A Diet For Life
10th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. S.D. Spencer - Pastor
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus answered them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me-- not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
Grace, peace and mercy from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven; says the Lord Jesus, if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever.
Today is the fourth of five Sundays on which the Gospel readings have something to do with the theme of bread or Jesus as the bread of life. Each of these five Sundays has its own particular aspect of Jesus’ bread of life sermon. On the first one, Jesus had performed the miracle of feeding 5000 men with only five loaves. In our second reading, Jesus explained to the disciples the need to focus on what He (Jesus) had done with the loaves and not on human reason, which only brings failure. Last week, the third reading, Jesus tells those seeking Him that He is the source of the bread of life and not man’s vain attempts to attain it for himself. We spoke of a constant temptation for sinners as they look for God: They want signs and they want works to do; but, by nature, they neither want the signs that God provides nor the work that God has done for them.
Today, we learn of the ingredients that are in this bread of life and the benefits of eating it. In Jesus ongoing conversation with the Jews, Jesus repeats the theme of His teaching—I am the bread of life. We’ve already heard that this bread is far superior to the manna that God gave the Israelites; this bread is for the soul and not just the body. And far better because Jesus has declared the good news that this bread of life is given to man as a gift from God and not by the works of the flesh.
Today, Jesus expands our understanding on the bread of life. “Whoever eats this bread will never die.” And while the people had expressed a desire for such bread, you don’t exactly see them falling all over themselves to worship Jesus, do you? Jesus reveals that He is the bread of life, but do they really understand? Instead, they seem confused and they begin to grumble. This, no doubt, is because the sinful man doesn’t receive the Gospel of Christ with joy and open arms. The sinful man questions the Lord and is disappointed because Jesus isn’t someone they can mold into what they want. In other words, the sinful man would rather define who god is, rather than let God tell us who He is. Let me give you some worldly examples through the mouths celebrities have when asked if there is a god.
Joan Rivers: God said ‘I gave you a brain, now get out of my face.’ (Clearly God had nothing to do with her face)
Angelina Jolie: “Hmm… For some people, I hope so, for them. For the people who believe in it, I hope so. There doesn’t need to be a God for me. (She’s a great spokes person for God and compassion isn’t she)
Martha Plimpton’s (remember the Goonies?): God exists, and He lives in all the little salt particles in children’s tears all over Africa. (So she believes in a god of salt, remember Lot’s wife?)
Jack Nicholson: (1992 interview in Vanity Fair) “I don’t believe in God now,” but he added that “I can still work up an envy for someone who has a faith. I can see how that could be a deeply soothing experience.” (So Jack has a soft side, let’s pray that God continues to soften that hardened heart)
Julianne Moore (Actor’s Studio December 22, 2002): Was asked “What would you say to God at the pearly gates?” Moore answered “Wow, I was wrong, you really do exist.” (Sorry Julianne you’ll probably never get near the pearly gates)
Robert Redford (Playboy magazine, November 2007): Problems can’t be solved with one way of thinking. If anything is my guide, nature is. That’s where my spirituality is. I don’t believe in organized religion, because I don’t believe people should be organized in how they think, in what they believe. That has never been driven home as hard as with this administration. When somebody thinks God speaks to him, you’ve got trouble. If God is speaking to the president, he’s speaking with a forked tongue, because the behavior of this administration doesn’t seem very godlike or spiritual. (Nature speaks the truth and God speaks with a forked tongue…Well Bob have you ever read about the serpent and Adam and Eve? I think you’ve got it backwards!)
Ellen DeGeneres: In the beginning there was nothing. God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better. (Ellen, is everything a joke to you? Better get all your laughs in now, because I doubt there will be stand-up comedy in Hell?)
Jennifer Aniston: I don’t have a religion. I believe in a God. I don’t know what it looks like but it’s MY god. My own interpretation of the supernatural. (And finally an honest celebrity who admits she has made her own god!)
Phyllis Diller (Nov 2001) How does she visualize the hereafter? “There isn’t any, you dingbat!” … Religion is such a medieval idea. “So God made man in His own image? It’s just the other way around. Man made God in his own image.” (Sad but true, most people make a god that fits their life style, one who goes with their own way of living!)
The world wants to make a god in their own image. Phyllis speaks honestly about how most the world views things. But the world has got it wrong. The end result is eternal death and separation from God. Those people who believe as our celebrities have spoken will be cast into utter darkness where there will be unending weeping and the gnashing of teeth in the pits of hell. They look for a god defined by self and not by God’s Holy Word. So let us return to our text and hear the Word of the Lord.
When it comes to the bread of life that grants eternal life, Jesus’ words themselves give life. Jesus tells us what is in the bread of life, Himself, and tells us what He does for us. But it’s interesting to observe how Jesus’ words are treated in our day, when health, fitness, and nutrition are given so much importance. We check labels on almost everything we buy—even under doctor’s orders—the calories, sodium, trans-fats. Don’t forget the carbs! We’ve become obsessed with monitoring everything that we take into our bodies. But I think as we have just seen, such vigilance is lacking when it comes to monitoring what we take into our souls.
We’ve been trained to beware of certain foods because they contain things that elevate one’s blood sugar, or cholesterol or risk of cancer. From early ages, our children are taught the dangers of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. But we don’t practice the same discernment with things that affect the soul. There are also unhealthy teachings that pollute one’s spiritual well being. And the devil finds increasingly crafty ways to deceive God’s children. For false teachers are not just wolves bearing teeth, showing their eagerness to rip, tear, and destroy. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing that the sheep do not recognize and avoid upon first glance.
The Lord time and time again warns against false teachers and those who tolerate their error. For toleration of error is really intolerance of the truth. Those who say that doctrine and teaching do not matter are in effect saying that it doesn’t matter what you use to feed your soul. They’re expressing that they have no desire for the bread of life, which is the true and unleavened bread for the soul, as opposed to the bread that only sustains the body. Would you intentionally abuse your bodies with rotten food and toxic substances? If not, then why would you allow anything but the pure, nourishing bread from heaven sustain your soul?
Jesus said that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. The smallest amount of yeast will spread throughout the lump of dough. Tolerance of even a little bit of false teaching endangers the soul, for it gives the devil a way in to scatter the sheep and destroy them. To put it another way, if you’re giving a glass of water to man dying of thirst, are you willing to allow that water to be laced with cyanide? Of course not, because even the most minuscule dose of that poison is deadly. Only pure un-poisoned water will help this man.
Brothers and sisters it’s no different, in the matters of faith. The food for our souls must also be pure and untainted, without the lies of the devil and the flesh. And keeping our minds and souls on the straight and narrow way isn’t an easy task, especially if our time with God is only an hour a week. No one here eats only once a week. Our bodies must be nourished and strengthened several times a day. But do your souls receive such care? Do you search the Scriptures daily? Do you still read the Catechism? Do you profit from attending Bible class to study the Word in depth? Are you in Sunday School year round, where your souls are nourished with Jesus, the bread of life?
If not, then you have underestimated the power of the devil to lead you away from the Lord’s sheepfold. The first thing he does is prompt you to base your faith not on Christ and His gifts, but on your own spirituality. The devil leads you to shift your focus from the objective truth that Jesus died for you and gives you the forgiveness in the means of grace, to the subjective feelings that proceed from your own heart. When he does this, your own feelings work against you, and you’ll notice that you don’t feel any different after you haven’t been to church for a couple of months. But while you might feel fine, your soul, nonetheless, is decomposing in the throes of starvation. But salvation comes by grace through faith in Christ alone. And God in His mercy has given us objective means, that is, means outside of ourselves and our feelings, through which that saving grace comes into our souls. As we teach our children in our Catechism class, these means are Word and Sacrament.
God’s grace comes to you through Holy Absolution, where, upon your confession, your pastor stands in the stead and by the command of his Lord and announces the forgiveness of all of your sins. It comes to you in the preached Word, in which you hear of Christ and Him crucified for you, for the forgiveness of your sins. It comes to you through the humble elements of bread and wine, in which, according to Jesus’ own promise, you receive His very body and blood that were given and shed on the cross, for the forgiveness of your sin.
In all these things, God gives you the bread of life that came down from heaven, your Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the bread that nourishes your soul. He alone is the substance that also gives life. For this reason, Jesus tells you today that when you eat of the bread of life you will live forever. He gives you His own flesh, which is for the life of the entire world. A flesh offered for all upon the cross.
What better place is there for you to receive the bread of life than here at the Lord’s altar, where you receive His body and His blood? The true bread from heaven is here for you, for Jesus Himself is present. Come, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and he will give you rest. He will strengthen you in faith and draw you closer to Himself. He promises to forgive your sins and remember them no more. And He sanctifies you with His gifts, that you might live a Christian and God-pleasing life. In so doing, He empowers you to live in the way that Paul described in today epistle: putting away all bitterness, and wrath, and anger; being kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you!
Come receive with thankful hearts the bread of life—the bread imperishable, the bread indestructible, the bread immortal. The bread named Jesus. For Jesus is the Diet for Life, life eternal and that’s His promise to you. In Jesus name, Amen and Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds through faith in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting, Amen!