Second Reformed Church

Monday, September 14, 2015

"Eat & Drink" Sermon: John 6:41-59

“Eat & Drink”

[John 6:41-59]

September 6, 2015Second Reformed Church

            In order to be saved, we must eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood. 

What does that mean?

            We continue looking at Jesus’ response to the crowd on the other side of the sea this morning.  Jesus had fed some fifteen thousand people with five loaves and two fish the day before – fed them until they were stuffed and fell asleep, leaving the disciples to collect twelve baskets of fragments.

            Jesus told the disciples to take the boat and go to the other side of the sea while He prayed alone.  This disciples left and got caught in a violent storm, but Jesus walked across the sea, through the storm, and transported the boat to the opposite shore.

            In the morning, the crowd woke up and couldn’t find Jesus – and they were hungry.  So, they walked around to the other side of the sea and asked Jesus when He got there.

            Jesus exposed their true motives – desiring more bread – more food, and He explained to them that He is the Bread of Life – it is only through faith in Jesus alone and the work He accomplished that anyone is sustained into life eternal, that He is given as a gift from God the Father, and the Gift of salvation that is given through Jesus is for a people chosen by God who will believe savingly and never completely fall away, but are received into the Kingdom of God to be physically raised on the last day.

            Jesus continued as the Jews grumbled and complained and expressed their skepticism about what He was saying.

            And we see, first, this morning, Jesus affirms His supernatural birth.

“So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that comes down from heaven.’  They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’”

The Jews heard Jesus’ explanation about how He is the Bread of Life, and they got stuck on the first point, because Jesus said that He came down out of heaven.  The Jews understood what He was saying – He was not a mere human being.  Jesus was not simply born of the union of Joseph and Mary.

And so they grumbled – “What is He talking about?  ‘Came down from heaven’ – Who does He think He is?  God?  We know Him.  He is Jesus, the Son of Joseph and Mary.  We saw Him grow up.  We saw Him work in the carpenter’s shop.  Who does He think He is claiming to have come down from heaven?”

Mary knew.  Joseph knew.  Jesus knew. 

We remember what was said by the angel Gabriel to Mary:

“And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God” (Matthew 1:35, ESV).

God the Son incarnated in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  According to the Will of God the Father and by the Power of God the Holy Spirit, God the Son entered the womb of Mary and united with her seed and was born to her – the God-Man – Jesus of Nazareth.  Both born of Mary and descended from heaven.  Both one hundred percent human and one hundred percent God in One Person, as He had to be, if He was to save His people.

Jesus had to be a real human being in order to take our place – to be our Substitute before God, and He had to be the real One God in order to keep the Law of God perfectly and bear God’s Wrath for our sins, that we might be saved by His life and His death and Resurrection.

The Jews understood what Jesus was saying – they didn’t like it.  They didn’t believe it.  But Jesus claimed to be God born in the person of Jesus.

And He is, and He must be – else we are all dead in our sins!

Second, God the Father causes people to be saved.

“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 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.’”

Jesus told the Jews to stop grumbling about what He was saying, and He explained to them why they could not believe it:  No one can come to Jesus – no one can receive the Gospel by faith alone and believe in Jesus as the Savior – unless God the Father draws that person to Jesus.

We might naturally read this and understand the word “draw” to mean to “woo” or “make interesting” – as though Jesus was saying that no one can come to Him unless the Father makes Him attractive to a person.  But that is not what the word means here.

The same word is used and translated differently elsewhere:  “The net full of big fishes [sic] is drawn or dragged ashore (21:6, 11).  Paul and Silas are dragged into the forum (Acts 16:19).  Paul is dragged out of the temple (Acts 21:30).  The rich drag the poor before the judgement-seats (Jas. 2:6)” (Henricksen, John, 238, italic his).

Jesus is not saying, “No one can come to the Father unless the Father says, ‘Hey, over hear, look how attractive Jesus and His salvation are – come over, pretty please.”  No, Jesus is saying, “No one can come to the Jesus unless the Father drags him to Me.”

Since we are born dead in our sins, we are unable to come to Jesus.  The only way we can be saved is if the Father picks up our dead bodies and brings us to Jesus – if God the Father graciously raises us from the dead and makes us believe through that miraculous work.

The positive side of this – that we noted last week – is that everyone that God the Father drags to His Son, Jesus, will be saved now and forever by His Work alone.  God makes us right with God, and we can do nothing to change that.

So, the reason they did not believe – the reason they were grumbling about what Jesus was saying, is that they had not been dragged by the Father to the Son.  But, if and when they were, they would believe, and Jesus would physically raise them to life on the last day.

God “teaches” those He wills – He “educates” those He wills in the Gospel – in the One Way to salvation.  And everyone that God the Father has “schooled” will come to true and eternal saving faith in Jesus.

Then, Jesus clarifies that this is a heart-work of God – it is not that all who believe have seen the Father – only the Son has seen the Father – and so Jesus again asserts His Divinity – that He is also God – because no mere human being can look up the Face of God and live, but God the Son has seen God.  And it is because He is God that He can grant eternal life to all those who believe savingly in Him.

And so, God the Father causes people to be saved.

Third, the Incarnate Son gives His flesh to save.

“’I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate 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.’”

Jesus again states that He is the Bread of Life – He is the One that sustains spiritual and eternal life.  And He parallels the manna which God gave to Israel in the wilderness to eat to sustain them physically – with Himself – Who God the Father has sent down from Heaven to be the Bread of Life to grant and to sustain the spiritual and eternal life of all those who will ever believe.

Jesus says that He – as the Bread of Life – is greater than the manna, because the fathers ate the manna and eventually died, whereas anyone who eats the Bread of Life will never die, but live forever.  And the bread that Jesus gives is His flesh – that is His life – His physical body.

Paul explains:  “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4, ESV).

In other words:  God the Son, while remaining God, became a real human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, so He could live under the Law of God, keep it perfectly, and be judged righteous – sinless and holy – and, so He could take on all of the sins of all of the people who would ever believe in Him and receive the punishment for all of those sins on our behalf.

In doing that, Jesus, as our Substitute, credits us with His Holy life, so we are seen as holy before God, and He takes away our sin and pays the debt for it, so we are seen as sinless before God.

So, Jesus – the God-Man – gave His flesh – His flesh and blood – so that all we who believe savingly in Him would be received by God and into eternal life, as holy and sinless.

God the Incarnate Son gave His flesh to save.

Fourth, eternal life comes through eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood.

“The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”

Was Jesus saying that His disciples should cannibalize Him? 

During the first century of the Church, one of the charges that Christians had to defend themselves against was that they were cannibals – because they talked about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus.

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.’  Jesus said these things in the synagogue as he taught at Capernaum.”

If Jesus was not telling them that they were to engage in cannibalism, what was He saying?  What is it to “eat His flesh and drink His blood”?

I suspect that most of us, here in the twenty-first century, hearing this language, would conclude that Jesus is talking about the elements of the Lord’s Supper.

But there are two reasons why that cannot be what Jesus is talking about:

First, the Lord’s Supper had not been instituted yet.

Second, eating and drinking the elements of the Lord’s Supper do not cause a person to have eternal life.

Jesus said, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Let’s ask the question from its conclusion:  how does one gain eternal life?

Paul writes, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, ESV).

Eternal life is granted to those who, by faith alone, confess and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ – in Who He is and what He has done.

Now, how are we who are born spiritually dead in our sins able to confess and believe in the Gospel of JesusChrist?

Again, Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:3-11, ESV).

Paul explains that – as our Substitute – Jesus lived for us – on our behalf He kept the whole Law of God – and He died for us – He took upon Himself the full Wrath of God for our sin.

So, just as Jesus was put to death and buried, we are symbolically put to death and buried in baptism.  And just as Jesus lived a perfect and holy life under God’s Law and was crucified for our sin, we are now empowered by God the Holy Spirit living in us so that we can keep the Law – as a response to salvation – and we are to turn from sin and not sin any more.  And just as Jesus was physically raised in His Resurrection to eternal life, we also shall be physically raised to eternal life on the last day.

Why?  Because we are united with Christ in His work through faith; we are feeding on His flesh and drinking His blood.  We are united with Jesus in His work through faith.

Jesus put it another way:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5, ESV).

Just as the branches can’t live without being part of the body of the vine and drinking the sap, we are united with Christ through faith, and it is in that way that we “feed on [his] flesh and drink [his] blood.”

We are not really meant to drink Jesus’ blood and eat His flesh in any sort of cannibalistic way, and He is not pointing to the Lord’s Supper in any way with these words here.  Jesus is saying that salvation and eternal life are only had by those who remain united with Him by faith.

Eternal life comes through eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood – that is, through faith – a faith which bears fruit in faithful obedience to God’s Word.

So, we see that it is absolutely necessary that Jesus not be a mere human being – He has to be both fully God and fully human at the same time in the same person to be our Substitute and Savior.  Thus, God the Son came down from Heaven and incarnated in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The work of salvation is all of God:

God the Father has chosen a people for Himself and God “drags” all those spiritually dead that He has chosen to Jesus and spiritually raises them from the dead.

The Father raises them based on the work that Jesus did in living and dying and rising – living a life of perfect obedience and suffering God’s Wrath for all of our sin – finding more joy in physically rising and saving the people God gave Him than He did horror in the sufferings of crucifixion.

As those who have been raised to spiritual life – forgiven for our sins – and empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow in faithful obedience, we are to do so.  We are to seek to understand what God would have us do and be and prayerfully seek to do and be all those things as those who are united with Jesus – now and forever – to the Glory of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son to be our Substitute and Savior that we would be saved from Your Wrath and raised to spiritual life.  Keep us united with Jesus – eating His flesh and drinking His blood – as we seek to know You through Your Word and follow after You in faithful obedience in all things through the guidance and power of God the Holy Spirit.  Lord, cause us to desire to know You and to show You to the world by doing those things which are pleasing to You.  Grow us as branches in the Vine.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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