Summary: Take eat and drink of my body. That is a command our Lord Jesus made. There is no getting away from it, but should we do this. Why is it relevant, and where does the power emanate? Do we need to know? Can we wriggle out of it, with consequences?
This sermon was delivered to St Oswald’s, Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 16th August 2012; St Oswald’s is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.
Prayer: "In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit let these words speak for you and meditate them in our hearts, Amen."
Our text for today’s sermon is John Chapter 6 verses 51 to 58:
Jesus said, “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.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Those are very very familiar words, … we are so used to hearing them at Holy Communion that we need to look closely at this passage to see what is really being said.
The first and most important fact is that Jesus is very much alive, and there is no mention of his coming death. Did you notice that?
Yet we hear today that Jesus said to the crowd, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” No wonder they were confused. I would have been confused; a 30 year healthy old man telling people to eat his flesh. What did this all mean?
To start, we have to look at Exodus 16:11 “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying. I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, that evening, ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God”.
In Hebrew, the term “Lord your God” used here is translated Jehovah, which to many scholars literally means Jesus.
Exodus 16:14 goes on to say, “behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, it is manna: for they know not what it was. And Moses said unto them, this is the bread which the Lord hath commanded you to eat.
This was a direct command to the Israelites to eat the Manna; and so in a likewise fashion, we hear today Jesus telling the Jewish crowd in front of him, to eat to eat his body.
I am sure most of these Jews would not have related these two events, and the ones that did, must have been asked, “How exactly can we eat his flesh”?
There is no mention of Jesus dying at this stage, but Jesus was foreshadowing events to come, events that will lead to our redemption and eternal life; events which would results our sins being atoned for; events which could only happen at the cross.
There is so much in this short passage that I will just talk briefly about the significance of the flesh and ask, why did Jesus talk about his flesh as being blood and bread; because the Jews who were listening to him were absolutely disgusted by the thought of it?
They failed to recognize Jesus as the great Jehovah who gave a similar instruction in the wilderness; to eat the manna, symbolizing the bread; and the same Jehovah who also gave instructions in the Passover to paint the lintel of their doors with the sacrificial lamb’s blood to prevent the Angel of Death from killing the firstborn.
Jesus knew that all men, and all women, could not live that perfect life under the Law of Moses; and so something else was needed, and that something was his blood; blood to cover all our sins, every single sin, so that we could approach God without blemish.