14/4/05 John 6:44-51
John 6:44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: `They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
"Super Size Me" is a 2004 documentary about New York filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. He spent a month eating only at McDonalds' and had to eat every item on the menu at least once. This decision horrifies his vegan girlfriend and soon leads to desperate attempts at intervention from various doctors, aghast at the havoc the diet is wreaking upon his system. Spurlock, aged 33, was healthy and slim, weighing 13 stone 3.5 lbs (185.5 lb /84 kg). His height is 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m). After 30 days, he gained 24.5 lb (11 kg), an increase of 13% of his body mass. He also experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and nearly catastrophic liver damage.
There is a programme called "You are what you eat" and Jamie Oliver has recently hit the headlines by criticizing school meals in the U.K. There is a growing realization in society of the importance of diet and exercise.
Jesus had just fed five thousand people supernaturally with bread and fish ( 6:1-13 ). This repeated the miracle of God providing the manna in the wilderness, something the Jews expected the Messiah to perform.
Jesus then claimed to be the "bread of life" ( 35, 48 ). What does this mean? Can we eat him, in some way? Jesus was not talking about cannibalism, eating his literal flesh and blood. Nor was he talking about a symbolic eating of the bread and drinking the wine in the Holy Communion. The reason for this is that the Bible teaches that faith in Jesus, not religious ritual will put someone right with God. After all, we cannot imagine that God would accept someone into his kingdom because they had received Holy Communion more times than someone else.
The New Testament and the reformers taught that, to have any value, the Holy Communion has to be received properly, in repentance and faith to have any worth.
Jesus' claims to be 'bread' are centred on the cross. 51b. "This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Jesus was talking about his voluntary giving up of his physical and spiritual life on the cross. The physical pain of the crucifixion and the spiritual pain of the separation from God when Jesus took the punishment for the sins of the world.
Just as physical food is digested and almost comes part of us, providing us with energy and other things we need to live, so Jesus gives us everything that we need to truly 'live'.
Early Egyptian writings urged mothers to send their children to school with plenty of bread and beer for their lunch. Bread has been seen as the staple diet by many peoples. We observe this in the Lord's prayer when we pray "Give us this day our daily bread". An average slice of packaged bread contains only 1 gram of fat and 75 to 80 calories. Bread provides carbohydrates which are an important source of energy for the body. It is also a good source of vitamin B, minerals, and fibre. Although high in starch, breads are not fattening if you do not add butter or cheese. Multi-grain and whole wheat breads provide fibre and other nutrients. A good diet requires 6 -11 slices of bread/wheat-related foods per day.
Just as our food provides everything that we need to live and stay healthy physically, so we are to "feed" on Jesus to stay healthy in our faith and to grow spiritually.
In the New Testament feeding, in the metaphorical sense, usually refers to learning about the Jesus and the Christian faith, for example, Hebrews 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Feeding on Jesus involves learning. This can occur through sermons; Bible reading and study, including Daily Bible Reading notes and Home Groups; Christian books; and fellowship with other believers. These should be done through and with the help of the Holy Spirit who works within Christians, making them more like Jesus.
There are other ways in which we can grow in our relationship with Jesus. Prayer is an obvious example, individually and in church services or home groups.
Just as bread and other foods become part of us as they are digested and the goodness flows into our body, so our spiritual food will become part of us.
People may embark on a diet, perhaps with an exercise programme in order to live longer and better. While this is beneficial and commendable everyone will die. Jesus promises that those who feed on him will not die but have eternal, resurrection life. 44b, and I will raise him up at the last day. So our devotion to him will bring eternal benefits.
Every person who has ever lived will rise from the dead (Dan 12:2; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15); but the resurrection of unbelievers will be the beginning of God's judgment on them, while the resurrection of believers will be the beginning of their new, exalted life in Christ. The resurrection bodies of believers will be incorruptible, glorious, and spiritual (1 Cor 15:35 ff.) and like Christ's glorious body (Phil 3:21). Believers throughout history will be united in the presence of God in a perfect, restored universe.
C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain. "We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning Heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about "pie in the sky," and of being told that we are trying to "escape from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere." But either there is "pie in the sky" or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no."
Our response to today's passage should be:
To persevere in our relationship with Jesus, feeding upon him.
To look forward to being with Jesus in eternity without fearing death.
To reach out to a dying world with the love and life of Jesus. In our prayers, deeds and words. The Christian faith is meant to be bread for daily use, not cake for special occasions.