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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

A Present Possession

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 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’?”

“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 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.”

John 6:41-51

Man was created with a body and a soul. Both had to have food in order to live. The body was formed from the dust of the ground, and received its food from the earth it came from. The soul was breathed into man by the Lord God, and received its food from Heaven, where it came from. And God provided abundantly for the nourishment of both body and soul.

The body received the pure air of earth and the soul the pure air of Heaven in which to breathe. At that time, Heaven was still down on earth because God was here. He went in and out as the good Father of His two happy children, and they lived by every word that came to them out of the mouth of God.

But – then came the darkest day in the history of mankind: the day when man broke away from God. Then the soul had no heavenly air to breath, no word from the mouth of God. Now it inhaled the world. But the world is poison to the soul.

Poisoned and without food. That’s the situation mankind finds itself in since the fall. “The wages of sin is death,” the Scriptures tell us. And not only death by starvation, but painful death by poisoning.

Death is mighty – but love is mightier still! So in order to save the human race which was doomed to die, Christ became part of the mankind that had been poisoned, and let the virus of sin concentrate all of its death-dealing venom upon His own soul and body!

This is the Good News of our Gospel lesson for today: That Jesus provides more than physical life; that Jesus offers even more than a future hope; that Jesus offers an abundant life and eternal life – now!

Because of His sacrificial death on the cross, the poison of sin can be driven out of our souls and we can have eternal life – as a present possession! “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “he who believes has eternal life.”

Of course, bread for the body is necessary. Jesus didn’t turn away the multitude when it was time to eat, feeding over 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread. And He didn’t just give them a snack, either. “They had eaten their fill” – they were full! And after filling themselves, they wanted to make Him their king!

But you know how it is after you’ve eaten a big Thanksgiving dinner. You say, “I won’t be able to eat for a month!” – and three hours later you’re in the refrigerator picking at the leftovers. Well, it was the same way then. The next day the people chased after Jesus, and He told them, “You haven’t come to me because you saw miraculous signs; you just want something to eat!”

Bread for the body is necessary, and Jesus does provide everything we need, and more, to keep us physically alive. But bread for the body is temporary. The wandering nation of Israel had eaten the manna God gave to them, but still they had all died. And the multitude of 5,000 ate the bread Jesus gave them, but they didn’t stay full. They were hungry again!

Jesus reminded them that it wasn’t Moses who had given their fathers bread in the wilderness – it was God the Father. And He told them that God’s bread “comes down from Heaven and gives light to the world.” So the people said “Then give us that bread.”

So Jesus finally said to them, “I am the bread of life… For I have come down from Heaven.” And that was too much for them to swallow – hungry as they were! “At this the Jews began to grumble about Him because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down from Heaven.’”

Maybe they couldn’t explain His miraculous acts with food, but they sure weren’t ready to let Him claim to be “the bread that came down from Heaven”! After all, didn’t they know His father and mother? Well, no they didn’t – but they thought they did. And interestingly enough, Jesus doesn’t even comment on that, but just says, “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” and goes on to expand His theme that He is the Heavenly bread.

And in doing so, Jesus offers more than a future hope, because everlasting life is not only a future hope – it’s a present possession. The Savior promises that those who trust in Him have it – not will have it. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus says, “he who believes has everlasting life.” Has it – present tense!

Those who believe on the Bread of Life, came down from Heaven, will live forever – with everlasting life beginning now!

To the woman of the city, who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, Jesus said, “your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you.” (Luke 7:48,50)

After healing the man at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus told those who questioned Him, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life.” (John 5:24) Present tense!

And John the Baptist said to his disciples, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” (John 3:36)

Eternal life begins when you believe. Eternal life is not only a future hope – it’s a present possession. Those who know Jesus Christ as their Savior can have the absolute confidence that their eternal life has already begun!!

Failure to understand this fact can mess up a person’s life. It can be a steady drain on a person’s energy. It can have a negative effect on the way a person lives his life.

Without the assurance of salvation, without the confidence of eternal life, what does a person do with his mistakes? His failures? His defeats? His sins of the past?

Just about the time a person figures out he’s on his way, he’s reminded of some dark time in his past. And like a thick smog, it blots out the sunshine of hope for the future. Memories of failure and defeat can leave us weak and beaten. Sometimes we can feel, “What’s the use? Failure, defeat, sin – I give up!”

Where’s the answer to this normal and common experience? What’s the solution to this awful feeling?

· Lady Macbeth tried to remove the guilt by washing. “Out, out, accursed spot!” she cried. But the spot remained.

· Pontius Pilate called for a basin of water – tried to wash his hands clean. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. It’s your responsibility. But the deed was done. He felt the weight of the guilt. He couldn’t escape.

· Judas went back to the Chief Priests – begged them to take back the thirty pieces of silver, the price of his shameful betrayal. But they wouldn’t soil their hands with the coins. So Judas threw the silver down on the floor of the temple – and went out and hanged himself.

What price will a person pay to remove the guilt of the past? To be able to forget the failures and the defeats and the sin? No price is too great, is it?

But wonder of wonders, the price is right! The remedy is free! That doesn’t mean it’s cheap! Jesus not only said, “I am the bread of life,” but in the last verse of our Gospel lesson He says, “I am the living bread… And this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Eternal life with God is the most costly purchase ever made in history! Jesus Christ paid it on the cross. And because it was so costly for Him, it’s free to us! The way to eternal life depends solely on His all-atoning and once-for-all death.

To the people in the synagogue in Capernaum that day, “belief” meant accepting Jesus’ ability to perform miracles like making bread for the body. But to Jesus, “belief” meant commitment to Him – not because of His miracles, but because of who He is.

His statement, “I am the bread of life,” is the first in a series of statements found in John’s Gospel, each representing a particular relationship of Jesus to our spiritual needs:

· “I am the light of the world” – our light in spiritual darkness.

· “I am the gate for the sheep” – our entrance into security and fellowship with God.

· “I am the good shepherd” – our guide and protector in life.

· “I am the resurrection and the life” – our hope in death.

· “I am the way and the truth and the life” – our certainty in times of confusion.

· “I am the true vine” – our source of strength and vitality.

And the key to a commitment to the person of Christ is found in the last verse of our Gospel lesson. For our commitment is based on the person of Christ who came down from Heaven to give us the bread of life. And to “eat of this bread” means to believe on Him who gave His life, that we might have everlasting life with Him – right now! As a present possession!


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