We are in this series, this summer of bread, which is one long story we take piece by piece. Thus, it might be helpful to re-cap where we have been.
This morning marks the half-way point.
It begun two Sundays (God Provides) ago with the miraculous feeding of the 5,000.
Jesus was met on the shoreline by a crowd who was not just hungry for his teachings, but who were also hungry physically. The disciples pointed this out complaining they did not have the resources to feed all these people, but a boy in the crowd had 3 fish and 5 loaves of bread. Although it was not nearly enough to feed the 5,000 people, yet after each had their fill and the bread fragments were collected it filled 12 baskets. God provides abundantly, it is our job to share that grace.
Afterwards, Jesus wants to get away from the crowd who now is seeking to make him king, in order that they might manipulate and control him to continue performing these miracles to meet their physical needs and wants. Jesus flees, but the crowd catches up with Jesus and his disciples.
Last week (The Nature of Our Quest), Jesus’ words were a little harsh. He asked the crowd if they sought him and his teachings or were simply seeking more bread, more physical food to eat. Jesus tells the crowd he is the bread, the living bread, that has come down from Heaven.
This morning, the crowd is baffled by his statements.
If we are honest with ourselves, we would have been baffled too.
At this time (and still today), the Israelites/Jews who uphold the dietary restrictions in the Torah (Teachings) would have found this particular teaching of Jesus not only unbelievable but sacrilegious.
The Israelite community had strict teachings about what they could and could not consume, including only certain flesh was permittable and considered “clean”.
If you are curious, human was NOT approved.
Additionally, there were (and are) teachings about how to consume approved flesh. The flesh must be consumed separately from its blood, thus all blood is drained from the flesh prior to consuming the meat. This prevents the consumption of both flesh and blood.
Jesus told the crowd that in order to have ever-lasting life, they must consume his body and partake in his blood.
How many of us would have continued to follow Jesus after this teaching?
We would have probably been offended by his teaching as the crowd was.
The crowd pushed Jesus,
“So, what you are REALLY saying is that you are LIKE bread and you are LIKE wine?”
“You are LIKE these things that sustain us.”
“You DO NOT actually mean we will consume you.”
Jesus responds, “No. You will gnaw on my flesh.”
We can understand why the crowd is offended by Jesus’ teaching.
We can understand why the crowd stopped seeking him.
At the end of our story, the disciples will be the only 12 continuing with Jesus.
This is NOT a easy teaching.
This is one of the most controversial teachings in the whole of scripture and Christianity; from those who believe in the true presence of Christ to those who believe the bread and the wine are mere symbols.
BUT, have you heard that you are what you eat?… That is Christ’s point.
Christ makes the point that when we consume Christ, we will become like Christ.
When we consume the living bread from heaven, we are consuming God’s grace that can (and will) transform us.
We often come to the table with a deep sense of reverence, which often manifests as a somber (sad) look on our faces. It is as though we are claiming not to be worthy…
and it is true we are SINNERS not worthy of the grace God gives us.
BUT, we are not called to approach the table without joy.
We are not called to consume the physical, tangible grace of God without joy.
Have you watched Friends? If so, you will understand this reference more so.
On an episode of Friends, Rachel and Phoebe are running in Central Park.
Rachel is running in perfect form.
Phoebe is running joyfully with uncontrolled arms (like a child).
Rachel is obviously embarrassed by the way Phoebe is running.
BUT, when we are invited to the Table partaking in Holy Communion consuming the body and blood of Christ, we are called to run like Phoebe to the Table AND from the Table out into the world strengthened, nourished, and prepared with God’s grace to love and serve ALL the world.
That image may be strange and/or unorthodox, but here is another image.
A Seminary classmate had a nephew who was not yet communing, but each communion Sunday would reach for the bread seeking a taste. I have seen little ones here eagerly seeking a taste of the bread. So, one Sunday as the Table was being prepared, this little boy jumped out of the pew, ran up the aisle on to the altar area, grabbed the bread, and screamed “I got it! I got it!”.
THAT should be our response.
Although Jesus’ teaching is hard for us to accept because it is offensive to our senses,
we should come to the Table with joy.
Although we (like the crowd) may be offended by Jesus’ teaching,
may we run to the Table like Phoebe screaming “I got it! I got it!”.
May we embrace that mystery of Jesus, the Living Bread come down from Heaven, each and every time we are at His Table. Amen.
The scriptures were 1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34:1-8; Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2; & John 6:35, 441-51.
Originally preached on 12 August 2018 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).