This is not meant to be a trick question. How many of you have ever gone on a long trip with more than one person in the car? When you’re on a long trip like that, what do you when it comes time to eat, especially when you are on a section of the interstate where the exit sign tells you there are at least eight different choices of restaurants to stop at? I imagine it’s possible that some carloads of people always agree on the same place every single time, but I also think it is very realistic to assume that there are times when almost everyone expresses a different opinion about whether they want this fast-food restaurant or that fast-food restaurant or this sit-down place or that sit-down place… – different desires that hopefully don’t become a big deal in the end, but which at times can lead to a fair amount of travel tension and even perhaps to a silly argument or two about what and where to eat.
In our lesson for today Jesus is telling us that there should be no argument about what to eat when it comes to his invitation to partake of the bread of life, the invitation which we have been looking at from different angles in our last few sermons. Many of the people to whom Jesus was offering himself as the bread of life, however, did not want to eat that kind of food at all. In fact, verse 52 in the third line of our lesson tells us their reaction to Jesus’ statement that this bread which he was offering was his flesh – and that he was offering it for the life of the world. Verse 52 says, “Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”
This is an argument that there should never be for a couple of reasons, one of which is that when you’re talking about the bread of life, you are talking about food that is out of this world. Let’s think about that for a bit – food that is out of this world. Jesus says this about himself in the opening verse, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.” How can anyone argue about whether or not they want to eat that kind of food or not? It’s from heaven. That means it’s out of this world.
I assume many of you love chocolate. In fact, I think some of you consider at least some kinds of chocolate to taste out of this world, because it’s so good and rich and delicious. What if scientists and doctors both agreed that they had discovered the undeniable truth that eating at least two pieces of devil’s food chocolate cake every day – one of the most chocolate of all chocolate foods there is – or substitute whatever your favorite chocolate concoction is – that they had discovered that eating at least two helpings of decadent chocolate every day meant that you would never die, and that not only would you never die, you would never get sick, either. If you really loved chocolate, that would give you all the reason in the world to eat more of something like this that you already consider to be out of this world, and if you didn’t like chocolate, it would most likely give you a huge incentive to try it. Well, unfortunately, those words about devil’s food chocolate cake would be a devilish lie, because no matter how sincere and kind those scientists and doctors might be in their belief, you would still someday die – just like Jesus here says happened to all those people in the wilderness at the time of Moses who ate that miracle bread from heaven called manna. Like everyone else, they died, too.
So if people can understand the obvious truth that no earthly food or no earthly thing can allow us to live forever, why would anyone not want to eat the out of this world flesh of Jesus, which the Son of God himself promises will truly allow us to live forever? It’s not because people don’t understand that Jesus is not talking about literally chomping a bite out of his arm, as Pastor Casmer mentioned last week, but it’s because people don’t believe – or they don’t want to believe – what Jesus said in the first verse of our lesson when he said, “This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.” In other words, what does it mean to eat the flesh of Jesus? It means to believe in Jesus as your Savior. It means to believe that Jesus came from out of this world into this world – taking on the same flesh as all of us human beings — in order to die for the sins of every human being in the world. It means that we have to believe that what we do wrong every day was the reason Jesus came – and that there is no way we can un-do those wrongs before God except through the one who came down from heaven. It means that we have to believe that our entire life belongs to someone else and that I therefore want to live in a way that pleases that someone else – and not myself.
But even you and I who do believe those things so often want the devil’s food, anyway, don’t we? And he makes it so sweet and tasty to our human pride or our human intelligence or our human selfishness and greed. You’ve heard him: How can God possibly want you to think that you are really that bad? Do you really think you should call yourself a poor miserable sinner? You really aren’t that bad at all. In fact, you’re really pretty good. Who else would put up with what you put up with at work or in your family? Who else spends as much time doing things for others or not spending money on yourself? And besides all that, who has the right to tell you what is the right thing to believe, the right way to live, the right way to prepare to die? You can take care of all those things very well yourself.
When that kind of food tastes better to us in our world than food that Jesus says is out of this world, it’s because we really have been on a bad spiritual diet, thinking about the things of this world rather than the one who came from another world so that we could someday live there, too. But once we realize once again that our spiritual diet makes all the difference in the world, what a difference that does make for our everyday life, when in simple, everyday ways we think about Jesus and believe in Jesus and live for Jesus. There really can’t be any argument about it, because in the end those who don’t eat the flesh of Jesus by believing in him will not end up out of this world in heaven with him, but will forever remain with the one who bakes the devil’s food – Satan himself. So, not only can there can be no argument about what to eat because the food of Jesus is food that is out of this world, but also because it is food that is for the next world.
Look at verse 54 to see how Jesus assures us that his food will make everything good for the next world: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” What do you notice about the way Jesus talks about the connection between eternal life and being raised at the last day? Eternal life is something we have right now. Whoever eats my flesh “has” eternal life. Being raised at the last day just means that we get to enjoy our eternal life without any of the bad stuff that we have in this earthly life. So as we believe in Jesus — as we think about Jesus – as we keep our eyes on Jesus – as we learn more about Jesus in the Bible — in a certain sense we are living in the next world right now.
Can you see why that is something that can be very helpful to try to remember to think about throughout the day every day of our lives: I am living in the next world right now. Knowing that I really am living in the next world right now makes all the difference in how I look at my life in this world until I get raised from the dead on the last day. For example, if I already have eternal life, what does that mean when someone or something is trying to get me to do something I shouldn’t do? Having eternal life right now means that I can see that temptation as something meant to mess me up by taking my eyes off the goal or to make me feel so guilty that I don’t think God could keep his eyes on me or to make me forget how much my Savior loves me. If I already have eternal life, what does that mean when something happens to me that makes me just plain feel sad or causes me to even wonder if my Savior does love me? Having eternal life right now means that I know that nothing my Lord allows to enter my life can take away my eternal life, but rather is something that is meant to help me appreciate his kindness all the more in forgiving my sins, and it is something which I may get a chance to witness about to others who see that with God’s help I am trying to continue to patiently walk on toward my heavenly goal, even when life is really, really truly hard.
There really and truly can be no argument about the fact that looking at life in this way – as people who are living in the next world – is also really and truly hard. That’s why the reminder of verse 56 a few lines from the bottom of our lesson can also be so helpful to remember when the difficulties that come into our lives seem like they are dominating our lives. In verse 56 Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” “Remains in me.” When we believe in Jesus as our Savior, Jesus remains in us. He makes his home inside us. He is the watcher over us. He is the ruler for us. And the way – the only way — to keep being assured that Jesus really and truly does remain in us is to keep remaining in his Word, which tells us that, just like we are doing in our worship today.
It makes sense, doesn’t it, that the Bible often compares itself to food? Just like we need to keep eating food to keep living and breathing, so we need to keep eating spiritual food to keep living and breathing as God’s children – living and breathing as people who know and confess that Jesus gave his flesh for the life of the world – yes, that Jesus came from out of this world to give us life for the next world, meaning that when it comes to the bread of life, there truly can never be any argument about what to eat. There are a whole host of restaurants on this interstate of life, but what an honor and a blessing it is to be in a carload of people in this congregation of believers who all agree that their favorite place to stop and get refreshed for the days and months and years of the journey that lie ahead is the place that has on its menu what is inarguably the best menu item of all – the Bread of Life! Amen.