A Homily on John 6:51-69
“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. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Hush, Jesus! You don’t realize what You are saying! Hush, Jesus! That is gross – it’s cannibalism! Hush, Jesus! People are thinking You are crazy…You’re going to drive most of the congregation away!
Funny how we turn that into the Lord’s problem! We should be examining our own hearts and how we are refusing and closing our ears to God’s Word. Instead, we often complain how God isn’t doing something right, or that He really doesn’t mean what He says. We join the thousands who turn their backs on Jesus and reply, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
Hush, Jesus! I don’t like what You are saying. Lord, I’m sure You don’t really mean what You just said! We shove our way into the conversation, letting Jesus know that we can explain things better than He … or so we think.
And if the Lord doesn’t budge, in this day and age, we simply pack up our toys and leave. “I can just go to a different church,” we say, fooling ourselves and pretending that we can actually explain away what Jesus teaches.
That was exactly what was happening in this crowd. They liked Jesus. He was popular. But then He spoke a hard saying and started teaching and prophesying about His Holy Supper. That was it! And now, thousands began looking for a different rabbi – one who would speak what their itching ears desired to hear.
Right before this pasage, our Lord’s congregation had reached a high point in attendance. At the feeding of the 5,000, by the time you count all the women and children present, in all likelihood there were over 20,000 people! After Jesus speaks these words that were hard to swallow, there are only around 100 left. Imagine! Going from a gigantic group that would rival Willow Creek to barely more than half of our recent attendance here.
Why? Why the sudden drop in membership? The reason is Jesus Himself. The Lord and His Supper. The very Gift that unites us is also the very item that divides many from complete harmony with Christ’s Church – His Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. While we are drawn into union with our Savior in the Lord’s Supper, others refuse and deny Him, in essence, calling Him a liar, and cutting themselves off from the Lord.
Jesus does not merely speak of “bread” or “wine,” He speaks of His Body and Blood. He does not speak of signs or symbols or representations. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. And when He has His Last Supper with the Twelve, Jesus explains as He holds the bread and says: “This is My Body, given for you.” And He takes the cup and says: “This is My Blood, shed for you.” The bread and wine are His Body and Blood. “Is” means “is.” Period.
And again, we slip into, “Hush, Jesus! Do You see how strange You sound?” We pay lip service to the Body and Blood, but often our human minds waver and think that the physical elements remain the way they were and Jesus is somehow only there spiritually. Outwardly we are like, “Yeah, right, …body and blood.” But inwardly the doubt and disbelief enters and we usher Jesus away from the communion rail.
Hush, Jesus, indeed! But wait a minute! There was a time when Jesus hushed…for you! “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) Our suffering Savior endured the pains of sin, death, and hell on the cross – without protesting or decrying the judgment. He took it all upon Himself, hushed, paying the price for you and me.
But now He is hushed no more. Our Risen Lord comes to us week after week, boldly declaring His saving Gospel and joyfully delivering His forgiving and life-giving Body and Blood! And week after week His mouth is wide open as He proclaims the most sure and certain and succinct words of Gospel: “Take, eat. This is My Body, given for you.” “Take, drink. This is My Blood, shed for you.”
Christ Jesus comes now, and even as He fed and taught the multitude, He feeds and teaches His Church. He nourishes and sustains you body and soul. He gives His Flesh and Blood for you to feed on, and you are given a life-saving miracle. How? God has attached His saving promise to this Gift!
Remember how Dr. Luther describes it? These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” shows us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
You can be confident, dear friends in Christ, and assured that our Lord Jesus does what He says. He does not lie. His Word actually carries out the things it speaks of. So when He says "Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day," we know it to be completely true. His Sacrament gives life. And it is in the rejection of that Holy Gift that many reject Christ Himself.
But through the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit has kept you from rejecting Jesus. Even in moments of mystery and awe, when you say, “Lord, I don’t understand how this can be Your Body and Blood!” you still can be assured that it is, and it is given to you in blessing and healing and forgiveness. Confessing you do not understand is not sinful doubt. It is a plea to God to give His mercy and help. “Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief!”
The soothing Savior comes to you today. He has released you from your sin in words of Holy Absolution. He has spoken His forgiving and life-saving Word. He is about to feed you life itself, with the Body broken and Blood shed for you. Through these precious means, He gives you eternal life, and He will raise you up on the last day.
So rejoice! Be glad that Jesus did hush on the cross, gladly taking your place in death, that He could give you life. And rejoice that now He does NOT hush, that He can constantly and boldly declare to you the forgiveness, life, and salvation that come through His Gospel and Sacraments!