“Eat This Bread and Live Forever” (John 6:51-69)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 15, 2021

“Eat This Bread and Live Forever” (John 6:51-69)

The world’s oldest living person is a woman in Japan by the name of Kane Tanaka. She is 118 years old. She has held the title of oldest living person for over three years, which is unusually long for someone to be the world’s oldest living person. Usually, they relinquish the title before that long. What is Miss Tanaka’s secret? “Eating delicious food and studying,” she says. Her nurses say, “She has a strong appetite and likes eating chocolate and drinking Coke.” Well, I have a strong appetite, I like eating delicious food, including chocolate, and I do a lot of studying. But maybe I should take up drinking Coke.

Then there’s the world’s oldest male, Emilio Flores Márquez of Puerto Rico. He just turned 113 one week ago. Señor Márquez says of his life: “My father raised me with love and taught me to love everyone. He always told me and my brothers and sisters to do good, to share everything with others. Besides, Christ lives in me.”

“Besides, Christ lives in me.” Well said, Señor Márquez! And that is the guarantee that Emilio is going to live past 113, past 118, even past 120. Sure, Emilio is going to die–probably fairly soon. But, because Christ died for him and now Christ lives in him, Emilio is going to live forever. And guess what, dear friends? So will you!

Live forever? It doesn’t look like that, does it? Death is all around us. The names of our friends and relatives end up in the obituaries. Yesterday I did the funeral service for Carol Toenjes of St. Matthew-Bonne Terre, and tomorrow I’ll do the service for Sharon Blakely of Grace-De Soto. Death is right in front of us, staring us in the face. There’s a tombstone up in Chicago waiting to get my name on it. Death is at work in us. Our bodies are in the process of dying. Our immune systems wear down with age. Our bodies don’t heal as well when we get older. The risk of infection is ever-present. The upper limit on age seems to be about 120, and that’s only for a few people who happen to pick the right parents.

Then again, we can eat right, exercise, be in top shape–and we could step off a curb and get hit by a car. Some drunk driver could cross over the yellow line. Dr. Atkins, the famous diet doctor, died after he slipped and fell on an icy street. Diet cannot prevent dying.

But there’s a worse death than just the physical death of the body. Oh, physical death is a part of it, to be sure. That’s the end result of an even worse death, and that’s the death of the soul. Spiritual death. Spiritual death happens because man sins, and that includes every one of us. Spiritual death first set in when we decided we knew better than God, our Creator. We wanted to be our own god, making our own decisions about what’s right and wrong, good and evil. That was the fall into sin. And with it, death set in. That fallen Adamic nature infects us all. We all are like that. Sin and death, both spiritual and physical death–and eternal death, separated from God forever, under his condemnation–that is our natural condition, that is our common lot. It doesn’t matter what how healthy you may eat, how much you exercise, you cannot escape death. Unless. . . .

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,” Jesus says. What does Jesus mean by this? Well, he tells us: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

The first thing it means is to realize that on your own, you have no real life within you. Jesus’ diagnosis is correct. Look inside yourself, apart from Christ, and will find no life there. No life that’s right with God. No life that can overcome your sins. No life that can overcome the grave. “You have no life in you.” Unless. . . .

Unless that life comes to you from outside yourself. Unless that life comes from God, from heaven to earth and into you. That’s how it goes. This is what Jesus offers. To you.

It starts with who Jesus is. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” Jesus says. This man speaking in the synagogue at Capernaum–this is no ordinary rabbi. His identity, his origin, is one of a kind. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” Jesus is the very Son of God, the eternal Word, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. “I am the living bread.” In him was–and is–life. Jesus has life in himself. He is full of life. He gives and imparts life. “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven.”

But why does he say “bread”? Well, bread is often called “the staff of life.” “Bread” is a universally understood way to say, “that which sustains life.” Nourishment, food, sustenance, what you need in order to live–all of that is conveyed by the word, “bread.”

And Jesus had just fed the multitude with bread, 5000 people from just a few loaves, with plenty left over. This was a sign, to show that Jesus came to give life, and to give it abundantly. But people misread this sign and were only thinking of free food for their bellies. But Jesus came to give life in the fullest sense. Spiritual life. Life through the forgiveness of sins, healing the rift between us and God. Life that overcomes death in every form: the deadness in our relationship with God and with others; the physical death that cuts our life short at 35 or 70 or 120; and the eternal death that our sins deserve. Jesus overcomes all of that death with his abundant life. Jesus is the true Bread of Life, the living bread from heaven.

Jesus gives us his life and overcomes our death by giving himself into death for us. “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Christ gave his flesh for the life of the world by going to the cross. In going to the cross, Jesus offered his flesh to the blows of his enemies and the flogging of the soldiers. He offered his flesh to the nails driven through his hands and the spear thrust in his side. His holy, precious blood poured forth and paid the price that we owed but could not pay. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave his flesh and shed his blood as the perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of the whole world.

This is the only way to have life. There is no other. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Unless you partake of Jesus by faith, unless you receive him and trust in his sacrifice for your sins–there is no other way to come before God, other than the one and only way that God provides, namely, through Christ’s offering of his flesh and blood on the cross.

But come to him, believe in him, receive him, and you will live! This is his promise, and his word is sure! “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” Here is what you truly need to live past 113 or 118. You need Jesus Christ. Eat this bread and live forever! “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Notice: “has” eternal life, which is present tense, right now! You who trust in Christ, you have eternal life even now! It’s already yours, by faith in Christ.

You have eternal life now, and so the little death that we will face at the end of however many years we get–that is not the end. Our bodies may rest in the grave, but there is another day coming. Jesus speaks of this day. His promise for the believer is this: “And I will raise him up on the last day.” Even as Christ is risen from the dead, so will he raise our bodies, new and glorified forever, on the day when he returns.

So until then, continue to feed on him. Be nourished by Christ with the life that he gives. “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” This is Jesus’ promise to you today. He promises to be with you, in the closest way possible, as we journey through this wilderness on the way to the promised land. Jesus even gives–he literally gives his own body and blood here in this Sacrament. With the bread and with the wine, Christ gives us his very body and blood to eat and to drink. Here is true food and true drink, exactly what you need to sustain your life in Christ.

In the book, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” part of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, as the company is about to set out from Lothlorien, they are given gifts of food and clothing for their journey. The food is in the form of very thin cakes. “We call it lembas or waybread,” the travelers are told, “and it is more strengthening than any food made by Men.”

So it is here today. Here in this Sacrament, our Lord Jesus Christ gives you his “waybread,” food for your journey ahead. He himself is the Way, and he himself is the living bread from heaven. This bread of life is more strengthening, more life-giving, than any food made by men.

So come and eat! Come to Jesus and receive from him! Eat this bread and have eternal life even now. Eat this bread, and you will live forever!

Published in: on August 14, 2021 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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