Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (B—Proper 15)

August 16, 2015
Text: John 6:51-69

            “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat 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” (John 6:53-54; ESV).  Go figure, you make a Communion statement, and everybody leaves!  Everybody, except a few of the faithful.  That’s what happens to Jesus.  Everybody forsakes Him except for the Twelve.  “How can this man give us his flesh to eat… This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (vv. 52, 60), they ask, their heads shaking in unbelief and disapproval, as they walk away.  There are four words in this saying of our Lord that make it particularly controversial, four words that have kept the Church arguing for centuries: Flesh, Blood, eat, drink.  You see, what Jesus is saying here is that Almighty God is a Flesh and Blood Man.  He’s saying to the Jews and His disciples, “You see this guy here present and speaking to you?  I AM.  Almighty God, right here, right now, in the Flesh!”  And it’s scandalous!  But there’s more.  “You want to live?  You want to have eternal life?  You have to eat me.  You have to eat my Flesh and drink my Blood.  Eat me and drink me and you have eternal life.”  Now, we Lutherans take Jesus’ Words here quite literally.  We worship a Man, Flesh and Blood.  We pray to a Man.  God died for us.  He could die because He is a human being.  God’s Flesh was pierced.  God’s Blood was shed.  And God is bodily risen from the dead.  He’s still a man.  He’s still Flesh and Blood.  And we eat Him and drink Him.  We believe Him when He says “Take, eat; this is my body… Drink of it, all of you… this is my blood” (Matt. 26:26-27), or as He says it here in our text, “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:55).  Jesus says it.  We believe it.  He is God, after all, so He can do this miracle for us, and He always keeps His Promises.  So that’s good enough for us.  We eat His Body there, under the bread.  We drink His Blood there, under the wine.  It is what He says it is, and it does what He says it does, forgiving our sins and imparting eternal life.  It should go without saying that our Lord does not lie.  But as we know, not everyone in the Church finds this doctrine of the Lord’s Supper so easy to stomach.
            Actually, the early Church didn’t really have a problem with this.  They heard it from the Apostles, who heard it directly from Jesus, and except for a couple guys in the middle ages who stirred up trouble, it really wasn’t until the Reformation that guys like Zwingli and Calvin and the non-Lutheran reformers began to question if our Lord really meant what He said.  These are the fathers of the Reformed churches.  Zwingli denied that our Lord is present at all in the Sacrament.  He insisted it is just a symbol.  Calvin said our Lord is present spiritually, and that we partake of Him by faith, but that His Body and Blood are nowhere near the bread and wine.  Luther just sticks with Scripture.  He takes Jesus’ Word for it.  “This is my Body.”  Okay, that’s what it is.  And so we believe, teach, and confess.  But it’s offensive, because you’re taking those four words literally: Flesh, Blood, eat, drink.
            Maybe you’re too Lutheran to get what the big deal is about all this.  But let’s just think through what is so offensive about these words for a moment.  First of all, Flesh and Blood.  For the most part, we’re all okay with this idea that God the Son is a Flesh and Blood Man, theoretically.  But we get squeamish when it comes to the specifics.  You see, because Jesus is a Man, we confess that God was hungry and thirsty.  He got tired.  He had to use the restroom.  I’m not so sure we’re right when we sing, “the little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.”  To be sure, it wasn’t the sinful, selfish, demanding cry we’re guilty of as little babies, but how else did the very human Son of God tell Mary and Joseph He was hungry or tired or gassy?  That’s how babies communicate.  I was reminded just how controversial this whole thing is yesterday, the Feast of St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord.  I was reading through comments on some things my brother pastors had posted, and I was amazed at how much objection there is, even among Lutherans, to calling Mary “the Mother of God.”  It just makes Jesus too human.  But you realize, don’t you, that’s what the Bible says: “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” God with us (Is. 7:14).  “(Y)ou will conceive in your womb and bear a son… the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:31, 35).  “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal. 4:4).  Thus the early Church named Mary Theotokos in Greek, the Mother of God.  That bugs people.  It’s too fleshly.  It makes God a little too real.  He’s not just a nice idea.  He’s not a kind spirit far removed who loves us and wants us to be basically good people and live fulfilling and happy lives, but basically leaves us alone except when we really need him.  That’s the god of the culture, but that’s not our God.  Our God comes down, He comes to us, in the Flesh.  He comes and gets His hands dirty with our filth.  He’s conceived.  He’s born.  He grows up in a backwater town, despised Nazareth, Nowheresville.  He suffers and He dies.  To take away your sin.  To take away your filth.  To free you from death.  And He is bodily risen from the dead, and He will raise you in your very real body, too, on the Last Day.  It’s not just that you go to heaven when you die.  True enough, that, but there’s so much more.  The Man, Jesus, God in the Flesh, will raise your flesh from the grave and you’ll live forever in your body.  A risen body, made complete and healed of every affliction, but your body.  On a very real earth.  A risen earth, made complete and healed of every affliction, but the real earth.  That’s pretty hard to take, too, isn’t it?  Christianity is an incarnational religion.  That is to say, it’s a flesh and blood religion.  We have a Flesh and Blood God who redeems us flesh and blood.  We’ll live forever with our Flesh and Blood God in the flesh and blood of our bodies.  Does that offend you?  Repent.  You’re offended by Jesus.  That’s what He says. 
            And then there’s the clincher.  This Flesh and Blood God… He gives you His Flesh and Blood to eat and to drink.  And apart from that Flesh and Blood, you have no life in you.  Now, to be sure, there is more than one way to feed on Jesus.  John 6 isn’t exclusively about the Lord’s Supper.  Otherwise, how could our children have life when they haven’t been instructed and are not yet receiving the Sacrament?  We feed on Jesus also in His Word, which is the Word of eternal life, as St. Peter confesses (John 6:68).  But that said, John 6 is about the Lord’s Supper.  Of course it is.  The original hearers of this Gospel heard it in the same context in which we are hearing it: The Divine Service.  They (and we) hear Jesus say: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,” and then we eat His Body and drink His Blood at the altar.  Of course He is talking about the Lord’s Supper.  But this is scandalous, to take Jesus at His Word here.  You mean you actually chew Jesus’ Body in your mouth and swallow His Blood?  The very same Body that was nailed to the cross?  The very same Blood that spilled all over the ground on Calvary?  Yes, that’s what we mean.  Because that’s what Jesus means.  He says it.  He means it.  He does not lie.  And if you have a problem with that, you’re problem isn’t with me, it’s with Jesus.  Repent.  Don’t walk away shaking your head and muttering, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”  Jesus asks you this morning, as He asked the Twelve: “Do you want to go away as well” (v. 67)?  Would you rather go have Jesus-free bread and wine, or bread and grape juice, or Doritos and Coke with those who deny His bodily presence in the Sacrament, who don’t believe the plain meaning of His Words?  May it never be.  Those are the thoughts of the flesh, which is of no avail.  The Spirit gives life, and He has opened your ears and your heart to a mystery too big to comprehend with your mind.  God is a Man, and He gives you His Flesh and His Blood to eat and to drink for your forgiveness, life, and salvation.  You don’t understand it, but that is neither here nor there.  You believe it because He says it. 
            And you don’t want to go anywhere else.  Because you know that any other way is the way of death.  “Do you want to go away as well?” Jesus asks.  And you answer with St. Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (vv. 68-69), God of God, the Son of the Father, begotten before all worlds, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, the Man, Christ Jesus.  He is here now, Flesh and Blood, here for you.  Eat His Flesh.  Drink His Blood.  And you have eternal life.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.   

            

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