Summary: A sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15, Series B Jesus is the Bread of life, whose flesh is food indeed
11th Sunday after Pentecost (Pr. 15) August 20, 2006 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for your gift of creation and for establishing life on this planet we call earth. We thank you for revealing your will for our life, through the words of the Torah and the Prophets, spoken by those whom you had anointed to speak on your behalf. But most importantly, we thank you for coming among us in the person of Jesus the Christ, who is your Word made flesh, who through his gift of life, has redeemed us from our sin, and offers us the hope of new life in your heavenly kingdom. In Christ’s name we thank you. Amen.
This morning, our Gospel lesson continues the Bread of Life Discourse, as is recorded in the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel. This chapter began with our Lord’s miraculous feeding of over 5000 people with just five small loaves of bread and two fish. When the people whom Jesus had fed followed him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, he challenged them to look beyond the physical aspect of the miracle, to behold it as a sign, an event that pointed out to the people that in Jesus, the kingdom of God had come into their midst.
In light of this, our lesson for last Sunday focused on Jesus claiming to be the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. And as I pointed out in my sermon, by the time that this was written, the Word of God had come to be associated with bread, the basic staple of life, which needed to be consumed on a daily basis, in order to sustain our spiritual life and relationship with God. Thus, in referring to himself as the Bread of Life, Jesus was claiming to be God’s incarnate Word, God’s creative and authoritative revelation of his will for our life, in human flesh.
Throughout the past few weeks, I have also stated that even though John does not record Jesus instituting the sacrament of Holy Communion, this 6th chapter of John’s Gospel reflects the author’s understanding of the Eucharist, and its place in the worship life of the church. In our lesson for this morning, this chapter becomes rather specific.
So let us start with our opening verse, the verse that ended our lesson from last Sunday. Jesus says: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
I believe that this chapter in John’s Gospel contains a double message for our life of faith as Christians. First, John tells us that in Jesus, the very Word of God has come to live among us. This means that as we behold the life and teachings of Jesus, we are, in reality, beholding the will of God for our lives.
Jesus was not simply another prophet. As he interpreted the Scriptures of the Torah and the prophets, Jesus was not simply giving us another way, among many, to view these ancient texts. He was giving us God’s interpretation, the truth of God’s will for our lives.
But in addition, through this dialogue of Jesus, we are told that the Word of God has become flesh. This means that the Word of God is not just symbolically present in the life of Jesus. When Jesus says that he is the living bread that came down from heaven, he is not inferring that he has received some special revelation from God that he has been asked to pass on to us.
Nor is Jesus indicating that the Word of God is just spiritually present to us through him. We can not look at Jesus in the way that a lot of this New Age theology does, which would assert that the human Jesus had somehow received the incarnation of God’s Spirit. God is not simply using Jesus’ body to proclaim his Word to us. In Jesus, the Word of God has truly become flesh and blood.
As Gail Ramshaw pointed out in her commentary on our lesson, “Christ is both the preached word and the sacramental word, both wisdom and flesh.” (New Proclamation, Year B, 2003, Fortress Press)
This brings us to the crux of the issue. As the incarnate Word of God, the Bread of life which came down from heaven, Jesus not only spent his life proclaiming God’s Word in truth, so that we might truly know the will of God for our life. Jesus also gave his life in obedience to the will of God, to redeem us from our sin, and to restore us to a right relationship with our Creator.