11 Aug

August 11 & 12 2012 

“You Are What You Eat”

John 6:35, 41-51 

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” 

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’[a] Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” 

Footnotes: 

John 6:45 Isaiah 54:13 

I’m sure you have heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Meaning -The notion that to be fit and healthy you need to eat good food. The origin of this phrase has come to us via quite a tortuous route. A Frenchman in 1826 first used it – the translation being [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are]. Later a German essayist writing about spiritualism and materialism said something similar, “a man is what he eats”. Neither meant their quotations to be taken literally. They were simply stating that the food one eats has a bearing on what one’s state of mind and health.

The actual phrase didn’t emerge in English until some time later. In the 1920s and 30s a nutritionist used it and then an advert for beef in a 1923, used it as; “Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat.”

The phrase got a new lease of life in the 1960s hippy era. The food of choice of the champions of this notion was macrobiotic wholefood and the phrase was adopted by them as a slogan for healthy eating. Every organic food junky will quote it to you as gospel today. But I want to suggest another older and more significant origin and meaning for us.

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. We heard that line of scripture last week and we begin today with it. But this time rather than just being “the hungry crowd” that has followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus is speaking to, “the JEWS”.

“The JEWS” are the gospel writer of John’s enemies of Jesus. Exactly who they were we don’t know, but certainly it was not the Jewish nation or all Jewish people, but rather probably some religious or political power group who had a keen interest in maintaining the status quo – which Jesus was clearly upsetting. For Jesus to be claiming that God was 2

 

“out of the box” and that God had sent Jesus and that Jesus could communicate God’s will, power, and presence on earth was really upsetting to them. It is quite plain that they thought they knew who Jesus was – “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” They have God and Jesus in a comfortable box.

Jesus pushes back against their attempts to contain or cage him. I can hear some righteous anger and indignation in Jesus’ voice as he tries to get these opponents to realize who is and what Jesus is offering them.

Jesus offers a heated defense which echoes verses all the way back to John 3:16 and forward to the Resurrection. We are all reoriented in our understandings if we will listen to them.

(1) Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them,… Did you choose God or did God choose you? Be careful how you answer – one answer gives you lots of power – I chose God; and another answer presents the opportunity to receive grace and love from one far more powerful than you. God chose me – saved me – redeemed me – called me and I serve him.

(2) A promise is received, “and I will raise them up at the last day.” Jesus will save me, receive me, restore me to eternal life with him in heaven at the last day. My judgment is assured and my death sentence commuted to eternal life with him.

(3) This is not the first time we have heard this, 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’[a] Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. We need to finally pay attention. God has been calling each of us for thousands of years – even in Jesus time to come to Jesus – to receive his grace and mercy. This is not a new or limited time offer. It is ancient and we should heed it now.

(4) We think we are so smart and that we can define God and know what God knows, but we cannot. “46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.” 

(5) And then the repeat of the great promise in John 3:16 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. That is a tight rabbinical argument. What more is needed?

Jesus repeats himself for emphasis, 48 I am the bread of life. But then moves to a radical new unheard idea, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” These words have led to great speculation and theological discussion for the past 20 centuries. Because of this sentence early Christians in Rome were accused of cannibalism and eating their young babies. It was a terrible misunderstanding. The Protestant Reformation and the following Roman Catholic Reform movement struggled to understand this sentence in terms of “Spiritual presence”, or “Real presence”, “Transubstantiation” and even “Consubstantiation.”

United Methodist’s as a branch of the Protestant Christian Church affirm the spiritual presence of Jesus in the bread and juice blessed and shared at Holy Communion. Nothing physical happens to the bread or juice, not in appearance or substance, yet the spiritual presence of Jesus can be perceived and received in the bread and juice. This spiritual presence is powerful enough to be salvific – a sinner saved from an eternal death – as well as restorative – to cause a disciple to regain, or recall or be restored to a right relationship with God through the grace of Jesus offered and experienced in the bread and juice. Communion is more significant than just the remembrance of a night in an upper room many centuries ago – our lives can be transformed through the power of the Holy 3

 

Spirit of Jesus in the bread and juice. Does “You are what you eat,” mean something more to you now?

The metaphor – Jesus as bread – is not limited to Holy Communion, but involves the whole of spiritual nurture and nourishment and life. Scripture study, individually and in small groups – devotional readings and meditation – and even our time listening to me are all expressions of the fundamental Christian disciple’s life reality that Jesus is the bread of life.

So what do we do? We eat heartily and healthfully. We do not waste time to grumble among ourselves as did the Jews or oppose Jesus’ call on our lives as have all. We move forward with faith and hope and trust, confident that Jesus does provide all that we need, even if it isn’t all that we want, when we want it, or the way we want it. Jesus provides enough if we will only trust him and receive his grace and peace into our lives.

Jesus as the bread of life beats hippy organic whole foods any day. Jesus is no fad. Jesus is the real bread of life.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

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