[Jesus said]: “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 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.”
The invitation to dine goes out from Jesus’ mouth. It is found in His words, the words which He says “are spirit and life.” He desires you to come and eat, because you must do so in order to live. Starvation is a terrible way to die, as one lacks what is necessary to live. The Lord God does not want His people to suffer in such manner. Rather, He wants them and you to be filled with good things—“true food and true drink.”
But what does Jesus offer on His bill of fare? Not fishes and loaves. They were already given, but only to those who sat on the hillside in
Yet the invitation which Jesus gives—“Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”—is difficult. The Gospel writer includes that fact when he recorded the people’s reaction to Jesus’ invitation: “When many of His disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” The same reaction was found in others within earshot of Jesus: “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’” Such reactions show a lack of understanding, a lack of knowledge. People hear Jesus’ words, His gracious invitation to life itself, but they cannot accept them.
Why is Jesus’ statement rejected? Why can’t His words be received by all? Those questions cannot be fully answered by us. But Jesus does provide an explanation: “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Jesus’ words “are spirit and life,” especially His words which invite people to partake of the true source of life. But only those granted wisdom by the Father can receive them and what the Son offers.
You heard of such people in the Gospel Reading in the midst of rejection. John tells you: “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘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.” Some abandon Jesus and His teaching and way of life. But Peter doesn’t. He believes that Jesus is the source of his life, that Jesus’ words inviting to eat and live forever are good and meant for him.
Simon Peter states his belief in Jesus, because “it was granted him by the Father.” So it is with all the other true confessions made about Jesus. Peter says other times about Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,”—language very similar to his confession that you heard today. And what does Jesus say? “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” It is just as Jesus says: “No one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.” And further: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail.”
Those who are granted favor by the Father hear those words of Jesus and they recognize that they “are spirit and life” for them. They hear Jesus say: “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Hearing this, they believe that Jesus can and does such a thing because He is the Incarnate Son of God who gave His life into death and took it up again in the resurrection. They hear Jesus say: “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the Last Day.” Believing this, they receive the same in Jesus’ Holy Supper which gives forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. They hear Jesus say: “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” Trusting this, they know that Jesus is present with them.
This is what the Father grants people to receive. By His favor, He grants them the ability to hear His Son’s words and not be offended by them. He grants them sense and insight which they did not have in themselves, so they can receive the “spirit and life” which Jesus has to give them. Granted this, they come to His Son and confess about Him: “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.”
You are present here, you have come to Jesus, because the Father has granted it to be so. You have heard His words and you find spirit and life in them. Such wisdom has been granted to you, just as the Teacher describes: “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ To him who lacks sense she says, ‘Come, and eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight!’”
The poetic description from the Proverbs describes you. The Father has given His Wisdom, Jesus Christ. He has granted you to hear and believe Jesus’ “words of eternal life.” Those words of spirit and life come to you, and you receive their message. Jesus invites you to eat of the bread of heaven and the finest of wines, telling you to eat and to live. And you can see in faith what He truly gives you: “My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.” You are taken out of your sin-caused simplicity and ignorance and unbelief. Instead, you are made wise to salvation, given true learning.
That true learning comes from “the Spirit who gives life,” the Spirit present in Jesus’ words of eternal life. The Teacher says: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Such wisdom and knowledge is yours, granted to you by the Father, so you can make the true confession about His Son: “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.”
Your confession is dependent upon divine acts: the Father has granted you His favor; the Son has spoken His words to you; the Holy Spirit has given you life through belief in these words. But such faith which leads to life must be maintained. Those divine acts must continue to be done to you. You must continue to receive the life which the Lord God gives to His people.
You have been made wise to salvation. But recall what the Teacher said in his proverb: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” The apostle also gave warning: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. . . . Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise. . . .” Jesus’ words of spirit and life are to be continually heard by you; His true food and drink must be consumed by you. Through such acts life is given and sustained in you.
Jesus says: “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 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.” Eating the bread of life which comes down from heaven, you will continue in what makes you wise to salvation. You will receive the eternal life that the Living Father’s Son has to give to you. You will hear and believe His words of spirit and life. He will abide in you and you in Him. You will leave your simple ways, and life, walking in the way of insight.
That is what the Father has granted it to you. So you have received salvation, as you have come to His Son through whom He has been reconciled to sinners. So you shall receive it again today, as you eat of the Son of Man’s flesh and drink of His blood through which He abides in you. So you will continue to receive it, as you hear and believe Jesus’ words through which the Holy Spirit gives life. That is the intent of His Bread of Life Discourse which you have heard the past three Sundays. Believe and receive what is given here for you: “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.”
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.