The text for the sermon is John 6:54-56 (TT) "The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will resurrect him in the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."
The disciples described this teaching as "hard" and wondered who could accept it. Indeed! The Jews wondered how Jesus could give them his flesh to eat...a very disgusting thought. And this is a disgusting series of verses. Unless one understands what Jesus is talking about, why he is using the metaphors he does, and why he is even talking this way.
Two things to remember: 1) the book of John is not written in "real" time. The book is a construction of the life and teachings of Jesus - not for the sake of acurrately recording historical events, but rather, recording real events that really happened and giving an account of them in such a way that one will "believe that Jesus is the Son of God and have Eternal Life" (see chapter 20). 2) When one looks throughout the book of John, one can better understand the use of Jesus' metaphors, especially in chapter six.
Here is my summary: the disciples description of Jesus' teaching as "hard" does not refer to his use of the flesh and blood metaphors. The Jews thought it was revolting and unimaginable. But what were Jesus' own disciples referring to?
John 6:58 "This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” This is the summary point that Jesus makes, to which the disciples react. Since they are not convinced that Jesus is the Son of God, they are having difficulty beleiving what Jesus is teaching. The manna given to the Israelites in the Wilderness is a beloved story and symbol. Jesus is wiping the belovedness of that story away, and replacing it with himself. You can eat manna, but you will still die. You can believe me, and you will live. It was difficult to reconcile the apparent intelligence and brilliance of Jesus with what came acorss as ludicrous and outrageous statements. It was hard to accept - hard to turn away from the Mosaic covenant, the Mosaic traditions, the law and its culture. Hard to believe that God had come to replace the law with grace and truth. Hard to believe that a person was replacing the stone tablets. Hard to believe that the good life was to come at the hands of a person like Jesus, as opposed to coming as a result of my hard work, good deeds and religious devotion to YHWH. Jesus' use of flesh and blood didn't help matters.
Here is some helpful tidbits on unpacking the metaphors.
In John 1, the author writes that Jesus is the Word, and that the Word became Flesh.
In John 3 Jesus teaches that flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to Spirit.
In John 5, Jesus teaches that if one hears the Word and believes God - the one who sent Jesus, this one has eternal life, will not be judged, has crossed over from death to life.
In John 6 Jesus says he is the Bread of Life.
Stay with me...Jesus is not just the author of words, he is the Word. Therefore the Word must get inside of us. Thus we hear it. But Jesus is the source of life, and refers to himself as bread. Thus to get Life into us, we must eat the bread.
The Word became Flesh: God meant to get inside of humans - as demonstrated in the Incarnation (Jesus the God-Man); and God means to get inside of humans like us - through our eyes (the Historical Jesus), through our ears (the Word) and through our mouth (Bread). But we live in this world as flesh, and we can give birth only to flesh, and the flesh is bound to die. So God comes to us, from Spirit only, to a perfect union of Spirit/Flesh. He must get us to make the move from only Flesh, to the perfect union of Flesh/Spirit. God wants to get inside of us, more than just words rattling around in our head, but the way food gets into every cell of your body. God wants our flesh to be saturated with His Spirit. So we eat his Flesh (Word/Bread), the flesh of Jesus is saturated with God's Spirit, thus when we "eat" and "drink" Jesus, we consume and are nourished by Spirit-saturated Flesh. This Spirit saturated flesh then gets into every cell of our body. We truly then become "conformed to the image of Christ" for he is in us and acting out through our spirit.
Jesus writes in John 6:63: "The Spirit gives life! The flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you - they are full of the Spirit and life."
Jesus said in 6:56 that the one who eats and drinks him will remain in Him and He will remain in the eater. From a food metaphor this is perceivable. Jesus as Word is not Bread to be eaten, digested, nourished by for a day, and then defecated. Jesus is Word to be consumed and nourished unto Eternity. Jesus is to be in us as food gets inside of us.
Partaking of communion is an act of remembrance: to remember the body given for us, the blood poured out for us, that we could die to this life and be born to a new life with Him forever. We partake of communion to remember that we only have Life Eternal because the Spirit of Jesus courses through our veins, he nourishes our cells.
How do we "remain in Jesus" how do we "eat and drink" Jesus everyday?
We find the answer in John 15 - we remain in Jesus and his word remains in us when we obey his commands. What is the one command that all other commands come from? Love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU!
What would it take to love another human as Jesus loves them? It would take a Jesus-saturated human to love another human as Jesus would. But the condition is this: Love another human as I love YOU!!!!!!
Think about that: In order to love another human in accordance with Jesus commands, I am to acknowledge, understand, accept, celebrate and enjoy Jesus' love for me. Is this an abstract love? Is it the idea of love? Is it a belief in love? Is it a doctrine of love? Or if I am to eat and drink Jesus, if I am to be nourished unto eternity by Jesus, and if for eternity I am to enjoy the love of Jesus, then I must experience the love of Jesus in my life. My life is to be saturated by the love of Jesus.
And if I cannot see how I am loved by Jesus, Woe Unto Me!
When I love others as Jesus LOVES ME, then I am obeying his command. To obey his command, I must trust him to help me do so, for it is IMPOSSIBLE to love another as Jesus loves me apart from being Spirit-saturated. To become Spirit saturated, I must trust Jesus the Word. To trust I must hear and accept. If Jesus the Word is bread and fruit of the vine, then I eat and drink Jesus. If Jesus is the Word made flesh (given for me) and If Jesus is the New Covenant/Testament as blood poured out for me, and I trust it to be so for me, then it is mine as a gift.
To take communion is to remember how much Jesus loves me - both in the historical past on the cross, but also in the daily present because of the resurrection. To take communion is the front end of obedience: to not follow up communion with loving others AS JESUS LOVES ME is to still be disobedient. One condemns oneself worse if one takes communion with no intent (or ignorance) of loving others as JESUS LOVES ME. To take communion is to remember, it is also a sign: I AM LOVED and I LOVE OTHERS AS JESUS LOVES ME. To say this is to be humble, under grace, moved by truth, and full of Joy. What greater experience is there then to love others as Jesus loves me.
What is Eternal Life? What is the good life that gets better and better for ever and ever with God? Loving others as Jesus loves me.