whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever
Read John 6: 51-58
Now, you may have noticed the phrase ‘bread of life’ has cropped up quite a lot recently via the gospel readings, and that’s because we’re in John’s Gospel and he thinks it is so important a theme that it takes up a good part of chapter 6, long after he’s told us about the feeding of the five thousand. And we can’t really look at this without glancing back a few verses as the disciples try working out what Jesus is saying to them through that miracle. What is it that Jesus has come to give them?
Earlier in verse 35 they ask 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’
32 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
Jesus was telling them that a physical loaf of bread is fine, but you soon get hungry again (a bit like most worldly pleasures, I guess) and what he offers to them is so much more than that temporary satisfaction - this is spiritual, and this is the very essence of life. In our reading this morning Jesus tells those around him, ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’
Jesus is talking about his incarnation, the day he was born, and in this pictorial language, those who eat are those who believe in him, those who digest his words and believe in him.
Notice the word ‘Whoever’ because that indicates a choice, which takes us back to the reading about Solomon, who could choose anything he wanted in life, and made the best choice he could, silly to some, but one for which he would be truly blessed.
Have you ever sat in a restaurant and pondered over a ‘posh menu’, struggling to understand what on earth is on offer? Then you come across a familiar word and choose steak which seems a safe bet. But then you sit there and see amazing looking meals being delivered to other diners, who had possibly asked the waiter to explain the menu to them?
Well, the disciples were looking for Jesus to deliver something physical, tangible, something they could easily relate to, like bread in their belly! But that’s not what Jesus is offering. So, they question him, again and again, and he talks of sharing his own flesh and blood, which seems such a strange concept.
But, in his mind is the Cross, which the disciples won’t understand yet. Jesus spoke in picture language because it was something people could lodge in their minds and think about later. I’m sure the disciples would! And here he’s definitely talking spiritual.
Those who choose to believe in Jesus will experience his presence in their lives long after he has given up his literal flesh and blood. This is spiritual food, that will satisfy hunger long after the Cross and Resurrection.
And, of course, we are reminded of this every time we share as a congregation in Holy Communion.
It’s not the temporary comfort of a meal that quickly leads to hunger, but a spiritual experience that lasts through this life and beyond. That’s the choice Jesus offers all his potential disciples. To carry on as we are, choose the things the world deems essential but often aren’t… or choose something which seems strange to the world but brings so many blessings both to our lives in this moment and forever. ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.’ ‘Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever’
No-one can make that choice for us, that’s for us to choose!