Watercolor painting by E. J. Kirsch

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Mar 4, 2018

“The Bread of Life” 3-4-18

Exodus 16:9-21, & John 6:41-58
March 4, 2018

I am sorry that I could not read the entire 6th chapter of John as our second lesson this morning.  I have, of course been known to read entire chapters of the bible as our second lesson, and perhaps on a few occasions read more than a chapter.  But Chapter 6 of the gospel of John has 71 verses, which even I acknowledge is a bit much to read as our second lesson on a Communion Sunday.
So I hope that you will have the opportunity someday to read the entire 6th chapter of John in one sitting.  In spite of the length of the chapter, you will find that it can be summed up in one word: Bread.
As the chapter begins we have a mention in verse 4 that the Passover was near.  As Passover neared, there were many things that Jews needed to get ready and one of them was bread.  They needed to prepare unleavened bread for the Passover holiday.  And part of the process involved the removal of all leaven or yeast from their homes.
As Passover was near, there were multitudes of Jews taking time off and heading to Jerusalem for the holiday.  Many of them were traveling through Galilee headed south to Jerusalem.
Many of them stopped for a while in Galilee to see and hear the great Rabbi Jesus.  At one of those gatherings, Jesus fed over 5,000 of them by breaking and multiplying 5 small loaves of barley bread and 2 small fish
After that, Jesus put his 12 Apostles into a boat and they set sail across the lake.  Jesus remained behind for a while, but during the night, he walked out to them in the middle of the lake.  That was somewhat terrifying for them until Jesus told them to settle down and told them that it was He.
The next day, the crowd he had fed walked around the southern end of the lake and came to him.  He accused them of just wanting another free meal, and they did not deny it.
They told him that Moses had fed their ancestors bread in the wilderness.  Jesus replied that it was not Moses who gave that bread but His Father, and that the Father was now giving the true bread from heaven that gives life.
They asked for some of that life-giving bread from heaven, and he said that He was the Bread of life, and that he would give life to everyone who believed in him and that he would raise up those believers on the last day.
That brings us to our second lesson.  As it begins we are informed that some of the people of Galilee were upset that Jesus referred to himself as the Bread sent by God from heaven.  In fact John says that they were complaining about it.  Another translation for complaining is Murmuring, which was the besetting sin of the Israelites in the wilderness while they were being fed by God with the Manna, or his bread from heaven at that time.
The complainers were objecting that Jesus did not come from heaven; he was born to Mary and Joseph.
Jesus did not correct their misinformation; he just replied that they were not coming to him because they were not drawn to him by His Father.
He then went on and used pretty strong metaphorical language, insisting that he was the new bread from heaven that brought life.  He also spoke of them eating his flesh and drinking his blood.  He said that their ancestors who ate the Manna, the old bread God sent from heaven, later died, But that he, as the new Bread from heaven, would give eternal life to its eaters.  Remember, He had earlier spoken of those who would receive him as believing in him, so the eating and drinking here is to be taken as a metaphor for believing in him or appropriating him by faith.
When he spoke of his flesh as the bread of Life, he was speaking of his sacrificial death.
About a year later, as Jesus was celebrating Passover with his Apostles in Jerusalem, he used the same metaphor.  Within 24 hours Jesus would be dying on the cross, and at that Passover meal Jesus took some bread and said it was his body, and took some wine and said it was his blood and that they were to eat his body and drink his blood.  No person could mean that literally, Especially no Jew, because they were so fastidious not to drink blood or eat unclean flesh.
In chapter 6 of John, Jesus had given the key, the eating and drinking were metaphors for Accepting Jesus by our faith.
And so when we observe this sacrament, eating this bread, and drinking this wine, we are reminding ourselves and each other that we believe in Jesus as the one sent from heaven to give us eternal life.  We believe that he is the one who died so our sins could be forgiven by His Father. 
We are not saved BY eating and drinking, we are saved by the Death of Jesus which we have taken hold of through our Faith.

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906