In my previous post I discussed one of the “I AM” statements Jesus makes. “I Am the bread of life”, he said, the bread of life meaning that which nourishes our spirit and gives us life. Jesus is he who we take into our hearts and he who gives us eternal life. On a more practical and tangible note, Jesus is the bread of life in that he is present in the bread at Holy Eucharist in a deeply spiritual way.
Now, you may or may not fully align yourself with exactly this concept, and that is ok. But, I would venture to guess that many people have a pretty good grasp on the fact that Jesus, who calls himself the bread, came down from heaven as a way to give us life and when we celebrate the Eucharist or HolY Communion, it is that act of Jesus that we celebrate. It is so important, in fact, that we do it every week, at least in my parishes, and it becomes part of who we are as a church and as individuals.
Jesus himself instructed in John 6, ““Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
We read on to discover that some of the followers who heard this said, “This teaching is difficult, who can accept it?” And by difficult they didn’t mean difficult to understand, they meant difficult to accept. They had come to see that Jesus was powerful, they had witnessed his signs, had heard his authoritative teaching, and they were interested in what he’d do next but his claim to be God in the flesh, come down to earth, to offer eternal life to anyone who believes and submitted to him, this was where some of them got held up.
It wasn’t the teaching, or the concept that was too hard to accept, it was the dependence upon and submission to this man that they weren’t willing to accept. No matter how many miracles he did, the pride in the human heart at times is so great.
It doesn’t allow us to admit that we can’t do something for ourselves. It doesn’t allow us to ask for help. It doesn’t allow us to admit we are wrong. It doesn’t allow us to accept the truth, if the truth means we must change
It was the pride in the hearts of some of those followers who challenged Jesus and said it was too hard to accept his teaching and it is pride in the hearts of people today who do the same. Some may say, “Jesus is a great teacher and all, but I can’t accept his teaching that I need him alone. I shouldn’t have to submit to just his teachings, I should be able to find my own path. So, I am just going to abandon all of that and figure this life out on my own.”
Do you know anyone like that? Family? Friends? Yourself? Maybe not those words, but that mindset. The mindset that there is no truth. The mindset that we are our own god and we get to decide what is right and wrong based on our emotions, our intellect and our life experience. I know plenty of people like that , friends, family, co-workers, strangers all doing it their own way because they are unwilling to admit they need God.
You ever wonder about some of these people mentioned in the Bible, for instance these disciples who gave up following Jesus at this point. Do you ever wonder what their life was like after this? I mean they had Jesus right there and they walked away from him when things started to get real. They liked his teaching and they liked watching him heal people, but when it came down to accepting him and depending on him, eh “that’s a little too much commitment, Jesus”
I wonder how much their hearts ached for him after this day? I wonder how much the hearts of countless individuals around me ache for Jesus, and they don’t even realize it. To fill that ache they try to accomplish something, they try to fill it, with relationships, with success, with power, with pleasure, more of this, more of that…. If they could just see, if they could just get a taste of the bread of life, they would be satisfied.
Those who have put their faith in Christ have tasted this bread, and like Peter says they too say, “where can we go?” We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have a hope for eternal life, nothing else can compare to the relationship we have with Jesus. So, sure, they may not understand it all, and sure it is hard to be obedient, and sure it goes against the grain to say we need help and need to depend fully on another, but what choice do we have? The bread has given us life, Jesus has given us a new life!
William Barclay says, “Christianity isn’t a philosophy we accept. It is not a theory to which we give allegiance; it is not something that we have thought out; it is not something that we arrive at intellectually. It is a personal response to Jesus Christ. It is the answer of the heart to the magnet of Christ. It is the allegiance and love that one gives because his heart will not allow him to do anything else.”
Jesus knows we aren’t perfect and sadly I think too many people think they need to be perfect before they come through the doors of the church, or they think the regulars expect them to be. But Jesus came down as the bread of life, knowing that we were not perfect, knowing that we wouldn’t be perfect, so instead he became our righteousness and our perfection. I hope that is what you truly believe and have come to accept. I hope that is the message you share with others. I hope that is the bread you offer when sharing the Gospel.
Serving communion to my congregations is possibly the single most important thing I do all week. I truly believe that. I realize that while I have that role here in the church to celebrate Holy Communion as a priest, you too have the opportunity to share the bread of life each and every day, no matter where you are. The bread that Jesus offers will never run out, will never perish, will always and forever be plentiful enough for everyone. Don’t be afraid to share it, don’t be afraid to share Jesus, because he is what everyone is actually looking for.