St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Come And Eat And Drink At The Lord’s Table

Sermon on John 6:51-58

Text: “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.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

It is always nice to be invited to someone’s home for dinner. You get a chance to visit with them. As you sit and visit, you may come to the conclusion that it really has been too long a time since you sat together and caught up on what’s been going on in their lives. You also have the opportunity to enjoy the food that they have put out for you. You know that they went to some effort to put out a good meal for you. It may be one of their specialties. It might be a new recipe that they have been looking for the right opportunity to try out. It might be one of your favorites that they know you like. As we continue our study of John chapter six, we are reminded of the fact that Jesus is the Bread of Life and that he offers himself to us. So, as we study God’s Word this morning, let us COME TO EAT AND DRINK AT THE TABLE OF OUR SAVIOR where 1. The Conversation Is Always Stimulating and 2. The Food Is Exactly What We Need.

Again, as we noted earlier, Jesus is in the middle of his Bread of Life discourse. The Jews had mentioned the manna that their forefathers ate in the desert for forty years. They, then, asked Jesus what he would do so that they might believe in him. In other words, they were saying to Jesus, “Top that!” In response, Jesus reminded them that, even though their forefathers ate of this miraculous bread, they still died. Jesus wanted to direct their attention away from earthly food with its temporary nutrients. He turns their attention to heavenly bread with its eternal benefits. That is why he said so plainly, “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.” Jesus wanted them to make no mistake about whom he was and what he was offering to them. He was the living bread that came down from heaven. The one who ate of this bread would live forever.

At this we read, “Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” There may have been those in the crowd that thought that Jesus was advocating some sort of cannibalism, a literal eating of Jesus’ flesh. However, it is more likely that they were using this tact, this question, because they found the concept of Jesus as their bread of life too difficult to swallow. They preferred the bread of their own self-righteousness to the righteousness of Christ. They felt that they had done a good job of following God’s commands, as well as the other laws and regulations that had been added over time. They were confident in what they had done. They thought that they didn’t need what this Bread, this Jesus, was doing or would do for them. We see this from a question that they had asked earlier, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Did you catch that? “What must we do?” They didn’t want a Bread where everything was done for them. The Jews began to argue sharply among themselves as to what Jesus meant. Jesus’ comments about being the Bread of Life certainly stimulated conversation.

As we sit at the table of our Savior, the conversation is always stimulating. It begins with a horror story. It is not a story of ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Rather, it is telling of the law and what God demands of us. In reality, it isn’t so much God’s law that is so scary, but rather the fact that we have not done what God tells us to do. God tells us that we must perfectly obey him in everything we say, do, or think. God even cares about our attitudes. In other words, we may do or say the right thing, but if it is done for the wrong reason, it is still wrong. We may be nice to someone. However, if we are only being nice to them because we can get something from them, that is wrong. We may refrain from saying something to someone. If the reason is that we are doing this is so that they will be built up, that’s one thing. If we are being quiet, because we don’t want to tell them that they are sinning and hurt their feelings, that is wrong. In that case, we would be putting them in front of God. There are so many things that can be pointed out where we have failed to live according to God’s will. Then, the conversation continues with the fact that everyone who does this is guilty and should spend the rest of their eternity in hell. This conversation should well shake us to our bones.

It is here that the conversation with Jesus becomes very stimulating, for he tells us all that he did for us. He tells us how he let his throne in heaven and became a human being. He became one of us so that he might rescue us. He came to be our substitute. He came to live for us. He came to do what we cannot do. He came to live perfectly according to his Father’s will in our place. He then tells us that, in order to pay for our sins, he willingly suffered and died on the cross. He took the full brunt of God’s anger against our sins, so that we would never have to. Then, he tells us of his resurrection, which assures us that his payment for our sins was accepted. He sums it up by telling us that he did everything necessary for our salvation. There is nothing that we add to what he has done. To many of us, this is a story that we have heard time and again. However, it is certainly one that we can never become tired of. It is the story of Jesus’ amazing love for us. The conversation with Jesus is always stimulating. It gives us our reason for living for him.

Just as good conversation is necessary for a good get-together, you have to have good food. Usually there are many choices. You pick a little of this and some of that. You don’t take just one thing because there are so many things that you can enjoy. How different it is with the Lord’s table! There is really one course that is offered, but it is all the food that we need.

What is this food that Jesus is talking about? We read in verse 54, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” Jesus is talking about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Normally, when we hear this, we might think of the Lord’s Supper. However, this is not the case. There are several reasons for this. First of all, Jesus had not yet instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, so it wouldn’t make sense for him to command his followers to do something he had not yet established. Secondly, the words that Jesus uses are different in each case. Here, Jesus uses the word “flesh.” In connection with the Lord’s Supper, he uses the word “body.” Thirdly, we know that if a person partakes of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, he eats and drinks judgement on himself, as it says in 1 Corinthians 11:29. Here, Jesus says that, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” If you eat his flesh and drink his blood you have eternal life. So, Jesus is not in this instance referring to the Lord’s Supper. There are other places in Scriptures where we are urged to partake of that sacred meal.

Here, Jesus is referring to a spiritual eating and drinking. He is encouraging a very intimate union between the sinner and the Savior. In short, eating and drinking Jesus’ flesh and blood is to believe in the crucified Christ with all of our being. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, this knowledge has become a part of us. This knowledge is more than just a “head knowledge” about Jesus and our salvation, a mere acquaintance with the facts, but it doesn’t really sink in or change us. We might call this a “stomach knowledge.” It has gotten in and become a part of us. In the old hymnal, we had the phrase to “inwardly digest.” This is really the only food that we need, because it is the only food that saves us.

There are many spiritual foods out there that advertized as being good for us, but they do not satisfy us, in the long run. We may think that we can do something to get in the right relationship with God. However, that is impossible. The more that we try to follow this method, the more that we will become depressed when we realize that our evil still outweighs our good. We won’t be satisfied. We will be left wanting. Other spiritual food that is offered to us is the thought that there is no true right or wrong. You do what feels good to you. If you follow this, you will be found wanting, because your conscience will be right there telling you that you have not done what you are supposed to do.

There is only one food that satisfies, and that is the faith that trusts that Jesus is our only hope for salvation. Jesus shows us that once we have been brought to faith in him, we have eternal life. That is because of the fact that our sins are forgiven through our faith in him. Where there are no sins, there is eternal life. This is exactly food that we need, for without it, we would spiritually starve to eternal death.

This feeding on Jesus is more than a one time thing. Just as we continue to feed our bodies, we need to continually feed our faith. Otherwise, we will starve to death and lose the blessings that Jesus wants to give to us. It’s interesting to note the Greek word that is used for eating in these verses. Jesus starts out with the word that is normally used for eating, such as you would do at the dinner table. Later on, the word for eating has the idea of gnawing or crunching. It is often used of animals feeding. Just think for a moment of how animals eat. Normally, animals eat audibly, enthusiastically, intent on their food. Couldn’t it be that Jesus wants his believers to take him in with the same intensity? He gives us many opportunities to do so. We can read his Word in our homes. We have the opportunity to hear his Word proclaimed in church. Soon, we will be back in full swing with our education opportunities at church. Sunday School is a wonderful opportunity for our children to come to know their Savior better. Confirmation class isn’t just something you go through as a rite of passage. It is an opportunity to study in depth what God has done for us. There are a number of opportunities to come together for Bible Class. Jesus keeps putting the food on the table. He heaps it in front of us. May we take advantage of the opportunities that he gives us to satisfy our souls with the one food that we really need.

We enjoy the times we have to get together with friends. We eat together and we visit. Our Savior invites us to a meal. It is a meal where the conversation is always stimulating as we learn more and more about what God has done and continues to do for us. Our hearts are stimulated as we hear about all that he has waiting for us. As we sit at this table, we have all the food that we need. It is this that truly satisfies us. Come today. Come every day and sit at your Savior’s table. You will never have a better time than when you are visiting with your dear friend, Jesus. Amen.