by Robert Brow
As we read our Gospel text for today, I want to focus on three phrases:
"Bread that came down from heaven" What does that mean?
"Eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood" That is even harder to grasp.
"Eternal life" What kind of life is that?
Read John 1-51-58
Last week we thought about spiritual hunger. We began with our experience of ordinary hunger. And we thought about a hungry lion pacing up and down in his cage. Like ordinary hunger we noticed that spiritual hunger has three stages. First an empty feeling, gnawing at the pit of our stomach. Then a sense of desperation, pacing up down, trying this and that to satisfy us. In the third stage we give up, lie down ready to die.
This week we go deeper to explore the spiritual food that God has for us in abundance.
And I suggested three phrases in our Gospel reading :
1. "Bread that came down from heaven" What is this heavenly bread?
GOD IS LOVE so the spiritual food that God wants to give us is the love of God.
Most of us are hungry for love. I want to remind you that it was God who invented love, and wants us to enjoy his love and be perfected in love.
How would you define love ? I like to define LOVE as caring about the freedom of the other.
If parents really care about their child, they want him or her to be free to enjoy life.
In a marriage a husband loves his wife if he really cares about her freedom
Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven. And we find that his ministry was a ministry of caring for the freedom of others. That is why, as we read the Gospels we see Jesus as the love of God made visible.
He freed people from sickness, and the possession of evil spirits.
He freed people from the burdensome rules of the Pharisees.
He freed people to enjoy the Sabbath day of rest and recreation.
He freed people from the kosher food laws of the Old Testament.
He freed people from the burden of feeling constantly guilty
Most of all he freed them to experience change by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ordinary food frees us to walk and run, use our hands, energize our brains to think, talk with our friends, and enjoy all the excitement of life. Without food you could not do any of those happy things. So when we eat him, feed on him and his words, we enjoy spiritual freedom. And when we find that God really cares about freedom, we are then freed to care about the freedom of others.
2. What does it mean to "Eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood" ?
Most people are hungry for love. They long to love and be loved. But the world is full of people who never find the love they so desperately need.. Their loving has gone badly wrong.
That is because loving has to begin with the love of God satisfying our hunger and thirst for love.
So he says "Here is my Son." And then God uses a very powerful metaphor. "Eat his flesh and drink his blood." It sounds like cannibalism - cannibals used to think that by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of their enemies they would take in all their powers. But God speaks to us in metaphors so we can grasp and understand. Metaphorically God gives us his Son. As we take him into our lives, our spiritual hunger is satisfied. The love of God fills us, satisfies us, empowers us. And we find ourselves beginning to experience a genuine love for others. It begins with other brothers and sisters in our Christian community, then it reaches out into the world.
3.1 Our third expression is "Have Eternal life" Read John 6:51 "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever." And John 6:54 "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life"
Many people imagine that Christian assurance is the fact that we made a great decision, or had a great spiritual experience. Others think they have eternal life because they belong to the right denomination, or they believe the right doctrines. There are those who think that they have eternal life because they are waiting for Jesus to come and rapture them from this world. But then next day they wonder. Do I really believe that ?.
In the New Testament we have assurance because we are satisfied with the love of God. We can say "I know God loves me. And because he loves me he is not going to dump me. I know that the Holy Spirit is beginning to work changes in my life."
We also experience a new freedom that the Holy Spirit begins to produce in us. Paul listed :
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22). Those seven-fold fruits of the love of God are not produced by our efforts or will-power. They are freedoms that are created in us by the Holy Spirit. We realize that a miracle is occuring as God’s love is doing the impossible in our hearts. When that begins to happen we know that we have God’s kind of eternal life.
That is the direct result of spiritually eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood. We know we have eaten and been satisfied by ordinary food because we are no longer hungry. And we know we have eaten spiritual food because we are changed and energized by the love of God.
In a moment in the communion service we will picture this eating and drinking at our family table. The bread and the wine point to the total freedom of loving, which we begin to enjoy now, and it continues in its perfection in heaven for ever.
Prayer Lord, you have the words of eternal life. Thank you for beginning to work in my heart. As I eat and drink your spiritual food, I am satisfied, and I long for more.