Death and Life- John 6:52-59

Death and Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Jesus teaches on sacrifice. His death will bring us life.

Good morning and thank you for joining us this Palm Sunday as we get ready to celebrate an early Easter this year. We will be briefly talking these next two weeks to move from our 1 Corinthians study to discuss the passion week of Jesus’ life, his death, burial, and Resurrection. These truths are ones we put on our calendar each year to help us keep them in our minds and focus upon what Christ did on our behalf. And, frankly, that is a good and appropriate thing for us to do. History has a way of informing our present and giving us perspective for the future.
This is one of the hallmarks of the nation of Biblical Israel. Oftentimes when we hear the names of places in the Bible and wonder at the weirdness of them. Little do we know that when Abraham went to live in a place called Beersheba (which makes me want pretzels and cheese by the way) that the name is actually a call back to Abrahams fight with Abimelech. Both of the men settled their differences over the land when Abimelech conceded that the well there belonged to Abraham. Both men sat down at that place, at that well, at that time and entered into a covenant with each other and with God. They named the place Beersheba, which means “Well of the Oath.” That place became known for the historical thing that happened there. It also told people in the moment a piece of that story and that covenant every time they said the name. “Dad, where are we going. Oh, we are gonna stop real fast by the Well of the Oath, then we will be on our way.” The son replys, “weird name, what oath are they talking about?” And dad would tell the story. This continued on, not only the history of those events, but also the faith that informed it. Everywhere you went you’d come across names like Moriah (seen by Yahweh), Net-anya (God gave), Nazareth (branch from the book of Isaiah). These were all set to teach the people of God what God had done. This was also a way of showing them, going forward, your kids and grand kids can also trust God because of what he did back then.
Remembering and thinking back on Easter can have this effect too. The broken body of Jesus helps us remember the pain he went through for sin. The rugged cross symbolizes the pain and anguish, the death sin demanded. The borrowed tomb, the epitome of darkness and death. The empty grave calls us to the glory of Christ and his ultimate once and for all defeat over death and sin. In short, Easter is on our calendar to remind us of what we can so easily lose sight of. Its all because of Jesus’s death that we can find life.
These next two weeks will will be talking of the Death of Jesus and the Life that he has brought us. Today we start is part one in John chapter 6. We will start in verse 52 and next week will will pick up in verse 60 as we consider death and life today. Let us read together.
John 6:52–59 (ESV)
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 So Jesus said to them, “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.
54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
Now friends, would it surprise you to know that one of the common myths has was circulating around the early church as it was growing was that it was a cult of cannibals? I kid you not. Many non-Christians, especially those from the cultic backgrounds believed that Christians were cannibals because of verses like this. Many believed that a normal part of Christian worship was drinking blood and eating bodies because of a misunderstanding around this passage and still today we have some people that can get confused. To be fair, this is odd language and not something that we would say today in almost any context.
So what was being said here and what was Jesus trying to get across to his disciples?
Step 1 when looking at a part of a Bible story is to back up and put it back in its context. Immediate context, the context of the chapter, then the narrative, then the book.
John’s gospel is written so that people would see Jesus as the Christ and believe in him, a commentary that John gives us himself in the last chapter “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.” His first chapter illuminates the highest view of Christ so that we can recognize not only who Christ was as a man but who we was as the divine son of God. John’s position is clear. As such, alot of the stories shared are of the teachings of Christ and the amazing things he did. in Chapter 6 alone, our chapter for the next two weeks, sees Jesus feeding the 5000 that morning and walking on the water that evening. Both instances show Jesus divine power but also have the affect of creating a mob around him. People flock to him, not because they want to hear what he has to say but to get some more of that miracle bread again. After all, you fed me yesterday, why not do it again today. They follow him from one side of the lake to the other for this food. Jesus challenges their motives and declares himself to be the bread of life. They want loaves and he is saying that what you really need is a Lord. The jews in attendance had a problem with this. Who does he think he is declaring himself as having come from heaven. Jesus then uses all of these themes together to utilize this teachable moment. In verse 44 Jesus tells them
John 6:44 (ESV)
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
He does this to help them start to see that he is the one that the prophets have spoken of. The Jews need to see this. In verse 48 and 49 he ties this promise to what he’s said earlier to the people.
John 6:48–51 (ESV)
48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
51 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.”
So Jesus is taking 3 things together here to help all of the people see what is happening.
He is bringing in the idea of the prophets words concerning the messiah and showing that he is from God. He is the one. He is the one the prophets were talking about. This would have been good news to the Jews who had ears that weren’t all clogged up with agenda so they could hear what he was saying.
He was taking the idea of hunger that the mobs were concerned with. They wanted the physical bread, concerned only with their hunger and not the issues of the enteral need they had. The messiah had come to save their eternal souls and they wanted to trade that offer for a loaf of bread. The eternal for the fleeting.
The idea of eating and drinking with acceptance of what he was going to do for them on the cross. Just as we take food into our bodies that we deem profitable and pleasing for our nourishment, Christ is asking if we would take his sacrifice into ourselves as well. Whether we would accept it as beneficial and nurishing to our everlasting souls.
These 3 ideas create the backdrop for understanding what Jesus is saying here.
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 So Jesus said to them, “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.
These men are missing the point. Whether this is on purpose or if they are just to dense to see what he is saying, they don’t get it. Jesus isn’t calling them, or any other man, to literally eat his flesh and drink his blood. Sorry to all our transubstantiation friends who teach that the bread and the wine literally become the blood and body of Christ when we partake in the Lord’s supper. That is not what is being proposed here.
Instead Jesus is using this continued metaphor of eating bread for our body’s continued nourishment and accepting his upcoming death for our spirit’s eternal salvation. Unless you “eat” or accept the sacrifice of my body for sins, you will perish. Unless you drink “accept” my blood which is poured out as an offering for your sins, you will perish.
Then, in 54-56, Jesus ties the acceptance of his sacrifice to 3 promises.
54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Those in Christ will be raised again.

Verse 54 specifies Jesus’ promise to those that will die in communion with him, that is, a right an salvic relationship. For those that die in Christ, having given themselves to him in life and devotion to his kingdom. Those that repented of their sin and took him at his word and at his offer to save them. He will raise them, that is resurrect them in the end. This is the hope that Paul references for the men and women at the church in Thessolonica, one that you will often hear read at funerals and by gravesides, when he wrote to them.
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 (ESV)
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
For those of us who die in a right relationship with Christ there is no end. Death doesn’t have any sway on you. It may win a day but Christ has won eternity. Death is but a blip on the radar for the believer because Christ himself was able to raise himself from the grave. He has, likewise, promises to raise you from the dead, a promise that many can try at or give lip service too but only he has the bank account to back up.
This truth is the reason why every funeral we have for believers is actually a celebration because we remember this fact. Its not goodbye its see you in a bit. Because of Christ, death doesn’t get to win anymore.
55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

Those in Christ see real and lasting truth.

Jesus contrasts fleeting and eternal, strong and weak, momentary fulfillment and lasting satiety. All of this contrasts the offers of this world and the promises held out by Christ. We can pursue the carnal and temporary. Many do and many have. Substances can bring highs and dull pains. Relationships can bring happiness and give purpose. Goals and conquests can give us a reason to get up and guidance to our days. But the load is too much for them too bear. They are all created blessings to point us to our creator who is worthy of worship. Instead we have turned them into what we want to worship. We give them worship they were never meant to hold. They can’t give lasting purpose. Furthermore, they all prove as evidence that nothing created can satisfy the hungers that are spiritual in nature. We long for a lost and broken relationship that we were made for. We pursue so much trying to fill a void that only God can. That relationship, that truth, is only available through Christ. Temporary food fills for the moment but hunger comes back alarmingly soon. Jesus fulfills in a way that earthly food cannot. Thirst is sated then comes back quickly. Jesus’ blood, his salvation, is permanent. Its lasting. It’s total.
56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Those in Christ are never alone.

This may be one of the chiefest encouraging factors in the Christian life that is so often left on the cutting room floor. Christ has promised you, as a follower that he will never leave you nor forsake you. That he is with you when the world comes against you and reviles you. That he is with you always, even to the end of the age. In short, you are never without Him. You are always empowered by him, filled with his spirit, guided by his hand, and protected by his word. Should death come knocking at you door, it has to ultimately bow to God’s will and ultimately to resurrection as he brings you back. Even death has to bow to his authority.
Yet, out of fear, ignorance, or doubt we forget that a lion follows us around on the daily. Yet these Jewish men can’t and wont see that. The crowds still beg ignorantly for physical bread, unwillingly and unknowingly forgoing what could be in their life for what is familiar and safe.
Famously Christ compared such a life in the parable of the vine and branches. A branch can only produce fruit if it is attached to the vine but apart from the vine, it can produce NOTHING. No things. Apart from the vine, the branch might be able to live, at least a little while but death will start setting in immediately and producing any fruit is an impossibility. So it is for these men, these Pharisees. They think themselves holy and righteous, holding to a law as if it were their life raft, not seeing it will be the anchor that drags them to the bottom.
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

Those that wish to live must take Christ’s death into them.

Phrasing is always put “Life and Death”. Mostly because this is the natural order of these events. Even Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time for everything: a time to be born and a time to die. It goes on this way and it makes sense. Yet, in these next two weeks, I’ve asked us to consider this truth.

It is because of Christ’s death that we have life.

As Jesus came into Jerusalem that day to the sounds of Hosanna, crowds cheering him on, waved on by Palm branches they were celebrating the king coming, bringing new life the Jewish people. In their minds he would usher in a new era of Jewish prosperity, reigning as an earthly king and validating them from their Roman oppressors. Finally, or so they thought, they would be on top of the pecking order. They came to usher in their new life while Jesus was marching towards his own death. They wanted the physical bread but Jesus was there to be the bread of eternal life.
Our world has become so focused on who we would like Jesus to be that we all to often miss who he was. Why he came. What he said. What he did. We spend so much time making Jesus into our own image that we fail to see Him as he was. We become those screaming in the crowd, “hosanna, hosanna, hosanna” but fail to realize that this king is not coming to raise up to new heights of prosperity but to die for our sins.
Why the death? Because that's the price of my sin. He paid my debt because it was the only way I could come back home. Such is his love for me, for you, that he laid his own life aside to take a death we rightly deserved. It is only by accepting our sin, acknowledging it before God, and owning the sacrifice he laid down on our behalf that we can be brought from death to life.
No amount of clean living will make a dent. No amount of sin avoidance will take away what we’ve already done. No amount of penance nor discipline will make it up. Serve on the mission field giving your life to service to the poorest of the poor and it still wont change a bit. There cannot be life without first death. There cannot be justification without atonement. There cannot being redemption with out first the shedding of blood.
But… but…but. Brothers and sisters. That is what was done FOR us. Jesus did all of that for us. Even while we were sinners, enemies, blasphemers, adulterers, liers, thief's, murders, fornicators, failures and disgraced, Jesus died for us. This is why we must hold on to this truth and never let it go.
Jesus was not just a good teacher. He wasn’t just a good man. He wasn’t just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn’t just happen to make the powerbrokers mad. He wasn’t just here to teach us that love is love and we need to get with the program. Jesus was the son of God who came for a purpose. Yes he taught, yes he lived a perfect life upholding holiness as paramount, yes he loved even those the world looked past, yes he spoke truth to people that didn’t want to acknowledge it, yes he showed us how to treat our neighbors. But, we must never forget that his ulitmate goal was the cross. From the manger in Bethlehem Jesus was on his way to the cross. It was his primary goal. He came to die. That death had to happen to pay for sin and make a way for new life in our world. Without it, there is no way, there is not truth, there is now way to life.
Jesus’ death is everything. It showed us firsthand how far God was willing to go to provide what we couldn’t provide for ourselves. Jesus willingly took the punishment that was meant for us upon himself. He did this for love. He died so we could live.
Friends, as we get ready for Easter and to pause and remember the shed blood and body of Christ, its on us to remember this anew and again. Will we be those that take heed of his body and his blood? Will we eat of this living bread. Will we acknowedlge the cost of our salvation and the beauty of the empty grave? Have you accepted this living bread? this broken body? this spilled blood.
Have you?
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