Jesus – the Bread of Life by Revd Amanda Denniss

John 6.51-58 Jesus is the bread of life Itchen Valley 16th August 2015

One of the things I really enjoy is eating. I love food. I especially enjoy having meals with friends and family. On Friday evening we celebrated our daughter Lucia’s birthday by going out for a meal. Most of our family celebrations involve food. It’s the same in the church family. One of the best ways to get together is to get together over something to eat. I thought the lunch we had for the visit of the Benwell church was a brilliant. Delicious food. Good company. Lots of good conversations and I ate far too much.

But however much we eat-however much we enjoy it-we wake up again the next morning feeling hungry and ready for breakfast.

In our gospel reading Jesus speaks of himself as the bread of life. He says in verse 35 of John’s gospel, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ Jesus goes on to say in verse 51, ‘Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’

Jesus is making the most extraordinary claim that he can satisfy our deepest hunger. We get hungry for food, but even if we have a huge feast we will need to come back again and again and have more to eat. Jesus identifies a deeper hunger than our hunger for food. Jesus knows that we were all created for a close relationship with God. If we don’t have that relationship, we will hunger and thirst for it. Jesus is saying that if we come to him and believe in him, our deepest hunger will be satisfied. We can have a living relationship with him that will last for all eternity.

So that we can get a grip on what Jesus is saying, I’d like to look at three questions.

  1. Why do we need to come to Jesus as the bread of life and feed on him?
  2. What is the eternal life which Jesus give us?
  3. What is the place of Holy Communion in all this?
  1. Why do we need to come to Jesus as the bread of life and feed on him?

Jesus is speaking to a group of Jewish people in his local synagogue in Capernaum. Everyone there would have assumed that they were in relationship with God because they were part of the people of Israel. They would have thought it was automatic. But Jesus says something to them that is potentially quite offensive and very confrontational. He says in verse 53, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’

The life Jesus is talking about is relationship with God. He is saying that unless the people come to him and believe in him, they will not have that relationship with God.

Jesus is speaking to a people who were steeped in the Old Testament Scriptures. He looks back to the time when God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It was a time when the Israelites wandered through the desert for forty years on their way to the Promised Land. It was at this time that God fed them with manna. A food which God miraculously provided. But Jesus says to them. Your ancestors ate that manna-that food- and died. If you want to have life that will last-you need to come to me. I am the way to relationship with God the Father. It is only by believing and trusting in me that you will have this relationship which will last for eternity.

It’s the same for us. In some ways we can be like the Jewish people that Jesus was talking to in the synagogue. We can think that we are automatically in relationship with God-maybe because we come to church. But Jesus says the same thing to us as he says to the people in the synagogue. It’s only if we come to Jesus and believe and trust in him that we will have a relationship with God the Father that will last for all eternity.

  1. What is the eternal life which Jesus give us?

Jesus came and was born as a human being in order to open up the way for us to have a relationship with God. A close, personal relationship that will grow and develop. A living relationship.

As Jesus is talking to the people in the synagogue at Capernaum, he is looking back to the time of the rescue of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. This rescue of the Israelites from Egypt was celebrated each year in the feast of Passover. Each year the Jewish people remembered how on the night before God’s rescue, each family had been asked to kill a lamb for a special meal. God had said that some of the blood of each lamb was to be daubed on the lintels of the doors of their houses to protect them from God’s judgment on the Egyptians.

As Jesus points back to God’s rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and speaks of eating the manna in the desert, he is also pointing forward to a new rescue.

  • This time Jesus will be the Passover lamb.
  • It is Jesus’ blood that will be shed on the cross.
  • This time the rescue of God will be from slavery to sin and selfishness. The judgment of God will not fall on us for our sin and selfishness, because it fell on Jesus. He died in our place to open up the way for us to have life. Eternal life. Relationship with God that lasts for eternity
  1. What is the place of Holy Communion in all this?

At the Last Supper, Jesus asked his disciples to remember his death on the cross by eating bread and drinking wine. This is what we do every week when we celebrate Holy Communion. Sometimes Holy Communion is described as a sacrament-an outward visible sign of an inward spiritual reality. The bread represents Jesus body and the wine represents his blood.

It is a time when we remember that Jesus is our Passover lamb. He suffered the judgment for our sin and selfishness and sets us free for relationship with God. It is by believing and trusting in Jesus that we can come to him as the bread of life.

Holy Communion is a time for thanksgiving. The word ‘Eucharist’ means thanksgiving. It is a time for us not only to remember what Jesus has done for us but also to give him our deepest thanks.

There has been much argument down the centuries on what exactly happens at Communion and much theological debate. It is certainly a time when God delights to see us gather together in unity to celebrate the victory of his Son on the cross on our behalf. A victory over death itself. It is a time when God is powerfully present by the Holy Spirit strengthening us and feeding us in our inmost being as we remember the death of his Son.

Holy Communion is not magical though. Taking Holy Communion does not make us part of God’s family. We become part of God’s family by believing and trusting in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

Later on today, we are going to be celebrating the patronal festival of St Mary’s Avington. In chapter 1 of Luke’s gospel we read the wonderful words of Mary as she celebrates and glorifies God and his wonderful deeds. We’ve come to know these words as the Magnifcat. Mary celebrates how God has chosen her as his humble servant to become the mother of Jesus. Mary had that precious quality of humility which God looks for in us and values so much. Humility in the bible means not setting up our own understanding over God’s. It means accepting God’s way of doing things even though we might not fully understand what and why he is doing something.

We might not fully understand what it means for Jesus to be the bread of life. We might not fully understand what happened on the cross. But we have the opportunity to come to Jesus. To trust that somehow in his death on the cross he opened up the way for us to have a relationship with God. We have the opportunity to ask him to be our Lord and Saviour and to enjoy a relationship with him that will satisfy our deepest needs

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