Summary: Jesus is our genuine Food and Drink; nothing else satisfies, but he both makles alive and sustains!
How can we receive: Genuine Food and Drink?
Saint John 6:51-58
If you look through last week’s bestseller list under non-fiction books, you’ll find that three of them were from the same author: the late Dr. Atkins. In fact, diet books and cookbooks generally make up the greater share of non-fiction bestsellers; Americans are concerned about health...and concerned about having health in the least painful and best tasting way.
Thus we see a boxing champ selling us electric grills on TV and a hyperactive octogenarian who preaches the health benefits of drinking parsley, carrot, and cabbage juice to sell his machines at around $200 a pop...and they’re selling like hotcakes...a food that we are told to avoid...unless they’re Dr. Atkins ’special’ pancakes, topped with sugar free syrup...
We are being bombarded with health advice, and nagging, and the debate between lowfat and law carb products...It’s nearly enough to make you lose your appetite completely. When we see how much time and effort people put into ’eating right’ for maximizing their life in this world, and the things that happen to them, does it not make us cry out for more? Dr. Atkins recent death--caused by slipping on some ice and injuring his head--reminds us of the death of Frank Shorter: the leader of the ’jogging’ movement in the 1970s...who died from a heart attack!
All of the exercise and all of the nutrition advice in the world is unable to sustain us for more than the few years of this earthly sojourn. We need such things to be good stewards of what God has given us in these "fearfully and wonderfully made" bodies, but we really need something beyond low-fat and no-fat, beyond vegetarianism, beyond low-carb and macrobiotic. With the words in today’s Gospel, Jesus would have us receive something above the best of the foods we are able to prepare: GENUINE FOOD AND DRINK, the Food and Drink that alone will satisfy, and that we can eat only through the faith that God creates in our hearts.
I. We need the Genuine Food.
A. Nothing else will satisfy (not even manna).
As we have seen in our readings in John chapter six these last few weeks, there is a Food that we need, a Food that is truly food, genuine food. We’ve seen that we need this Food because there is nothing else in the world that can truly satisfy us. Even the manna that God sent down from heaven was not enough to satisfy permanently; as Jesus said to the Jews: "Your fathers ate the manna, and are dead !" He might have added that they were also so unsatisfied with the manna that they grumbled all the while that they ate it.
B. Nothing else gives life (which we need because...).
We’ve also seen that we need a food that does more than just satisfy; we need a Food that can make us alive! According to God’s Word, our natural state is to be "dead in trespasses" and sins. Because of Adam’s sin and our sins, we must face physical death, and, unless we partake of a Food that gives life, also eternal death--eternity lived out conscious that our suffering is because of our unnecessary separation from God and His love--unless we partake of a Food that gives life, eternal death will be our lot, as well.
II. We can’t get it from:
A. the world,
In today’s Gospel, Jesus becomes more specific about how we can receive the Food of which He has spoken. It’s obvious that we can’t get the genuine food, the Food that really feeds us, from this world. The things of this world can help us on the physical level--and they can snare us at the spiritual level--but they are completely unable to cancel the punishment for our sins and give us life.
B. our works, even the superficial hearing of the Word and partaking of the Sacrament
Instead, we are instructed to feed upon Jesus, who calls Himself ’the Bread of Life’; HE is the GENUINE FOOD AND DRINK. We need to receive Him into ourselves as food, so that we will be nourished unto life.
This is not something that we can do by any working of our own, not even by doing good works in imitation of Christ. To look at it on a physical level, we can imitate a piece of bread all day, but that’s not the same as eating it!
Even physically partaking of the Lord’s Supper doesn’t guarantee that we are receiving the GENUINE FOOD AND DRINK in a way that helps us, as the Bread of Life who has come down from Heaven.
Many people think that the mere act of coming to Communion is what gains eternal life for them. Some even base their thoughts on the very words of our text: "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life," but it is clear that Jesus is not discussing the Lord’s Supper in these verses.