“The Living Bread = Jesus’ Flesh”

John 6:35-51; Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

There are verses from our gospel lesson in John and our epistle lesson from Ephesians that I would like to pay close attention to this morning. From Ephesians chapter 5: Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

And from John 6: 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Now to get a feeling for what these verses mean, I would like to tell you a story from a book by Shel Silverstein called “The Giving Tree”

It’s about an apple tree in a family’s back yard, that gives the family’s little boy, her apples to pick and her branches to climb in. The boy and the tree love each other and are happy in their life together. As the boy grows older however, his interest in the tree becomes less. The tree is very lonely until one day the boy returns as a young man. The tree offers her apples and branches, but the boy claims that he is too old to climb and play. He is more interested in money. ’Can’t you give me some money?’ he asks the tree.

The tree doesn’t have money to give him, but she does have apples. Why doesn’t the boy pick the apples and sell them, then he will be happy. The boy does this and the tree is happy. But then the boy stays away an even longer time and the tree is sad.

Years later the boy returns. The tree is overwhelmed with joy as she invites the boy to eat her apples and swing from her branches. But the boy is “too busy” to play. What he really wants is his own family and a house to keep him warm.

“Can you give me a house?”  he asks the tree. No, but the boy can cut her branches and build a house with them, suggests the tree; then he will be happy. The boy does this and the tree is happy.

Many years pass before the boy, now middle-aged returns. The tree, overjoyed, invites the boy to play. But now the boy is too old to play. all he wants is a boat which will take him far away. ‘Can you give me a boat?’ he asks the tree. No, but the tree invites the boy to cut down her trunk and make a boat so he can be happy. The boy does this, and the tree is happy –but not really, for now only a bare stump is left.

Years later when the boy returns, he is a hunched-over, old man. The tree apologizes for having nothing to offer any longer, no more apples to eat or branches to climb, only an old stump. But the old man says his teeth are too weak to eat apples, and he is too old to climb. All he needs is a quiet place to sit and rest for he is very tired.

’Well,’ says the tree, straightening herself up as much as she can, ’an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, boy, sit down and rest.’ And the boy does. The tree is very happy.”

Isn’t that a neat story? The apple tree gave and gave, just as Jesus “The Bread of Life” gives and gives of himself from the cross of Calvary. Today’s epistle lesson says: (Eph. 5:2)  … and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Instead of apples, Jesus gave bread, the Living Bread from Heaven: his own flesh. God used a tree, the cross of Calvary to give us the living bread so that all who eat from it, may have life. And this tree, the cross, keeps on giving and giving as did that apple tree. The body and blood of Christ is still given and shed for us each time we come to his holy supper.

I remember my Mom making bread in the oven. I love thefragrant smell of the fresh bread baking, and it seemed as if everyone was excited to come to the table that evening for supper to have that bread to eat.

Is there an excitement each time you come to the Lord’s table to eat and drink? I hope so, for there at His table, we experience the bread of life, Jesus himself. The bread which was given on the cross for our lives.

In the Gospel text Jesus says 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  The fruit of the cross, the giving tree of Christ is for you and me.

There was a popular movie and novel called “Barabbas” which came out many years ago. It was about Barabbas, the criminal chosen by the Jews to be released over Jesus, as was Pilate’s practice during the “Passover”.

The movie portrayed that after his release, Barabbas walks into the local inn for a drink and everyone is shocked to see him. After a few rounds of drinks, the crowd along with Barabbas decide to go see this man who had been appointed to die in Barabbas’ place. Barabbas pushes his way to the front of the crowd; where he sees Jesus hanging there on the cross. Barabbas was so moved by the whole experience that he turns and grabs the arms of the person standing next to him and says, “Look you see that fellow hanging on that tree? He is dying on my tree, that is my cross.”

My friends, Jesus didn’t die on just any cross, he died on your cross and my cross. He took our place on the cross, so that we might not have to be sacrificed for the sins we have committed, against God and our fellow human beings! Jesus took our punishment, our place, on our cross, and instead of death he gave us life, free life, the living bread of heaven.

Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus hung from a giving tree and instead of giving branches, apples, and a trunk he gave his flesh and blood? Do you believe that Jesus in His holy supper gives you the living bread and the living water of Jesus body and blood?

Or are you like the skeptics at the beginning of this lesson who said,   John 6:42 … “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

We come here Sunday after Sunday to be renewed, to hear the promise of God’s grace to eat of the bread of life and drink the blood of Christ. We do this out of FAITH in God’s LOVE for us. Through God word and deeds, we see the true love that God has for us. That love is expressed to us through the ultimate show of love Eternal Salvation!!

We need to come to church regularly to keep the coals of salvation burning in our hearts. You may have heard this story before, but it makes a good point that we need to share.

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him.

It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited.

The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. After several minutes of silence, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent.

The host watched all this in quiet fascination. As the one lone ember’s flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and “dead as a doornail.”

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday.” (pause)

Jesus said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”                     



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