For the Life of the World
Jesus said, “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51a ESV). With this invitation, Jesus calls us to abide in Him. Today at International Lutheran Church we conclude our threefold examination of the feeding of the 5,000, with this “hard saying” from John’s Gospel: Jesus is the “bread from heaven.” He is the “living bread” that gives life to all. This “bread” that we are invited to “eat” is His flesh! We have been reflecting with the Apostle John on the theological meaning of the feeding of the 5,000 that we read about in Mark 6:30-44. Today Jesus tells us plainly that His life - His flesh - is real food that calls us to receive all of Him.
Every day is filled with many choices. Some of these choices might be something simple or natural, like what we will wear or what we will eat for that day. Our decision might be based on what we feel like eating or wearing or the kind of statement we want to make to others. Our own preference or taste in clothes or food may have a lot to do with our decision and the outcome. Sometimes though we are faced with the need to make decisions that have lasting impact on our own life or on the lives of others. Unlike the trivial day to day choices, these choices have a lasting and sometimes unchangeable result. Most of these decisions we try to base on something a little more substantial than just our feelings or preferences in the moment. Seeking the advice or counsel of a trusted family member, friend or professional might be a part of the equation. And while fear of choosing the “wrong path” may make us unable to decide, doing nothing is still making a choice.In our Old Testament lesson today, we read how Joshua (24:1-18) spoke to the people of God at a critical crossroads in the history of God’s children. He had been called to lead the children of Israel into the Promised land. He set before the people the reality of the path before them: either serve the LORD or serve the gods of those of the land where they were entering. Joshua set before the people the critical information that they needed to keep in mind as they responded, namely that the LORD had called their fathers just as He was calling them. The people had seen for themselves how the LORD had rescued them from Egypt, the “house of slavery,” and performed wonders that “preserved them all the way.” How could they choose another other than the LORD? Joshua boldly declares his faith, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15b).
The Gospel lesson from John 6 puts into flesh the situation of Joshua 24 and sets before the disciples and us the ultimate decision. These words are a literal turning point in the gospel of John and the ministry of Jesus. In response to the people’s clamoring for the food, for bread from heaven, Jesus sets before the people the “bread of heaven” come down in His person. Jesus is the real food, the only “living bread” that can give life – eternal life. But this life is the very flesh and blood of Jesus. He gives Himself to us to satisfy our hunger, our thirst, our every need. The decision though is not for you and me, but for God alone in Christ. He has chosen to give His life. His body on the tree, His blood from the cross, was His choice to give for the life of the world, that you and I would live in Him. The “crossroads” is Jesus. His consumption, His dying, satisfies our greatest need: the forgiveness of our sins giving us life and salvation. Jesus puts into our mouths His “flesh” so that we can experience His decision to forgive our sins in a personal way. Jesus floods us in baptism so that we can know His commitment to us personally. In His Word, He speaks hope, forgiveness and strength into our lifeless bodies, so that we can serve Him all our days even as He has risen from the dead and lives eternally!
This Living Bread is real for you and me. He feeds us His own self so that we can make the most of every opportunity to serve our neighbor in love. Jesus’ flesh is food, real food, for the life of the world. His decision brings life into our lives each day. Every day is filled with many choices, but in Jesus we see how God chose us in giving us His very self that we would know Him and share Him with the world.