Maundy Thursday: John 6:47-56: I Am the Bread of Life

The first Passover, such a horrific and gruesome sight, unlike any in Egypt, whether before or after.  At twilight, an enslaved people slaughter thousands of lambs, eat of their flesh, and brush their blood on the doorposts of their houses.  Those lambs died, so the firstborn sons of Israel may live. 

From this somber Passover, we learn sometimes a meal is more than its food.  In the first eating of this decreed ritual, no serving came only to beautify the plate.  Every item in this newfound ceremony served a divine purpose.

Bitter herbs reflected their subjugating taskmasters, who embittered their lives in the grind of daily servitude.  Those oppressed people, on the cusp of freedom, will later gnaw on pungent herbs, year upon year.  These will serve as edible tokens of the biting tang left in their mouths, in those bitter years of bondage.

Unrisen bread because Pharaoh will cast them out before the sun rises, before yeast can leaven the dough.  The food of affliction, for soon these slaves, will flee their chains before their overlords change their minds and come to reclasp them. 

These foods directed the people elsewhere, past the meal itself, as also did the seared meat of the sacrificed lamb.  The flesh offering, becomes a flesh-and-blood sign: An innocent victim dies so others can live. 

The angelic destroyer, passing through the land, will pass over their homes because of the slaughtered lamb.  The blood will shield their firstborn sons.  Not so in the homes of Egyptian unbelievers, where the angel will leave a trail of blood in his wake. 

The faithful paint.  The drained blood from these Passover lambs smears their home entrances.  Dark and congealed, this covering of blood cries out, commanding the demolishing angel, “Pass over, death-bringing angel, for God’s child lives here.” 

Long ago, God’s chosen partook of this Passover meal.  So, death remained a stranger, passing over their sons, leaving them undevoured.  The cooked flesh atop the table gave them life and hope, despite the threat and gloom of enslaving masters. 

With something so momentous, God will make His Passover into more than a one-time event.  The Israelites will celebrate this as an enduring ordinance for all generations—until God directs them otherwise.  In future years, they are to recall their rescue, of how God spared them by pouring out His wrath on those spotless lambs.

The most substantial portion of the initial Passover proclaimed a message extending to a time ahead, past the many Passover meals to come.  In its entirety—bitter leaves, unleavened bread, roasted lamb—become an edible prophecy. 

The prophets of old foretold of a Messiah.  So also does the Passover, proclaiming what will one day be.  So much so, slaves on the threshold of freedom can sink their teeth into this foreshadow of something to come.  The Lord’s mandated meal—a foretaste and appetizer—sharpens their appetite for another yet to come, which will surpass their supper in Egypt, both in wonder and superiority.

Like the ancient Passover, our Savior’s Meal, to which all those Passovers pointed, also transforms into more than a meal.  The forecasted food will be miraculous, beyond imagination—the Food of heaven.  The Christ-bringing Spirit will descend, to incarnate bread and wine, like He also did with the Virgin Mary, filling her with the Christ-Child.  Now, we can take into our mouths the One who sits enthroned in heaven. 

With Jesus keeping the final Passover for God’s people, we realize our Deliverer from death is what He claims to be.  The Messiah will take the cup and still connect the wine to God’s redemption of His people.  Though now, this is also different, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

The Fulfiller of the Old does something new, bringing in a better Covenant.  Holy wine will connect to His soon-to-be-sacrificed blood.  The true Passover Lamb dines with His disciples, giving them His blood to save them. 

So, also with His bread.  The time for butchered animals is over, for salvation now comes in Christ Jesus.  How?  The predicted Savior, referring to Himself, “I am the living bread come down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread shall live forever, for the bread I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).

The Apostle Paul wrote, “On the night of his betrayal, the Lord Jesus took the loaf, spoke a prayer of thanks, and broke the bread” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).  The broken bread is our Savior’s last prediction of His death.  Like the breaking of bread, our Defeater of Death will become broken for our eternal deliverance.  All this He does, to free us from sin, grant us life everlasting, and place us in fellowship with His Father.

These things can only happen if Christ gives us Himself, who achieved this for us.  So, He does, when we receive Him in His body and blood—the One who gave Himself into death, to forgive us in the Meal surpassing all the previous Passovers.  Yes, this Food is the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist. 

How strange for Jesus’ followers to grouse: “This is a hard teaching.  How can anyone accept this?”  So, Jesus schools them a bit more:

For unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you are without life.  The one who chews my flesh and drinks my blood receives eternal life, and I will raise him on the Last Day.  [John 6:53-54]

Now, we need not guess, for Jesus tells us the results.  Those who feed on His flesh, who also drink down His blood, are alive in Him, and He in them.  Apart from Christ, we are bereft of life, walking corpses.  None of us is born with immortality, only death.  So, if Jesus doesn’t give us what we require, we’re doomed!  Such Life doesn’t originate in us.  So, we turn to Christ, who delivers His flesh and His blood for our life and strength.

The sinless One will spill His blood to give life to all, becoming the sacrificial Lamb Himself.  On the beam of wood, He will offer His life to bring forth the new exodus, whose blood will pour out for our eternal rescue.  Yes, Jesus does something new, establishing a New Covenant, furnishing you with the food and drink of infinite life. 

Your Lord gives His flesh to you, taking into Himself the full guilt and penalty for all your failings.  For you, He pours out His blood, washing away every sin.  Now, your Redeemer offers His life-bestowing flesh and sin-forgiving blood so you, too, can live evermore, rising on the Day of His return.

In times of fright, fear, and anguish, we crave more than symbols.  So, our saving Lord descends to us still, in His body, in His blood.  Each time you consume the Sacrament, these words come your way: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” 

With past and present now connected, we become, once more, one with Christ.  To us, His body and blood deliver the blessings of His cross, here and now. 

So, come and dine, for this bread is His body, the Lamb, whom Death did not pass over or protect.  The nails and spear did not leave Him untouched.  Behold, the Lamb of God, for He chose to become the slaughter, as the flames of hell roasted beneath Him.  The firewood of our iniquities fueled those flames, which leaped upward to scorch a sinless flesh, of this pure and perfect Sacrifice. 

Take and eat, relish and realize, Jesus is the prophesied Passover Lamb, who is without blemish.  Though you swim in the sea of your sinfulness, Your Savior will bring to you what you are unable to achieve.  Yes, this Lord is life-giving.  So, when You savor Him in His Supper, you obtain what He bestows.  Indeed, you are what you eat!

Take and drink, for this wine is His blood—the Lamb’s lifeblood who gave His life for you.  Not in a single torrent, but from the start of His earthly life to its end.  Like He did on the cross, as an eight-day-old Infant, He will bleed His circumcision blood for you. 

The other cup contains eternal fury and poison.  The Father’s firstborn Son empties this cup to the last drop.  In His dying breath, Jesus spills His blood.  The soldier’s lance breaks through the dam of His flesh, releasing the water and blood, which pours forth to every font and cup of His Church.  So now, on this day, His chalice pours out His grace, amnesty, and love.  So, we drink because this is His blood. 

Now, you paint His blood, not on the doors of your home.  No, but on the entrance and exit of your tongue, heart, and soul.  For this blood is the Almighty’s armor, defending you from destruction, soon to descend when God’s angels carry out His judgment. 

On the Day of our Lord, those destroying angels will pass you by, for the crimson colors of Christ now cover you, who hands His life-filled goblet to you.  Take, drink, for in His cup is your salvation, filled with blood flowing from His purifying veins. 

Here, this sacred Meal takes on the life of another: Its Founder, Jesus.  So, when you take this Food into yourself, you commune in Him, and what He is, becomes your own.  So, you pass from death into life unending.  At His Table, you are bodied and blooded by His body and blood, for when you take in the Giver, you also take in His gifts.

Approach.  The Table is full, loaded with the Feast of forgiveness.  Amen.