The ‘’I AM” Claims of Jesus, 7, Title: The Most Charging Claim, Text: John 6:51

Series: The ‘’I AM” Claims of Jesus, 7, Title: The Most Charging Claim, Text: John 6:51

INTRODUCTION

In John 6:51 Jesus says, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” In this passage Jesus makes clear again that He is the infinite, eternal, unchangeable God of the universe. The charge is that if you do not eat of Him, you will not survive and be saved. It is of course a metaphor for believing and receiving Him. As the evangelist, John, writes in this gospel 1:11-13, He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. So today we shall look at the the consecration of the bread, the constitution of the bread, and the consumption of the bread.

I THE CONSECRATION OF THE BREAD

There are many Christian communities in which complicated ceremonies surround the consecration of the bread of communion believing that it becomes the physical body of Christ. I do not wish to be irreverent, but all these mumbled incantations cannot consecrate the bread of communion, or mass as some call it. I would call to your attention the memorable and time-worn words of Abraham Lincoln Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg. Listen carefully, “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” I share this because just as Lincoln reminded his audience that they could not consecrate the battlefield because the brave men who died there had already done it, in the same exact fashion, no priest or clergyman can consecrate the bread of communion because Christ has already done it by His sacrificial death and a with a courage that far outweighs the soldiers of Gettysburg. And ironically from His honored death we should highly resolve that He should not have died in vain by carrying out His commands.

Ii THE CONSTITUTION OF THE BREAD

In verses 25-35 our Lord teaches them about the real bread. The Word says, When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." Living as we do in the light of centuries of reflection, it is difficult for us to comprehend how obtuse they were. Jesus has just fed over 5,000 hungry people with five small barley loaves and two fish. Jesus affirms that the reason they followed Him was the food. They were not interested in bread from heaven, that is, in spiritual bread. In fact, if you read the Old Testament account you discover that they complained loudly about the manna. Their dullness continues in their raising the issue of the manna sent from God to sustain them in the wilderness before they entered the promised land. That again was food for the belly and not for the soul. They ask Him what sign He will give them, and He has just miraculously fed them. I pause to ask, Don’t you wish every teacher you ever had gave as many illustrations as Jesus? Don’t you wish they were all so clear? And yet, they don’t get it.  In fact, His own disciples didn’t get it, so, He instructed them further in verses 61-65, Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” Jesus is the bread of life, but He is not physical, material bread. He is spiritual bread, as He says, The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. So all those specious arguments about whether the elements of the communion or mass  are actually the literal physical body of Christ account for nothing. Jesus is present, but He is present in Spirit, and in Spirit and we feed upon Him by faith. Do you remember the tree of life in the garden of Eden? We read in Genesis 3:22-25,  And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. In our condition before the transgression, we were permitted to eat of the tree that sustained us in life eternal. When we sinned, we died, and any physical connection was lost, and, in fact, the way to the tree was guarded with angelic forces. When the new heavens and earth is restored the tree appears again in our midst for consumption, as we read in Revelation 22:1 and 2,  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.

III THE CONSUMPTION OF THE BREAD

At the last supper Jesus reminded His disciples that the bread they ate was His body and the wine they drank was His blood. His words are recorded first in Matthew 26:26-30, While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. I do not wish to extend the debate about the real presence of Jesus in the Lord’s supper, but indulge me a few moments. Some hold steadfastly and others loosely that the elements of the Lord’s table are miraculously changed into the actual physical body of Jesus. The greatest arguments against this view is that besides being unnecessary, it is misleading. It is unnecessary because the first time He said it, Jesus body was in their presence in full view. They surely would not have concluded that they were partaking of His physical body in some mysterious way. It is misleading for two reasons. First, it is destructive of faith. One ought to believe that there is a spiritual union with Christ. Requiring a physical point of contact undermines that, and faith is minimized. The whole scene where Jesus declares that He is the bread of life shows this. The people can’t get their minds off physical bread when Jesus is talking about spiritual nourishment. Secondly, it suggests that a spiritual link to Jesus is somehow inferior to a physical one. This is nonsensical. When Jesus gives the great commission in Matthew 28 he says, “And lo I am with you even unto the end of the age.” The physical body of Jesus was not with them. It was His Spirit. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul adds in II Corinthians 5:16, Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. I realize I have spent a lot of time on this subject, but, it was a topic of rather fierce debate in the Protestant Reformation. I did it for a reason. In the history of the faith it has been a deterrent to the proper emphasis on the original command. We are talking about the consumption of the bread and this is what Jesus cares about. His command was “Take and eat.” Apart from eating it does us no good to know that Jesus is the Bread of life. Jesus says in John 6:26-29 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” and in verses 48-51, Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world,” and finally in verses 54-58,  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Solemn words which remind us more than my poor words ever could of the importance of the consumption in true repentance and faith. As Henry Alford’s hymn declares, “ We walk by faith and not by sight; with gracious words draw near, O Christ, who spoke as none e'er spoke:“My peace be with you here.”  We may not touch your hands and side, nor follow where you trod; but in your promise we rejoice, and cry, ‘My Lord and God!’ Help then, O Lord, our unbelief; and may our faith abound to call on you when you are near and seek where you are found. And when our life of faith is done, in realms of clearer light may we behold you as you are, with full and endless sight.”