Tag Archives: Eternal life (Christianity)

I am the bread of life

I woke this morning to the smell of freshly baked bread.

Ah, how wonderful is that!

Bob’s my baker, he loads the bread-maker the night before and knows how to set the timer so we can enjoy fresh bread for breakfast. And I know how lucky I am. The staff of life, bread, has become a real pleasure for us rather than a basic necessity. We also know that many people in our world go hungry and we are really privileged to have good food.

In the gospel story Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life” … And what’s more, today, we have heard how he takes this idea one stage further suggesting that people are to eat his flesh and blood.

That’s an odd thing to say. The people at the time were baffled, I’m a bit baffled too. Throughout chapter 6 of John’s gospel, Jesus seems to have this thing about bread, I’m tempted to say, he was on a roll.

Was Jesus really bread and what’s all this “bread of life” how is that different from ordinary bread, from the bread I ate this morning? And eating anyone’s flesh and blood – that’s gross. I expect we have got our own opinions about what Jesus meant and no doubt the people who witnessed that at the time were equally divided in their thoughts. It was too much for some, they left Jesus (oh oh, spoiler alert, that comes next week in the readings: John 6.66 – look out for it!)

So, enough of what is to come, let’s go back to the beginning: if you were in church for the first of this series of readings – oh about the end of July some time … or perhaps you have been avidly reading your lectionary, you might remember that John’s gospel chapter 6 opens with the story of the feeding of the 5000.

Miracles are fixed in time. For us, it’s 2000 years ago. For the people in Jesus’ time it might have been a few days ago. They had a party, had plenty to eat and didn’t have to work for it – hey! Let’s do it again, what we need is another miracle.

Wait a moment: feeding 5000? There aren’t 5000 people in this part of Galilee. Who counted?

But we all had some fish and bread to eat … Oh yes, really … did nobody but a small boy actually bother to think about bringing a picnic? And what about that small boy? What was he doing all by himself? Where’s his mum and dad?

Come on Jesus! Give us more bread, fresh toast, with butter and marmalade this time please, I don’t like fish. Why don’t you stay here with us, you could be our baker. Oh and when we are poorly, perhaps you could do some healing miracles for us. And we don’t really like the Romans, we have to pay taxes to them, it would be much better if you would hurry up and get rid of them so we can live happily here. Come on Jesus, get a move on!

Oh dear, was this what God had in mind?

Jesus has mentioned bread before. When he was tempted in the wilderness, before he started his ministry proper. Do you remember, Jesus has been fasting for 40 days when the devil tempts him saying that if he is the son of God, he could turn the stones into bread. What does Jesus reply?

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

That comes from Matthew 4.4. But being a keen student at the moment, I looked up where Jesus had got the quotation from: Deuteronomy 8.3. Oh I could tell you a thing or two about Deuteronomy, but I’ll spare you and just give a brief résumé: the book reminds the Jewish people of their origins including how they were brought safely out of slavery in Egypt and given manna to eat in the wilderness. Clearly, the people in John’s gospel knew that story very well because they ask Jesus for similar proof. You can’t argue with manna, it falls from heaven, no one knows what it is and how it gets there so it must be a sign from God. And it comes in handy if you are hungry and in the wilderness.

God provided manna in the wilderness and the people were saved from starvation. They went on to live out their lives and die. So what’s Jesus offering? True and living bread, his very essence, his flesh and blood which we remember in the Eucharist.

We keep coming back to food. Bread, even if it is in the form of manna. Come on God, we can’t think on an empty stomach. “Give us this day our daily bread!” And Jesus seems to be saying, yes, humans need food to live, to keep from starvation, but we need more than that, we hunger for the word of God in our lives.

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

What are we really looking for?

Isn’t it time we woke up and smelt the true bread of life?

Lesley Shatwell

Sermon – John 12:20-33 (Jennifer)

Corcovado jesus
Corcovado jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Lent 5 2012 St.John’s

Jeremiah 31.31-34       Hebrews 5.5-10     John 12.20-33

When I first heard that my mother had been diagnosed with bowel cancer I was distraught.

That night, in terrible distress I curled up in bed in a tight ball sobbing

‘Oh no not my Mum’

‘This can’t happen to my Mum’

‘Oh God no!’

The universal human cry when something terrible is happening!

Jesus in his humanity was not exempt from this desolation.

In today’s reading from John’s gospel, we’re told that Jesus was troubled in his soul.

– “Father, save me from this hour”

Many people seem to work on the assumption that if you worship and follow God, he will make sure nothing bad happens to you.

Then they are disappointed and ‘loose their faith’.

Because it just doesn’t work like that.

Life is just not like that.

And Christianity has never been an insurance policy.

God sends the rain and the sun on the good and the bad alike.

We all have good times in life and we all have bad times in life.

What God does give Christians, is the assurance that he knows what we’re going through because he has experienced it himself.

When God himself was on earth in the person of Jesus, he experienced all our emotions from the very best to very worst.

But hang on a minute – when we are in the depths of suffering ourselves

and we gaze on the suffering of Our Lord Jesus

Is it really so comforting to know that Jesus went through exactly the same routine.

“God, this is awful, please stop this happening to me,” Jesus prayed.

But it didn’t stop, and the process continued with worse pain for Jesus.

In the garden of Gethsemane on the night before he died he spent the whole night in prayer,

but still it wasn’t over for him

and he had to endure the physical agony of crucifixion

and the emotional and spiritual agony of believing that God himself had deserted him.

How can the God of Love,

God the Father,

allow this to happen to His Beloved Son?

And if God does not even seem to answer Jesus’ prayer what chance do we stand of being saved from our agony?

Oh God no!

Oh God why!

The most intriguing verse in today’s reading from Hebrews is verse 7, where the author says,

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

Was he heard?

On the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And then he died.

So how was he heard by the one who was able to save him from death?

He wasn’t saved from death.

He died just as we all die

and the appalling circumstances of his death make it look as though the reverse is true,

that he wasn’t heard no matter how much he wept and prayed and no matter how reverent his submission.

When somebody is very ill,

one of the problems with praying for healing is that they so often don’t appear to be heard,

because the person dies.

That can leave those who pray feeling very guilty

or very insecure,

as though their prayers weren’t good enough

or they didn’t have enough faith.

But this was exactly what happened to Jesus.

He prayed for life and he died.

Yet the author of Hebrews sees this as “he prayed to the one who was able to save him from death,

and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

Perhaps the answer is that we can’t take the cross in isolation.

It can be understood in part if it stands alone,

for we all go through times of mini-crucifixion when awful things happen in our lives and in which we experience horror and agony and darkness and often the absence of God.

At such times we can identify with Jesus and face our own mini-crucifixion armed with the knowledge that Jesus has been there before us and knows how it feels.

But to look at the cross in its entirety we must include the resurrection.

This is the point of view of the author of Hebrews.

He sees Jesus as very much alive in a new, wonderful, radiant sort of life in some different dimension beyond death.

And this is the message which God is so anxious we should hear.

God is so anxious that we should hear it that he sent his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Just think – when we pray to God in the agony of despair

‘Why don’t you do something to end this!’

‘Why does it have to be like this?’

Just think – it was at that moment of supreme agony

Up there on the cross

That God in His Son is saving the world!

This is how he ‘does something’

24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit  –  explains St.John.

Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’

The exact nature of this salvation remains a life long mystery

What we do know is that we do die in this life, many times.

We all have mini-deaths or mini-crucifixions because that’s the nature of human life.

We have good times and we have bad times, just as Jesus had good times and bad times.

Our bodies eventually die, never to be used on this earth again, just as Jesus’ body eventually died and was never used on this earth again.

But Jesus hung in there, facing the bad times and refusing to give up on love or forgiveness,

and as a result Jesus was seen again after death,

in a new body which was rarely recognised even by his closest friends

and which was healed and fit and well.

What we call “death” was but a gateway into a new and different and wonderful life.

We frequently experience this on this earth.

Things go horribly and appallingly wrong and it feels like the end of everything we hold dear,

but eventually…….

now let’s not be naïve about this

for some the suffering does go on and on until it overwhelms them – poor souls! – pray that they find consolation on the other side of death

But usually if we hang in there,

things get better and new and different doorways open into a new kind of life

which is often even better than the former life.

The same thing happens after our final death in this life.

A new doorway opens and we move into a new and different and wonderful life.

So perhaps the writer of Hebrews was right after all.

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

And God promises the same for all of us.