Pentecost 12

Sermon:  It Is Hard to Eat Right


Text: John 6:41-51


“This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?”  


That is the sentence that immediately comes after our words today.  It wasn’t Jesus’ enemies who said it either.  It was the disciples themselves.  What you heard Jesus saying just now is hard to understand and harder (perhaps) to do.  Jesus is offering himself to us this morning like bread.  He is saying that his flesh is food and his blood is drink.  He is telling us to eat.  He is commanding us to eat.  Something like parents would say to their children, “Eat your food!”  But it is hard.  The people said it was.


This section of Scripture isn’t about the Lord’s Supper.   At least it is not the first meaning of the words you heard about the eating and drinking of Jesus’ body and blood. Not everyone who eats the Lord’s Supper is going to be saved.  But everyone who swallows Jesus in the way he says here will be saved.  Period.  End of discussion.  He who feeds on this bread will live forever.  And before that, But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.  God is setting the table.  He sets himself before you.  He wants to live inside your life.  He wants to be what powers and fuels your decisions and actions.  He wants to be your inspiration.  He wants to be your monitor and guide.  He wants to be your strength!  He’s the food to provide all these things.


But it is hard to eat right.  That’s what disciples say when Jesus talks this way.   It’s easy to grumble.  The people in the reading for today were grumbling.  At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’  Jesus has to say to them…and to us if we are doing it…”Stop grumbling among yourselves.”  It is never a good thing when someone invites you to their home and prepares a supper for you if you sit there at the main course and grumble about it.  We wouldn’t think of doing such a thing with anyone in  this world.  If we didn’t like it we would eat it anyway---choke it down---and then go on later when it was safe to say, “I can’t believe they had that!!”  That’s what etiquette would dictate.  But for some reason when God says to us, “Here, eat this, it’s good for you.  Take this inside you.  Let this become part of your life”---we feel  that it is all right to grumble and complain to our host.  People do.  Even disciples do.  Even when the host is God himself!


Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you?” (verse 61)  Jesus said those words just after we heard, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?”   And we hear just a few verses after this, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”  This Jesus who provided bread which they liked so much for their souls provided bread for their souls and they disliked it so much.  They said to themselves, “If this is what he is going to give us to swallow, we don’t want anything more to do with him.”  It was sad, this grumbling and offense was.  Jesus understood it.  It made him sad too.  It prompted Jesus to sadly ask his disciples, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”  


Emeril, Julia Childs, Martha Stewart…all have something in common: food.  Eating.  Happy and joyous eating with a lot of pizzazz.  People like to eat.  There are all those cooking channels on television.  They even have cooking contests with lots of drama.   People even get the chance to participate and eat some of those wonderful things.  They don’t even pay!  So there must be something strange about eating God’s bread that makes people dislike the process of eating so much.  What makes the Bread which Jesus claims to be such a distasteful experience for so many?  


Something makes this hard and offensive.  Jesus is so familiar and unattractive.  We hear it in the words, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” People don’t really want to swallow what Jesus has to offer them.  That’s one thing that makes it hard to eat right.  The devil is out there spoiling our appetites.  That makes it hard too.  Our natural instinct would be to eat, but the devil says, “Not so fast!  How about eating this over here?  How about swallowing this?  Why don’t you take the popular people whose faces you see on the tabloids as you leave the grocery store.  How about using them and their charm to give you strength and inspiration in your life?”  And so they do---apparently, put the magazine into the cart with the other things they eat and check out.  This is about spiritual things too.  Eating spiritual things when there are so many physical things to eat makes it hard to eat right. That makes it hard and abstract.  How can we eat Jesus in the first place?  Don’t talk to me about stuff like that.  Put meat and potatoes on my plate (or pizza and coke) but don’t talk to me about eating spiritual things.


And if Jesus is the Bread, some say, “Too homely.”  Isaiah the prophet said there was nothing about Jesus that we should desire him.  Isaiah said he was like someone from whom men turn their faces.  Too simple.  Kids believe him.  Adults need to have something a little more erudite. Too inclined to be with the poor and down and out.  Too inclined to be poor himself.  Look at the sum total of his earthly possessions lying at the foot of his cross.  Too strict and harsh with his loving.  (“If you love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said.) Too loving...every tramp that comes along: Publicans and tax collectors and ruined women. Too rural.  His unbelieving brothers chided him and said, “Get up to Jerusalem if you are going to have this following that you seem to want.  Get up to the big city!”  Too provincial.  He spoke with an accent.  His followers from his area did, anyway.  Too small town.  (Even the Bible speaks of that…little among the clans of Judah.  


It’s hard to eat right, especially if the right way means a steady diet of Jesus.


But something has happened to you.  Some of you have been eating this manna for over seventy years. God was good to you.  He said, “Eat your supper,” and you ate it.  You maybe didn’t enjoy everything you ate.  Surely if you take Jesus’ words as the appetizers, you didn’t like everything.  You perhaps don’t like to be included in the words you have heard so far.  Why hear all these things?  Why have God point out the tasteless things our natures are capable of?  We too can leave Jesus like many of the people did.  But we aren’t going to.  We are like Peter in this.  We say with him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”  Jesus said it to us, “He who believes has everlasting life.”  That’s it.  That’s what it is all about.  Simple.  Believe Jesus.  Swallow Jesus.


We don’t bake this bread on our own.  We don’t buy this bread.  Isaiah tells us that in chapter 55 that Jesus comes to us free of charge.  Wisdom has prepared her feast.  (Proverbs 6) Jesus is that feast of wisdom.  He is the One who says, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We don’t have to heat the oven.  Jesus comes to us with the words “It is finished.”  Our salvation is all done already.  We don’t have the ingredients that make Jesus but he does.  He is those necessary ingredients for everything important in our lives.  He is the Christ and the Messiah.  That’s what those two words both mean.  Jesus is the Bread that always comes in its own package.  That wonderful package is called the Bible.  We don’t mix it up on anything.  He knows everything about us.  He knows everything about everything.  We don’t concoct Jesus in our own bread machine.  No man concocts and construes Jesus in anything.  He comes from his Father.  He comes from eternity.  He always has been.  God has the recipe which only Jesus could follow.  He gives this plan of salvatioin to us and we take it in.  We swallow it.

 We eat.  And he even helps us with our swallowing trouble.  He makes us delight in what can be a hard thing to do.  He makes us say with the writer Jeremiah, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.”  And we rejoice to agree with Ezekiel the writer too who said, “Then (Jesus) said to me, ‘Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.’  So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.’”  (3:3)

You get Jesus free of charge.  He gives you heaven and eternity without your being able to pay for it.  You wait in his bread line.  (Martin Luther said at the end of his life, “Wir sind Bettler”…”We are beggars.”  Martin Luther knew about the bread line.)   But it isn’t demeaning or degrading to wait for God’s handout of Bread.  It is from his own hand.  It is from his own heart.  “Here is Jesus.  He’s my Son.  I am well pleased with him.  Believe him!  Hear him!  He’s the Bread that saves you!

Actually, even though it is hard to eat right, it’s easy too.  What could be easier?  God hands you something.  You eat it.  What could be easier than that?  Don’t make it hard.  Children do this very well.  They believe.  They eat well too.  


Look to the front of the church this morning.  Look on the altar.  See the body and blood of Jesus with the bread and wine.  This is also part of eating the bigger Bread from heaven.  It is a wonderful reminder and encourager to know what it is you have in faith when you come to God’s Church.  You have the very Bread for your soul and it will save you!


Eating this Bread might be hard…but it’s possible.  It’s right.  It saves you!


Jesus said, “If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever.”  Amen