First Mennonite Church
September 10, 2017
Communion: The Bread of Life
Text: John 6:26-58
The Gospel according to John has no “institution of the Lord’s supper” passage. Instead, it has the “foot-washing” passage where the other gospels have the Lord’s Supper. If we are to find word of Jesus closest to the Last Supper meaning, it is here in chapter 6 of John. And although Jesus’ words come from a different context and within a different theme, the central meaning of his words there clearly echoes the exact message communicated in the Last Supper passages. While the other three gospels have the Last Supper passage at the end of Jesus’ ministry, John has the Bread of Life passage at the early period in Jesus’ ministry. While the other gospels set the Lord’s Supper in the context of the Passover meal, John has his in the context of Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes by the Sea of Galilee. While the Synoptic Gospels have Jerusalem as the place for the Last Supper, John has his Bread of Life teaching Capernaum.
In this passage Jesus addresses the very nature of our human inclination in life: the need to satisfy our immediate needs. These are: our daily sustenance, security and our perpetual desire to stay alive. But in this passage, Jesus offers us the only true source of life, which is life in him.
When we set these words of Jesus in their immediate context, we find him addressing a crowd which was tirelessly searching for him the day after he fed them with fish and bread. Jesus was teaching that day in a remote place on the other side of the Lake of Tiberias. The place was far away from any town and from every source of food and the evening was coming. Someone brought to Jesus five loaves of barley and two fish. With this meal he provided for more than five thousand people. And the people were amazed and therefore determined to go wherever he went because he could feed them for free. In a world where food was scarce, where poverty was widespread, and where survival was a daily struggle, such a secure source of food was a gift from heaven, literally.
This is why in the first verse of our passage, Jesus confronts them: “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you (6:26-27).
Jesus confronts the crowd which even after eating their fill the day before could not see the multiplication of the bread and fish as a sign of Jesus’ power. In verse 30 the crowd asks Jesus, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?
My dear friends, brothers and sisters, Holy Communion has the power to speak directly to our heart. Every time we celebrate Communion, we too are being confronted in the way Jesus confronted his food-seeking followers. Communion reminds us that we too could have ulterior motives when coming to God. Let us ask ourselves, what is the yearning of my heart? What hunger am I trying to satisfy? And, where and how have I been seeking to satisfy it?
On the other hand we can be like the crowd. Jesus miraculously fed them by multiplying the bread and fish, yet they were still asking for a sign. Communion is a reminder that Jesus gave everything he had, including his very life. His body was broken; his blood stained the cross. At the Communion Table, Jesus’ offers himself as the Living Bread through the communion elements. But that might point to our greatest human problem. We long for other things. Our hunger and thirst could be for other things.
And while God has blessed us in every way in this material world, giving us strength each day, food to eat, love of family and friends, and the gift of eternal life, I bet you we might still praying to God for one or more than one thing else. How often do we fail to see the signs of God’s grace, faithfulness, and sovereignty in our daily lives? Hence, once again, when we take the Lord’s Super we also come face to face with our Lord who gave everything. And there he reminds us, “This is my body, broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Communion is the invitation to also give ourselves in service. Through our service in the name of Christ is how we remember and embody the self-giving Christ.
We also live in a time of great anxiety. There are many things happening at once, some closer to us than other things. The people and nations of the world are restless in light of the ongoing conflicts. At the personal level, many people go out to work long hours and still have difficulty making ends meet. As for us, we too might have the concerns that weigh in our heart. And so, we seek ways to take care of our needs. However, in this ongoing quest for security we often find ourselves chasing after the “food that perishes.” What do you think will bring satisfaction to your thirst?
Jesus’ response to that bread-seeking crowd is amazingly graceful. He said to them, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
I want to invite you to come and eat the Bread of Heaven symbolically represented in the piece of bread. Ask the Lord to fill you with his peace and it will displace all your fears and anxieties and it will give the greatest sense of security. Ask Jesus to take his rightful place in your life. Ask Jesus to be not only your Savior but also your Lord and King.
I want to invite you to drink the cup, which symbolizes his shed blood on Calvary. And as you drink it, ask the Lord for his cleansing grace to wash the stains in your heart. Ask the Lord to take away the stains of selfishness, self-reliance and of every sin that has stained your heart.
And this is his promise to 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. Amen!