"Lamb and Wine"              John 6: 51-58                      August 16, 2009                 

 This is the fourth of a five-part series on Jesus as The Bread of Life. In today's text, Jesus says that while he is alive--he is the “living bread”--and yet-- even in death, -- his flesh and blood are “true food” and “true drink.”
Those who eat it and those who drink it “abide” in him and he in them. Whoever wants to “live forever” can do so and the food of such immortals is flesh and blood — his.

If this text sounds crazy, you can be sure that people who heard Jesus say these things were equally mystified. And, they asked precisely the same question we might ask today: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat. The answer to the question, “how,” is critical: Jesus gives us his flesh to eat by dying on a cross.
When a lamb is slaughtered as a sacrifice, it might end up as food for the poor or the priests. A criminal hanging on a cross may eventually become food for birds of prey. When Jesus dies, his body and blood become for us “spiritual” food that animates us, makes us whole, and enables us to “live forever.”
Jesus later revisits this theme in the upper room, and speaks the words of the Last Supper. These words would become the sacrament of Holy Communion, the most profound and enduring rite of the Christian church.
Luke 22:19-20:
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Jesus makes it clear that he is not dying for nothing. Those who follow Jesus, those who would “live forever,” must come to appreciate that his flesh and blood are their spiritual food.

These days, in many church settings and theological ivory towers, the language of blood and sacrifice is disdained. The so-called politically correct crowd has crowded out any words that might offend, but yet,--"without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin."
Hymns that plainly mention the blood of Christ or Calvary have gone out of favor and out of hymnals. Remember these?
            *Nothing but the blood (of Jesus)
            *Calvary covers it all
            *There's power in the blood
            *There is a fountain
            *Covered by the blood of Jesus
Maybe at the conclusion of this sermon series (and after I find them!) we'll focus a worship service on some of these old hymns.
Then again, think about this: When our congregation leaves worship, many of us will go home or to a restaurant and eat Sunday dinner. Often, a meat entrée takes center stage. Some may possibly have wine.
Food and drink. Meat and wine. These were the staples of most Jewish meals in Jesus’ day: lamb and wine.
When we eat meat, although we seldom think about it, a death and sacrifice have occurred. The meat we eat and the wine we drink will, for at least a day or so, sustain us. It will keep us alive, make us strong, and carry us forward to another day.
Similarly, Jesus argues that, “eating” his flesh and “drinking” his blood ( in the elements of communion: bread and wine ) sustain us, not just for another day, but “forever.”
Jesus is the bread. The whole of John 6 is really a lesson in artisan baking. At the beginning we read about the amazing feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and a couple of fish — basic nutrition provided on a mass scale. After they received this gift, the crowd pursues Jesus around to the other side of the lake (which He walked across) looking for more.
Like their Israelite ancestors, who received a daily portion of manna in the desert, the crowd is clamoring to be fed on a similar scale with “bread from heaven.”
But Jesus isn’t interested in making bread for subsistence; he is the Bread of Life — the “true bread from heaven … that which … gives life to the world” (vv. 32-33). He is bread conceived in the mind of a master Artisan.
In his own sacrifice on the cross, with his own flesh and blood, Jesus the Bread of Life is uniquely and incarnationally crafted to satisfy the recommended nutritional allowance for eternal life for all who feed on him and his words. His flesh and blood, freely offered for the salvation of the world, is “true bread” and “true drink” (v. 55).

The “true bread” that Jesus offers is the kind that brings people into a deep relationship with God. Breaking bread with someone was a sign of true intimacy in the ancient world — a sign that those who participated in the meal were bonded for life.

In a shocking, and unsettling, re-interpretation of this tradition, Jesus offers himself to the world as “bread” — the means through which God and humanity become bonded for eternal and abundant life.
“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 ... he who feeds on me will live forever” (v. 57-58 NIV).
“Feeding” on Jesus is a means of taking in all that he offers — the satisfying fullness of salvation, the daily nutrients of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the strength to live life to the full with an eternal perspective.  Let us pray . . .
Rev. Rosemary Stelz

  June 2021  
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