02 August 2015

Receive and Eat the Bread of Life

Although the sinful world and your fallen flesh are prone to make a multiplicity of false gods out of many things, there is in fact only one true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Maker of the heavens and the earth and of all that is in them.  And as there is but one true God, there is only one Way to know Him and love Him, to believe and trust in Him, to find Him and come to Him.

In short, there are not many ways to God, but one Way only, by which He first of all comes to you.

That one and only Way to God is Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In accordance with the Holy Scriptures, in fulfillment of all the words and promises of God, He has come down from heaven, from the bosom of His Father, in order to seek you out and find you, to draw you to Himself in body and soul forever, and to bring you in and with Himself, in His own Body of flesh and blood, to the Father by the Spirit.

Therefore, if you would have the one true God as your God, seek the Lord Jesus Christ, find Him and come to Him, by the way and means of that one boat which He has provided for you on earth, that is, by His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, the holy ark of Christendom.  For that is where and how He is with you and abides with you in the flesh, so that you may abide with Him.

So then, here you are, and He is here for you within His House, in the Ministry of His Gospel, in His Word and Sacrament.  But what are you looking for, and what do you hope to find?  For what purpose do you seek the Lord Jesus?  What is it that you want Him to do for you and give to you?

Do you seek the Lord Jesus in order to receive and eat the Food that He provides for eternal life?

Or, are you longing to eat your fill of the food that perishes?  Is it your hope and your goal to use the Lord Jesus, as though He were merely a means to some other end?  As though He were your tool and your ticket to achieving the wealth of this fallen world?  That you might gorge yourself on the flesh pots of Egypt, and that you should thus be consumed by your slavery to sin and death.

If you live and work for perishable food, then you will perish with it.  For the appetite and gluttony of the flesh, whether of food or fornication, will eat you up with its own consuming death, for it is contrary to God’s Word and faith.  Such craving is to put your faith and trust in idols and false gods, which cannot save you.  If you hunger and thirst for such gods, you will die in your unbelief.

To be sure, the one true God in mercy does provide you with daily bread for this body and life, for which you are to give Him thanks and praise.  It is a good gift of the Creator.  But it is not the source or substance of your life and health and strength.  Such bread is for now, but not forever.
Even the miraculous Old Testament Manna pointed beyond itself to something more.  It lasted only for the day that it was given, that the people should learn to live, not by such bread for their bodies, but by faith in the Word and promises of God and in love according to His commandments.

What then shall you do?  And how then shall you live?  To what does that Manna point you?

It is simple, really.  Jesus tells you straight up.  Listen to what He says, and believe in Him.  Eat the Food of the Son of Man, which He gives to you by grace, by and with His Word of the Gospel.  For God the Father has set His seal upon this Lord Jesus — by His Baptism in the Jordan River.

There is one Baptism, as St. Paul has testified, and that is the Holy Baptism of the one Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the one God and Father and the one Holy Spirit are revealed and made known.  God is manifested in His Body of flesh and blood, as Christ is anointed by the Spirit, crucified for your transgressions, and raised from the dead by the glory of the Father for your justification.

You are baptized into the same Lord Jesus Christ.  You share His Cross and Resurrection because  you share His one Baptism for the forgiveness of all your sins.  And you thus bear His Holy Spirit and the Name of His God and Father in your own body and soul as a Christian disciple of Jesus.

Believe in Him, therefore, whom the Father has sent and gives to you from heaven for the life of the world.  He is the evening and morning Sacrifice, who arises before God as a pleasing aroma on your behalf.  He is the Passover Lamb who has been given in your place, whose blood covers and protects you from death, and whose flesh feeds and nourishes you for life with God.  And He is the true Manna from heaven, who sustains you through the wilderness into the Promised Land.

This almighty and eternal Son of the living God, He is the One who has descended — He has come down from heaven, and become flesh, and has borne all sin and death for us men and our salvation.

He has led captivity captive by handing Himself over to sacrificial death upon the Cross, undoing sin, death, and all the power of the devil by His own voluntary suffering and innocent bloodshed.

And in His Resurrection and Ascension, He freely gives His good gifts to His people, His Church, even to the close of the age.  That is to say, as St. Paul has written, the Lord gives not just talents, abilities, and skills, and not only money and other tangible resources for the logistics of life in the world, but first of all, above all else, He gives the gifts of men who preach and teach His Word.  He gives the Prophets and Apostles, the holy Evangelists, and the pastors and teachers who care for His flock.  He gives the Ministry of the Gospel for the administration of His Food and Drink.

In this Word and the preaching of it, and in this sacred Food and Drink, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus gives Himself to you, that you should receive and eat the living Bread from heaven, by which alone you have eternal life in body and soul.  For He who speaks, and He who feeds you, is Himself the incarnate Word of God and the Bread of Life, who gives Life to the whole world.

As you thus hear Him and receive Him, as you eat this Bread of Christ and drink His Cup, so then, live and work in the sure and certain hope of your calling as a Christian.  Which is also to say, live in the sure and certain hope of your Holy Baptism, whereby the Lord has set His seal upon you.  Live by hearing and heeding His Word, and by receiving His good gifts according to His Word.

To live by the Word of Christ, to abide in Him by faith in His Gospel, and to confess and call upon His Name — that is the Unity of the Spirit and the Bond of Peace in the one Body of Christ Jesus, in which you remain as you go about your days and duties within all your offices and stations in life.  Thus do you have peace and rest, even in your labors; and, though you die, yet shall you live.

Here set before you is the Sign which Jesus does, that you may believe in Him and trust in Him.  For here, at His Altar in His Church, is the true Manna, the Bread from heaven, which the Father provides for you here on earth, in order that you may live, day by day, unto the Resurrection of your body and the life everlasting of your body and soul in the Paradise that He has promised.

What is it?  What is this Bread?  What is this Cup?  It is the Body of Christ, which is given for you.  It is the New Testament in His Blood, poured out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins, and for your life and salvation with God both now and forever.

By these means, the Body and Blood of Christ His Son, the Father loves you and provides for you, He feeds and nourishes you, He cares for you.  And by these same means, by this Meat and Drink indeed, you also learn to know and trust your Father’s love, His providence, and His faithfulness.  For here you are taught by God that He cares for you, and that He will bring you safely home.

As He gives to you this true and living Bread from heaven for your body and your soul, unto the life everlasting, so shall He certainly also provide you with daily bread for this body and life.  He knows your needs and well provides them.  But He is also doing and giving so much more.

For the very Son of God here lays hold of your body with His own Body, so that your body shall be raised and live with Him in glory, immortal and imperishable, like unto His own glorious Body.

Come, then, eat this Bread, and you will never go hungry.  Drink of this Cup, and you will never go thirsty, regardless of your circumstances.  This Flesh and Blood of Christ, which the Father gives and pours out for you on earth, is food enough that you may eat, and be well fed, and live.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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