The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

August 19, 2018

John 6:51-58

It’s So Simple It Seems Difficult!

 

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.  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.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”   (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

As many of you have heard me say on more than one occasion, when I was at the Seminary my all time favorite professor was Dr. Siegbert Becker.  Dr. Becker taught a class called Dogmatics— which is the study of all the various dogma, all the various teachings, of the Bible.  Dr. Becker told us that one of the things he truly appreciated about the Christian faith is that it makes no sense!  All the other religions on the face of this earth are quite logical.  They either bring God down to a level where we human beings can understand Him and relate to Him, or they elevate us human beings to a level where we don’t really need God.  And when it comes to salvation every religion outside of the Biblical/Christian religion either teaches that we have nothing to worry about since there is no such thing as “sin,” or “hell” or the “devil,” or they teach that your salvation is dependant on what you do— a decision that you make or the works that you perform.  It’s all very logical!  The point Dr. Becker was striving to make is that since Christianity is not logical and since the Christian faith makes no sense to our mortal way of thinking all the dogma, all the teachings proclaimed in the Bible had to be revealed to us.  In other words, we never would have come up with this on our own!  (Holding up the Bible)

 

The reason I bring this up today, my friends, is that our sermon text for this morning can be very difficult to understand.  These words were difficult for the people to understand when Jesus first spoke them and they are still difficult for many people to understand today.  Therefore, my goal today is twofold.  First, I hope to help you understand what Jesus is not saying here in our text.  Then I hope to help you understand what Jesus is saying here in our text.  To that end let’s study this portion of Scripture under the theme:  It’s So Simple It Seems Difficult!

 

Our text for today is once again a part of what is commonly known as Jesus’ “Bread of Life Discourse.”  Jesus spoke these words the morning after He miraculously fed over 5,000 people with just five small barley loaves and two small fish.  You may recall that the people who saw Jesus perform that miracle were so intrigued by what He did that they wanted to make Him their “Bread King”— even if that meant doing so by force.  Now, the people wanted Jesus to perform even more miracles and show them even more power to prove to them that He was worthy of them putting their faith and trust in Him.  (See John 6:25-30)  That’s why Jesus tried to teach them that He is the Bread of Life who came down from heaven.

 

Look at what our Savior says in the opening verses of our text, “’I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’  Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”

 

It doesn’t take much to see that at least some of the people had no concept whatsoever of what Jesus was talking about.  They saw Jesus simply as “this man”— someone who perhaps was not all that different from them.  And did they actually think that Jesus was promoting cannibalism?  If that was indeed what they were thinking— well, they could not have been more mistaken!

 

How does Jesus respond to their question, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”?  Listen carefully to what Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.  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.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

 

There has been a good deal of debate in the church over what Jesus is talking about here.  Many people hear Jesus say, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” and they automatically think of— Communion!  We, of course, know from Scripture that in the Sacrament of Holy Communion we do indeed receive Jesus’ true body and Jesus’ true blood “in, with and under” the bread and the wine.  Is Jesus talking about Communion here in our text?  While at first glance it might seem as though Jesus is talking about the Lord’s Supper when we look a little closer it becomes clear that He is not talking about Communion here in John chapter six.  How do we know this?  Let me point out three things.

 

First, Jesus had not yet even instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  Therefore, it is highly unlikely that He would emphasize the sacramental eating of His body and blood before He had given this precious Sacrament to His Church.

 

Second, Jesus clearly brings out here in our text that “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood” is a requirement for eternal life.  Look at verse 53.  Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  Does the Bible teach and do we confess that a person must receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion in order to be saved?  The answer is:  No!

 

Third, Jesus guarantees here in our text, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  Does the Bible teach and do we confess that absolutely everyone who receives the Sacrament of Holy Communion is automatically guaranteed eternal life— no matter what?  Again the answer is:  No!  Scripture clearly teaches that a person can receive this Holy Supper to their own spiritual harm.  (See I Corinthians 11:27-29)  This is precisely why we follow the Scriptural practice called “Close Communion.”  This is precisely why we encourage all of you to properly prepare your hearts before you come to the Lord’s Table to receive His true body and blood.

 

Well then, my friends, if Jesus is not talking about the Sacrament of Holy Communion here in our text then what is He talking about?  Let’s think this through, shall we?  First, Jesus clearly brings out here in our text that “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood” is a requirement for eternal life.  Second, Jesus also guarantees here in our text, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  There is only one thing that is a requirement for eternal life.  There is only one thing that guarantees eternal salvation.  That one thing is— faith!  Faith— in Jesus!  Faith in what Jesus has done for you!  (Pointing to the cross)

 

What Jesus is talking about here in His Bread of Life discourse is a deep personal faith in Him as one’s only Savior from sin.  And if you want absolute conclusive proof that Jesus is talking about faith listen to John 6:28-29.  John writes, “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’  Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this:  to believe in the one he has sent.’”

 

When we know that the Child born of Mary is both true God as well as true Man, when we know that this Child lived an absolutely perfect life in our place, when we know that Jesus willingly served as the Sacrifice for our sins by suffering and dying on the cross as our Substitute, when we know that Jesus physically rose from His grave on the third day— when we know this my friends, not just here in our heads but deep in our hearts, we are saved!  We are guaranteed eternal life!  Is there anything that we must do to contribute to our salvation?  Absolutely not!  The eternal Son of God who came into this world as our “flesh and blood” Brother has done it all for us!  “Believe in Me!” Jesus now says to us.  “Trust Me!” says our God.

 

Over the course of the last 33 years I have personally come to the conclusion that the central message of the Bible is so simple that it seems difficult!  The sweet simple Gospel message that God loves you— yes, even you!— so very much that He was willing to send His Son to die for you doesn’t make sense to our logical mortal minds. Yet, that is exactly what the cross proclaims to you, my friends!  What then is the purpose of receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion?  Why do we attend church as often as we can?  Why do we make the time to come to Bible class and bring our children to Sunday school?  Again the answer is so simple:  Growth! We want to grow in our faith.  We want to grow in our trust.  We want to grow in our knowledge and in our understanding of what the good Lord has revealed to us and what the good Lord has done for us.  We want to grow as a child of God until we have “inwardly digested” our dear Lord and Savior so thoroughly that He is an integral part of everything we are, everything we think, everything we do and say.

 

It took me awhile to absorb Professor Becker’s perspective on the Christian faith, but now I understand what he meant.  Too many churches and too many preachers make the message of salvation too difficult when in reality it is so simple!  Do you believe that you have sinned against the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth and deserve His punishment both now and in eternity?  Do you believe that the eternal Son of God became your true “flesh and blood” Brother— conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary as we confess here in church?  Do you believe that the Son of God and the Son of Man suffered and died on the cross to pay for the sins of the whole world— including your sins?  Do you believe that Jesus the Christ physically rose from the dead on Easter Sunday to guarantee that one day you too shall rise and live with Him in the eternal glory and perfection of His heavenly home?  Then you, my friends, are saved!  Then you, my friends, are forgiven!  Then you, my friends, will always be able to look at the cross of Jesus Christ, hear the simple message it proclaims and humbly say—

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen