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.”
52 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 the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.54 Those who eat 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 my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 He said these things while he was teaching in a synagogue at Capernaum.
Our passage this morning says that Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus’ bread, his life given to us, helps us to move us deep within ourselves and outside of ourselves to see the abundance of God’s connection with us, and all of humanity and creation.
Yet, even after this declaration, even after all of the actions of God’s love through Jesus, people still grumble don’t they? Even in Jesus’ time, like today, they started to feel a bit insecure, and made statements posed as questions, isn’t this Joseph’s son? Who is this Jesus to say that his bread has come from heaven, that his life comes from the very presence of God and that he is in God’s presence even now?
What these folks were trying to do was to put Jesus in a box, to take away the possibility of change and growth in their own lives. They were afraid and acting out of a deep lack of self-awareness or others awareness. They wanted to be independent, they didn’t get that Jesus was saying that they were wired for connection with others.
Jesus gives us a promise this morning though, the manna that the Jewish folks ate in the desert gave them nourishment for a time, but Jesus’ bread, his living and breathing bread, his life, will be intertwined with ours. This bread, this life, is Jesus’ flesh. The greek in verse 51 for flesh is sarx. It’s not another greek word sometimes used for body or life called soma. This is Jesus’ flesh, it’s as if to say to us, I am making the sacrifice for you, I’m giving you my very flesh…not only for you, but for the world, all of it. Friends, if we are going to grow, we have to be drawn out of ourselves by God. We also have to be connected to others around us in a deep way, not just folks sitting with us in these pews, but the folks outside these walls, the folks in our neighborhood, the folks down on Vine, the students up the hill, everyone.
“To be or not to be”…isn’t that the great Shakespearean question? What does it mean to be? “Be” is the English languages most irregular verb…it’s a word of action…to be something or someone. It is a verb of existence or reality. I am in a car, I am in church, I will be grilling hamburgers tomorrow. It is also a verb that points to relationship. I am friends with…I am a member of this community…
My friend John McKnight once remarked that he has been blessed his entire life. Why? Because of friends that he’s had throughout his life. He would go on to say that his entire life has been touched by the Divine because of that.
That makes sense, you see, we were all created to be in loving friendships or relationships with each other. We were even created by a relational God. It says in Genesis 1:27, that God created us in his image. God’s image is one of relationship. God exists in perfect unity as a three-in-one God…God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons, but of one essence…God’s essence is relational and that relationship demonstrates perfect love. Out of that essence, that loving essence, God, the uncreated created us. And, we are of the same essence.
If that wasn’t enough, creating us…God gave us the gift of himself. God desires to simply be in relationship with us. Throughout history God has demonstrated his pursuit of us, rescuing humanity from itself. Humanity has sought to know God, yet we have often forgotten that God knows us and loves us.
When Moses was being called by God out of a burning bush to go and preach release to the Jews who were being held as slaves in Egypt, Moses sought to know God’s name, because in those days, to know someone’s name was to know who they were, to have them define, to be in relationship and to know them. Yet, when asked, God gave a peculiar answer:
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation. (Exo 3:14-15 TNIV)
I am who I am. The verb used here in Hebrew is “to be”. God is. God is saying that he is wholly other and cannot be comprehended. Yet, he goes on to say something more. He is the God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses knew that God interacted with all of those people. God is saying, in effect, I am a God of relationship. I cannot be comprehended, but I can be apprehended.
God with us. God with us in relationship. Ultimately that is displayed in God becoming one of us through Jesus. Jesus is completely God and is the exact representation of who God is, a God of relationship.
Our passage this morning is one of deep relationship. We are continuing the food theme of Jesus being the bread of life. Jesus goes on to say that in order to have eternal life, or abundant life filled with meaning and purpose, a forever life, then we must consume Jesus’ body. Again, the word flesh is used, it’s very graphic. When some folks in the first or second century heard this reading from John after Jesus’ death, they actually thought Christ followers were espousing cannibalism!
Of course, that’s not true. It’s a metaphor that’s implying that we must consume Jesus, we must take Jesus in to the deepest parts of who we are, even the parts that are messy, our very bowels. We cannot change, grow, become self/others/or God aware without help. We need Jesus’ life to rise up within and outside of us, to take Jesus in. In other words, we are not merely called to be Christ followers, but to live in Christ.
Jesus goes on to say that we must remain in him, as he is remaining in us. This is a phrase that is referenced in others parts of John.
John 15:4 says this, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Remain, or abide, live…Live in Christ. How do we do that? We are in Christ, he sustains all things. We simply have the pleasure of saying thank you by living in the imperative of remaining in him. Just like any relationship, we need to be with God and with each other in order to grow. Jay, my friend, spent time with me, he knew me. As a friend of mine here at Immanuel reminded me this week, we are on a journey at Immanuel together.
Friends, we cannot truly live as we were meant to live separated from him or from each other…to attempt to do so makes us less than human. We may not understand that completely, but our being our “I am” is found in the life of Christ that also is our lives. We are the body of Christ! Jesus is the exact representation of God to us and he is our truly human representative in the presence of God as God in the flesh.
So friends, BE! Be in and with Christ, consume Christ! He is your identity…you are not defined ultimately by the color of your skin, how much (or how little) is in your bank account, what political party you identify with, or what you have done or not done…YOU are defined by Christ’s actions on your behalf! Your wealth in this life is defined by the relationships you have which is defined by your relationship with Christ! My friendship with Jay is great still, but my truest friend has always been Jesus. He is really different, yet I find my identity in him because of his pursuit of me. Friends, as you live and find you identity in Christ, know that He wants to be with you and will not let you go!