Jesus the Bread of Life, does that offend you John 6: 51-69 First St Johns August 16, 2015

[For audio version of this sermon, click on above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who rejoice in eating the true Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ said …  AMEN!

It’s interesting to note, that this is an issue, the Body and Blood of Jesus, that was there right from the beginning. You might find it interesting that the majority of Christians world-wide, believe that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, really is about the true Body and Blood of Jesus. It’s American Christianity that has really undermined that believe, albeit abetted by people like Zwingli who was Swiss and James Arminius who was Dutch. None of the churches that come from them have really taken root in Europe, but they have in the United States and other parts of the world. There are variations, the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican/ Episcopalian and Lutheran churches do hear Jesus’ real words in the Scripture. “…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.” Saint Paul is very clear, not only is true life only in Jesus’ Body and Blood, but for those who don’t accept Jesus’ words he writes: “ESV 1 Corinthians 11:27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” Now if you take that to the logical extension, if we are taking His Body into our Body, then we sustain, in us, the Body of Christ that we are a part of, in His church. If we, being His church, His Body, the church is the Body of Christ, and we take His Body in order to be forgiven, to have true life in His Body, doesn’t that mean that only those who understand being a part of the true Body of Christ would take His Body to their benefit? If someone is not a part of the Body of Christ, taking His Body is not going to do them any good and St Paul is quite clear: “ESV 1 Corinthians 11:29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. ESV 1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Not only is this not doing them any good, but according to St Paul will actually do harm. Why, as a Christian pastor, would I allow someone to harm themselves in something that for those who are in Jesus does give forgiveness and does save to eternal life, but for those who don’t believe this, they may be harmed? This quote from the Lutheran Study Bible: “…the Sacrament unites the participants both to Christ’s Eucharistic Body and Blood as well as to their fellow participants. Union with Christ results in union with one another… This unity is emphasized in particular because of the actions of some in Corinth who were destroying the faith of those ‘for whom Christ died.”[1] We want people to be a part of the Body of Christ, His church. I certainly want people to accept and believe the true Gospel, that Jesus sacrificed His Body in order for us to be saved. When we eat His Body we have forgiveness and spiritual strengthening in Him, His flesh and His sacrifice as payment for our sins and to give us the assurance of eternal life in Him, in His Body. That is what His Body and Blood are all about. But for those who think that it is only a remembrance, a ceremony to go through, they are not going to receive His Body to their benefit. St Paul is very clear and I have no reason to think otherwise!

We understand what the issue is today. Let’s face it, at the point that Jesus is telling this to His disciples and this is not just limited to the twelve, no one really understands except for those who the Holy Spirit has given faith in Jesus’ words. Look back at verse 22, it refers to the crowd. This is most, if not all of the people, 5,000 men and at least that many or more of women and children that Jesus just fed with bread and fish. Where it says: “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ and when Jesus confronts them about their “grumbling” and challenges them, saying: “Do you take offense at this?” The answer is, “Ah, ya, we do take offense” and as verse 66 says: “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” They knew perfectly well what He said, and they were frankly, freaked out about it. I honestly cannot say I blame them for their reaction. Jesus is definitely springing this on them. He really is just blurting this right out of nowhere. However, when Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man”, He wasn’t fudging His words, He wasn’t mumbling. When Jesus says “truly”, that’s the way it is. When He says “truly, truly” not only is that the way it is, but ya, it may be a little tough to take, but that is the way it is and you need to accept that the only way you can deal with it is to know that the Holy Spirit will give you the faith to deal with it.

When these disciples picked up and walked away, Jesus didn’t chase after them. “Woe, wait a minute there, hey this is just a lesson, a simile, a symbol, you’re not really drinking my blood and eating my flesh, I’m not trying to gross you out here, just making a point.” Jesus meant what He said, this is my actual Body and this is my actual Blood and the huge crowd that was following Him around exactly understood what He was saying and they just could not accept what He said and realize that God the Son, Jesus, was telling them that ya, there is a whole new paradigm in effect and if you have faith in me, if you are willing to accept what I say, and you play out the rest of the game, you will understand why this has to be the way I’ve told you. Jesus confronted the twelve and point blank challenged them: “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter is the stand-up guy this time and makes it abundantly clear that he accepts what Jesus is saying and while Peter might be a little freaked out about it also, the Holy Spirit acted on Peter at that very moment and gave him the faith that he needed in order to accept this seemingly bizarre statement and hang in with Jesus on it: “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.” The reading goes on, Jesus then blurts out, “one of you is the devil”, which seems to mean, that ya, you guys get it, but there’s one here that’s just going through the motions. There are many people today who are just going through the motions and do it, but don’t believe it. I have to believe that Jesus gave the big old, fisherman, Peter, a big smile and an arm around the shoulder to hear Peter’s answer. Way to go Peter, someone does get it.

I close with this quote from Cyril of Alexandria: “How he will give them his flesh to eat he does not yet tell them, for he knew they were in darkness and would never in that state be able to understand what is ineffable … But the power of learning suitably follows on those who believe … It was therefore right that faith should first be rooted in them before understanding … And it is for this reason (I suppose) that the Lord refrained from telling them how he would give them his flesh to eat, calling them to believe before they seek. For those who believed, however, he broke bread and gave it to them, saying: ‘Take, eat; this is my body.” … Do you see how he does not explain the mystery to those who had senselessly rejected the faith without investigation? But, to those who believe, he declares it most clearly.”[2]

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom.

[1] Lutheran Study Bible  p 1960

[2] Cyril of Alexandria quoted in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” Joel Elowsky editor pp 239-240Communion prepartion Jose Montalvo, Pastor Jim Driskell, Bob Seen

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