone there was fed. Jesus has used a small lunch to feed a great crowd. And they all had all they wanted to eat.

“Now,” Jesus said continuing the lesson, “gather up the leftovers, nothing should be wasted.” And the disciples gathered 12 baskets of bread and fish from the 5 and 2. And when the people realized what had happened they went wild, “This is a guy we’ve gotta have as our King. Look at what he can do. We’ll never go starving again!” But Jesus slipped away to the other side of the lake, so they wouldn’t make him the king.

But eventually, the next day, they found him again, and crowded around again. Jesus spoke to them again. “You’re looking for me because I fed you, yesterday. But that food, that bread and fish, is the kind that spoils. That’s not the kind of food you should be looking for. What your really need is the bread that comes down from heaven.” It’s as if he was saying, “You need bread to eat to live, but what you really need is to believe in me, to ‘eat my flesh,’ then you’ll really live.”

Now you see, this text makes a whole lot more sense when you know what happened before. You see the people there were grumbling, because Jesus says he is “the bread come down from heaven.” It offended them, when Jesus said what they needed was not bread to fill their stomachs, but the bread that he offered. That meant to believe in him. “Wait a minute!” they grumbled, “What’s this guy saying? He’s the bread from heaven? He’s just the son of Joseph the carpenter, and Mary, his wife. We know them. He’s just a neighborhood boy. He didn’t ‘come down from heaven’ He was born in the normal way.” He may have been a miracle worker but still he was just the neighborhood boy, born in a small nowhere town. What they expected from God is not an ordinary looking man, but an extraordinary, spectacular showing of God. This can’t be God! He’s far too ordinary.

Don’t we complain about how God comes to us, too? We want to make himself present among us through extraordinary ‘spiritual’ experiences. We want to see God in a flashy display of Glory, God showing himself in some visible power in our lives. We want the mountain top experience in worship and have a tendency to think if we don’t ‘feel’ God’s presence that must mean he’s not active here. We want God to show himself in our lives by doing something big, like taking away our illness, or making us successful, or solving out family problems. But “We preach Christ Crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.

Jesus Christ comes to us regularly in very ordinary non-spiritual looking ways. He comes to us in Water and Word in baptism. When we watch a baptism we see only a baby (or adult) getting water poured on their head. He comes to us in plain looking bread and wine, he comes to us through preaching, the ordinary human voice. It all doesn’t look like much and not particularly special. It is by faith alone that we see that Jesus Christ here. It was by faith alone that people standing before Jesus saw “God’ son” instead of the Son of Joseph.

It was God’s Son there in with the crowd in flesh and blood: God himself, in true humanity, in Jesus Christ. They didn’t know who Jesus was because they didn’t recognize his true father. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” They said. They rejected the idea that God could be man. But only through the man Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does the Father come to us and are we drawn to the Father. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Jn 14:6 ESV)” We shouldn’t expect to see God anyplace else.

It’s what we find here, Jesus speaking His Word to us in ordinary human voices; Jesus washing us clean with His Word and water in baptism; Jesus, giving us the forgiveness He won on the cross through his very body and blood, in, with, and under ordinary bread and wine. Here is where we find the bread of life to eat.

It’s an offense to human ears to hear that this is how God works. And not only is it an offense but it’s impossible to believe. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Jesus says. You cannot know who the Father is, except in the flesh of him who was sent from the Father. Many of us memorized the words of Martin Luther from the small catechism: “I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel.” Believing in this flesh and blood Jesus, trusting in him you have eternal life, not only for your future but right here and now. People become Christians, that is they come to faith in Jesus, not by human will, power or choosing, but by God’s will, power and choosing. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9, ESV) It is hearing the word of God, the Good News of the real, flesh and blood Jesus Christ that creates faith in human beings. That is how we eat the bread of life. That is how God draws people to himself. By giving us the Good News of Jesus Christ, living, dying and rising again. It comes through the cross of Jesus Christ, offensive as it may be.

Bread that we eat every day, earthly food, only lasts for a short time. It only keeps us alive for a little while. But Jesus Christ, ‘the bread come down from heaven’ is bread that lasts forever. “If anyone eats of the bread I give they will live forever.” Jesus isn’t just talking in spiritual or symbolic terms either. He says, “This bread is my flesh.” To eat the bread he offers is to take part in the flesh he gave on the cross. When we eat the bread he offers, we believe in Jesus Christ, who came into the world ‘in the flesh’ as God and man.

Even though Jesus isn’t talking about the Lord’s Supper here, exactly. I don’t think we can stop today without talking about the connection there is to it. Just think about it. He says, “50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.” Jesus talks about eating his flesh in faith, and you will not die. “Here is my flesh, standing before you, suffering on the cross, rising again from death. Believe in me and you will not die.” And Jesus says right here Sundays Jesus Christ says, “This is my body, this is my blood. Here at this altar is the bread that comes down from heaven. Here is forgiveness given through the same flesh and blood that hung on the cross to die, so that one may eat of it and not die.” It’s not just spiritual eating, it real physical eating. It’s not just spiritual nourishment, but physical nourishment. Just as we eat food to live at our own table, Jesus gives us his food to eat at his table. He gives us his very body and blood, ‘bread from heaven’. At our table we eat to live for a little while, at His table he gives us food to live forever.

In the Old Testament reading, Elijah was supplied food that he ate ordinary food and water and it sustained him for 40 days. It didn’t look like anything special at all, yet it was what he needed to go on. God gives us bread here in worship that we can really live on. That food is The Bread of Life, come down from heaven. Jesus Christ is the bread that sustains us not just for 40 days, but also for eternity. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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