First Mennonite Church
April 10, 2022
Jesus: The Living Bread
Text: John 6:35-59
As we continue with our series in the Gospel of John and are celebrating the Lord’s Supper today, we will consider Jesus’ words, “I am the bread of life” found here in chapter six. You may have noticed that John does not have the “Institution of the Lord’s Supper” passage as the other Gospels have. However, the very same implications Jesus gave when he held the Last Supper with disciples are what we find here in John.
The background story to this passage is where Jesus fed more than five thousand people after multiplying the five barley loaves and two fish. After the crowd ate their fill, the disciples gathered 12 basketsful of leftover bread and fish. That evening Jesus did not cross the lake together with his disciples, but stayed in the mountain. However, before the disciples made it to the other side of the lake, Jesus came to them walking on the water. The following morning, the crowds were desperately look for Jesus. However, upon finding Jesus, he confronts them with what he saw in them. They were only looking for Jesus because they realized he could also miraculously feed them.
The crowds engaged Jesus in a conversation about bread and the manna God gave his people during the exodus from Egypt. The people were referring to the manna as “the bread from heaven,” but Jesus told them, he was the true bread from heaven. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 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?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat (consume something- fagete) the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat (chew -trogon) my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat (chew-trogon) my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.
Eating human flesh and drinking human blood sounds repulsive. No wonder why the Jews were so confused and repulsed by what Jesus was telling them. During the first three centuries of Christian church, Christians were under great suspicion and there were lots of rumors surrounding what took place during their worship services. Christians were accused of practicing “deadly superstitions,” which included cannibalism. It all stemmed from non-believers’ misunderstanding of the Christian practice of the Lord’s Supper in which the bread and wine were to represent Jesus’ body and blood. Indeed, these words sound harsh, even if they are within sacramental, metaphorical, or symbolic language.
Jesus claims he is the bread of life, the true bread that came from heaven. Here is one of those “unless” statements of Jesus we find in John. “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat—consume the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” It is so strange that Jesus would not bother to explain what he meant when he said these words. For Christians today, after knowing what happened to Jesus, these words do not strike us as hard as they did the first hearers. It is no wonder why verse 66 reads: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. They found Jesus’ words “too difficult to receive.”
But Jesus’ words can be understood in light of what he instituted during his Last Supper with his disciples. There, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
There is a mystery happening when we participate in the Lord’s Supper. It is a mystery because words are not enough to explain the meaning of what we do. The material takes on spiritual meaning. The mundane act of eating bread and drinking juice is transformed into a holy moment. But above all, through our togetherness as a confessing community, solidifies our identity as the mystical body of Christ who is among us through his Spirit.
As we participate of the elements of today’s Communion, we are fed by Christ. We are once again reminded that life—eternal life is the gift Christ alone can give to us. But we must come and receive the offer he makes to you and me. His body was broken and his blood stained the cross on Calvary. All this he did to offer us abundant life. There is not life apart from him. We must participate in the life he offers.
Jesus said in verse 56, “Those who eat (chew-trogon) my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Those who remain dependent on him abide in him and he in them. Christ is in you, my sister and my brother.
I invite you to participate in the Lord’s Supper today. Let Christ feed you. He is the bread of life. Drink from him, he offers to us the “cup of the new covenant.” Amen!