Summary: A sermon for the 11th Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 15
11th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr. 15] August 16, 2009 “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, 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. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to be nourished in faith through him who gave himself for our redemption. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Again, our Gospel lesson continues the “Bread of Life Discourse,” which is the title given to the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel. The chapter began with Jesus physically providing bread for the crowd of 5000 who gathered to hear him teach, by miraculously multiplying five small loaves and two fish that a young boy brought for his lunch. When the crowd followed him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus challenged the people to see that miracle as a sign, an event that pointed to the fact that in Jesus, the kingdom of God had come into their midst.
In light of this, our lesson from last Sunday focused on Jesus telling the people that he is the bread of life that came down from heaven. One of the commentaries that I read pointed out that by the time that John
wrote his Gospel, the Word of God, the Torah and the Prophets, had come to be associated with bread, the basic staple of life, which needed to be consumed on a daily basis in order to nourish and sustain a spiritual life in 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 lives, in human flesh. Is this not consistent with the way that John began his Gospel? “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”
Throughout the past few weeks, I have also stated that John does not record in his Gospel, Jesus instituting the sacrament of Holy Communion on the night he was betrayed. But this 6th chapter reflects the theological understanding of the author in regard to the sacrament of Holy Communion, and its rightful place in the worship life of the church. In our lesson for this morning, this message becomes rather specific.
So let’s begin with the opening verse of our text for this morning, 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.” Here, with that phrase “I am,” the ego eimi in Greek, John is telling us that as we behold the life and teachings of Jesus, we are, in reality, beholding the Word of God, the presence of God for our lives.
Jesus was not just 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. For John, the Word of God was not just symbolically present in the life of Jesus. In Jesus, the Word of God has become flesh.
John’s language is quite specific on this account. In fact, according to the language of John’s Gospel, we can’t even say that in Jesus, God is merely “spiritually present” to us in a special way. We can’t look at Jesus in the way that a lot of “New Age theology” does, which would assert that the human Jesus had somehow received the incarnation of God’s Spirit. According to John, God is not simply using Jesus’ body to proclaim his Word to us. In Jesus, the Word, which is God, has truly become flesh and blood.
This brings us to the crux of the issue. As the incarnate Word of God, this “Bread of Life” which came down from heaven, Jesus not only spent his life proclaiming God’s Word in steadfast love and faithfulness, that we might fully know the will of God for our life. Jesus also gave his life on the cross, to redeem us from our sin, that we might experience the grace of God, that enables us to be children of God’s kingdom.