The truth is, people have murmured at Jesus for a lot less than saying that He is the bread of life come down from heaven! People murmur about Jesus’ miracles, His teachings, His divine claims. But, for the Jews to murmur about Jesus being the Bread of Life is not so difficult to understand, especially given the entire 6th chapter of John. I’m hoping that you know this chapter well enough to know that His least offensive words are those in which He says He is “Bread from heaven.” For Jesus goes on to talk about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, which would have been not just crass, but prohibited. In Judaism, blood was believed to contain life, so that eating the blood of an animal (not to mention a human!) was forbidden. And yet, that’s just what Jesus intended to say. When we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we do indeed eat and drink His very life! We ingest Him, and He becomes one with our flesh and blood. Jesus goes on to say if you don’t eat my flesh and drink my blood, you do not have my life in you. Jesus intends to speak just this concretely about His life, and how it is that He lives in us.
Wouldn’t it be sad to belong to a church where they don’t take Jesus’ words seriously and don’t believe that Jesus is truly present in His Holy Supper, so that they don’t believe that Jesus is literally, physically in us and with us when we receive our Lord’s body and blood in Communion? Certainly, Jesus can come to us spiritually, through His Word written, read and preached. But to eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood—to have Him become part of our sinew and bone and cells—means that Jesus is physically in us to heal, renew and restore us. This is what it means that Jesus became incarnate at Bethlehem, and that He continues to incarnate Himself for us on the altar, so that we experience His risen presence, not figuratively, not symbolically, but really, actually present for us.
Lent is a good time to meditate and reflect on the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. During the Lord’s Supper, ponder the meaning of Jesus incarnate for us. What does it mean for you that Jesus is physically present in the sanctuary with us each week? How do we act, and live, knowing that Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh?
Lord our God, we thank you for the Bread of Life come down from heaven, and we give thanks for the real presence of Jesus with us each week; through the same, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Taken from Wendel, David, From Ashes to Easter, Ashes Lenten Devotional Booklet, North American Lutheran Church.