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A Word from Pastor Joyce

By request, I share with you thoughts from my sermon on August 20th. The text was John 6:51-58.
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.

The Jews did not like to hear Jesus telling them to eat his flesh and drink his blood! Earlier on in the chapter when Jesus said, “I am the bread of life . . .”(v.35), they began to murmur and complain. Matters had now gotten worse when Jesus said “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you”. Their murmuring has now gradually escalated into quarreling among themselves. They are confused and angry at what they have heard. To the Jews, Jesus is a stumbling block; but to those who believe, the broken body and shed blood of Jesus is the only means of salvation.
Notice if you will that Jesus likened his body to bread. He spoke of himself as the bread from heaven and goes on to say that unless we eat his flesh, we will have no life in us. The only bread from heaven that the people were familiar with was “manna”. While in the wilderness, God satisfied their physical hunger with this heavenly food. But, even though manna was food from heaven and in that sense holy, it only filled their stomachs. It supported earthly life but did not take away death. But for those in a spiritual wilderness, Jesus offers bread, which is his body. This real food is not for the belly but for the soul. It is the “real food” that Jesus spoke about and one that supports everlasting life. “Your fathers ate manna and are dead” Jesus said, “ but I am the living bread and ….whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life… My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink”. (vv54-55)
Jesus never attempted to undermine the work of his father in providing manna but was simply making the point that he had come to give His people something better, something superior and something that would satisfy them in a way that they would never hunger or thirst again.
The people never fully understood and they took Jesus’ words literally in terms of eating his flesh and blood. You and I cannot literally eat the flesh of Jesus even if we wanted to, but in subscribing to His life and values, we are indeed feasting on him spiritually. John 1:14 tells us that the “word” became flesh and dwelt among us.” Therefore, when we feed on God’s word, in a sense we are also feeding on his flesh. I am not merely talking about the written word but also about the words that come from that still small voice that is in constant dialogue with those who believe. Friends, Jesus’ holy life and values is “real food” because it is eternal.
The Jewish people also had a hard time dealing with blood. For centuries they sacrificed animals. However, God commanded that they do not drink any of the blood (Lev.17:10cf). On the one hand they knew blood was a means of atonement for their sin, but on the other, they were forbidden to drink any form of it.
Friends, may be there are some of you who are struggling with this issue of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood - - - or you know of someone who struggles with this issue.
You come in faith to the Lord’s table to receive bread and wine; but the idea of eating His body and drinking His blood is a hard saying - - - and surely it is - - - if taken literally. However, if we understand this in a spiritual sense, - - - it is a simple truth.
The dictionary defines blood as “the vital fluid of life”. Deuteronomy 12:23 tells us that “blood is life”. So both from a human understanding and from what the scriptures tell us, we know that blood is life. The life of every flesh is the blood (Lev.17:14). Flesh without blood is dead. And so, using this analogy of “blood being life,” the blood of sacrificed animals that was sprinkled on the sinners, changed their status and conferred on them new life.
Similarly when Jesus’ blood was shed on Calvary, it changed the status of all who believed and (continued on next page)
conferred on them new life. Jesus’ blood is not just the “vital fluid of life.” It is the vital fluid of “eternal life.” Jesus wants to share this eternal component of life with you and me and so He offers to us his blood. His blood was poured out for us.
Oftentimes we commingle physical life with spiritual life. When we do that, Jesus’ words are hard to understand. We must remember that Jesus was talking about spiritual life. The spiritual eating and drinking of Jesus’ body and blood is a partaking of his life and values. Just as the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, so too, we are in the Son and the Son in us when we clothe our sinful life with his body and blood.
If we do not want his body and blood to infuse into ours, how can we expect to be identified as his child? Just as blood analysis helps establish parentage in the medical world, so too, in the spiritual realm, our life when analyzed must point to Jesus. As we continue to feed on Him, we gradually become more like Him.
There is both mystery and reality in the bread and wine
Jesus is the Host of the Supper and Lord of the table – it is he who gathers us together to feed on Himself. Jesus wants to become an intimate part of us, joining himself to our very lives and joining us to him - - - forever. Joined in this intimate way, we are also joined to all other Christians who share this meal in Christ’s name.
At the communion table when the bread and wine is consecrated and blessed, it is no longer the bread and wine/juice from the store. The Spirit of God descends upon and enters these sacramental elements. They become holy and life giving. The ordinary bread and wine become extraordinary. When you and I partake of this meal in faith, - - - we are not just eating bread and drinking juice or wine but rather we are taking into ourselves or receiving into ourselves the body and blood of Jesus. To the believer, the body of Jesus is “real food” and his blood is “real drink”.
As you and I continue to feed on Him spiritually, the spiritual hunger within us will be satisfied. Our lives will gradually be transformed and we will reach a point when it is no more that we live - - - but Christ who lives in us. (Gal 2:19)

Peace and joy, Pastor Joyce

09/23/2006