Don’t Worry: Eternity

Don’t Worry: Eternity
A Message on John 6:41-51
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Nov. 1, 2020
By Doug Wintermute

John 6:41-51 (NRSV)

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

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Today is All Saints Sunday, the day in the Christian calendar where we lift up and memorialize those of our congregation who have joined the church triumphant since All Saints Sunday last year.

The word “halloween” is actually a contraction of “All Hallows’ Eve” and is the day before All Saints Day. So while our culture has made Halloween a holiday of pumpkins, trick-or-treat and haunted houses, for the church it is a holy day to honor the saints that have gone before us.

Today All Saints Day, which is always Nov. 1, and All Saints Sunday, which is the first Sunday on or after All Saints Day, fall on the same day. I love it when that happens!

In the scripture we read today from the Gospel of John Jesus is talking to a crowd that has followed him. If you back up in the sixth chapter of John we find Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five barley loaves and two fish supplied by a boy.

The crowd follows Jesus and his disciples across the Sea of Galilee (this was when Jesus walked on water) and again gathered to listen to what Jesus had to say. He started telling them he was the bread of life and that those who eat the bread he offers will never be hungry or thirsty, and that Jesus will raise them up on the last day,

Well this really set the Jewish people off because they knew that only the messiah could promise this, and they certainly didn’t believe Jesus was the messiah.

That’s where we get to the scripture we read today. The Jews begin to grumble, saying that Jesus shouldn’t be saying these things because he couldn’t be the messiah. After all, they knew his parents, Mary and Joseph, right?

This past week there was a young man who was a contestant on the TV show “The Voice” who said he grew up near Cooper, TX. Well, that’s my hometown, but I didn’t recognize his name. He called himself Van Andrew.

That got things buzzing on Facebook among a lot of people from Cooper, me included! The comments started posting and before long I learned that his real name is Andrew Burkemeyer, that he lived out towards Charleston, that he was one of 10 siblings, that he was homeschooled, and that his family used to live down the road from So-and-so on the corner with the big pond out front.

But the comment I saw repeated the most was that he couldn’t have been from Cooper because in the interview with him that aired he mispronounced the name of the town. No one who is a native of Delta County would pronounce it “Cooooper.” No. We pronounce it like the word “cooker.” I always tell people, “Pressure cooker, just say Cooper.” Simple.

Therefore he wasn’t really from Cooper. The guy apparently sang great and got a couple of the judges to turn their chairs around for him, but he wasn’t really from Cooper.

Me and the folks from Cooper sort of dismissed him from being from our home town because of the way he pronounced the name of the town. He gave our little town worldwide attention, but still… We were kind of like the Jewish leaders who didn’t believe Jesus was the messiah because, well, they knew his mom and dad.

That doesn’t stop Jesus. He tells them, “I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jesus points out that the Jewish people, as they wandered around in the desert after leaving Egypt (Remember? “Pharaoh, pharaoh, oooooo baby let my people go, ugh!?) were fed with manna, a starchy substance that came down at night like dew and which the people would then gather and eat. God provided that “bread of heaven” that the people ate, but they still grew old and died.

But the bread Jesus is offering provides eternal life, life that does not end. And while that claim alone caused grumbling among the Jewish people, that fact that he says, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” is even worse than mispronouncing Cooper.

Think about that statement from an Jewish perspective. There are so many laws about things that are clean and unclean, the things you can wear, the people you can be around, the things you can eat. Taking literally Jesus’ statement about the bread of life being his flesh makes that statement pop up on the radar on a whole bunch of those purity laws.

It’s important to remember that in the Gospel of John this happens before the Last Supper. This scripture in chapter six foreshadows what happens in chapter 13 when Jesus and his disciples meet in the Upper Room and he shares his last meal with them.

We remember Jesus as the bread of eternal life when we celebrate the Lord’s supper as we did today. As we each receive the bread and hear the words, “The body of Christ, given for you,” when we receive the wine (grape juice) and hear the words, “The blood of Christ, shed for you,” we remember that it is only through Jesus offering himself on the cross that we are even able to approach the table of the lord, much less to share in the meal.

And among those we share the meal with is not only those around the world that are sharing it with us, but also all those saints who have gone before us.

Got transcends time and space, and when we dine at the Lord’s Table we join the “cloud of witnesses” and the “communion of the saints” in transcending time and space as well.

We are reminded that Jesus is the bread of life, and it is through that bread of life that we are offered life after death. Our physical bodies may get old and worn out and not function properly, and eventually each one of us will draw our last physical breath. But for those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior their last breath on earth starts their first breath of eternity, an existence that is so wonderful, so perfect, that it is beyond our minds’ ability to comprehend.

So on this day when we celebrate those who have gone before us this past year, let us also cast aside our worries and anxieties and instead be grateful for the bread of life offered to us through Jesus Christ. The same bread that gave those who have passed from our world the crown of righteousness and eternal life is offered to us as well. The bread is offered to us freely, the price already being paid by the blood of Jesus on the cross.

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Let us be people who believe. Let us feast on the bread of life, and let us look forward to eternity.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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