Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
 I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the 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." John 6:48-51 (ESV)
Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. The food of this world only serves to prolong life, it does not give life. This is true of the food we eat with our mouths, and the food we consume with our hearts and heads. What food can we possibly eat that is not dead of itself? What can the world teach us that will not lead us to our graves. Death has so infected this world that it has nothing to offer us, but death. But God gives us life in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
The Jews at Capernaum could not understand this. They found it hard to believe that this son of a carpenter in Nazareth, a stone’s throw from Capernaum, was the bread to life that came down from heaven. How could He give eternal life? Perhaps if Jesus gave some philosophical, or even theological discourses, on who God is, and how we should behave according to the law He gave us, the Jews would believe Him. But what is this about believing in Him? Was not He subject to death as they were? They had seen miracle workers before. All of them had died. Even Elijah, and Moses, the greatest teachers and prophets of Israel, had died. They had believed them, but Moses and Elijah had never asked anyone to believe in them. We believe in God. We trust God. But to believe in another human, one who puts his sandals on like we do, who has to eat like we do, goes to sleep, goes to the bathroom like we do. It seems blasphemous to believe that one like this would give eternal life, that not only would He have the answer to death, but He Himself would be the answer to death. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness and they died.
So they did eat manna in the wilderness. Not only little flakes of sweet bread like substance left that covered the ground like frost after the dew had left, but they ate the law too. They pledged themselves to the commandments; they offered the sacrifices daily as Moses had prescribed. Yet it was futile. They knew what they were supposed to do, and they did their best, but their best never brought them life. Their best always ended the same, in death. They inevitably broke the law, and failed in their faithfulness to God.
How often do we find ourselves the same? We know what we are supposed to do. We know how we ought to behave. Yet how often do we find ourselves acting shamelessly even to our own family members, perhaps particularly to our family members? How often do we hold grudges, when we know that we should forgive, even as God in Christ forgave you? Forgiveness is the only answer to sin and death, it is the only answer that gives life, and it is found in Jesus Christ alone, because He is the living bread that came down from heaven.
Jesus gave law too. In many ways He gave us even stricter law than Moses. And too often this is what people latch on to. The crowds ate up the Sermon on the Mount. “Turn the other cheek,” those are the words we remember from Jesus. We tend to associate believing in Him, with following His code of conduct for life. And yet we fail at that too. But Jesus is the bread of life, living bread that has come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever, and the bread that He gives for the life of the world is his flesh.
Jesus is more than a moral philosopher, He is the bread of life. If we believe in Him we have eternal life. He gives himself to us that we might have eternal life. He gives his life for us in his death on the cross, a satisfaction for our sin, a substitute for our death. And now he lives. He was raised again from the dead. Now He lives, and we live in Him, in the forgiveness with which He forgives us. And that forgiveness He gives to us in His flesh, the body and blood He shed for us on the cross that He now gives for the forgiveness of sins in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. There we eat Him, not only in faith, but with our mouths we consume His flesh, His body, living bread that has come down from heaven, given for us that we might live. Nothing else we ever eat is living. But this bread, this wine, is the living body and blood of Jesus Christ full of life in the forgiveness of sins. This is what it means to believe in him, to believe him and trust him when he forgives our sins, when He gives us His body, and His blood, living bread that has come down from heaven. It is the only thing you will eat all week that is actually living, and not in some state of decomposition. It is full of life, even as it gives the forgiveness of sins, for Christ is the bread of life.