The Shocking Truth
The shocking truth is: Holy Communion isn't enough. Coming to this altar and receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus isn't enough for salvation. That blows some of you away, and it's a blow upside the head to others, but it's the truth. Taking Communion isn't enough.
When you've read or heard this text before you thought just the opposite. Eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Jesus was enough. As a Lutheran you were safe, you eat the Flesh of Jesus and drink His Blood in Communion, so according to Jesus you have life in you; He will raise you up on the Last Day, and He remains in you and you in Him. The ones who should worry are those who refuse to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus, those who don't have His Body and Blood on their altars, or those who won't commune at altars that do have it. They're the ones who might not have everlasting life, might not be raised on the Last Day, and might not remain in Jesus. You eat His Body and you drink His Blood, so you're safe. Right? Wrong!
Scripture teaches not everyone who eats and drinks Jesus' Body and Blood, here or at any other altar, will live forever, be raised up, or remain in Him. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul warns us not to be like the Old Testament Church who all ate and drank Christ in the wilderness, yet most of them were displeasing to the Lord so He slaughtered them in the wilderness. In the 11th chapter Paul warns that you can eat and drink Jesus in an unworthy manner which leads to weakness not strength, illness not health, death not life. According to Paul, instead of receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord for forgiveness of guilt a person can come away from this altar with more guilt if they don't receive it rightly.
A person is not receiving Communion rightly if they come to this altar without repentance. If a person comes here holding on or defending any sin of theirs , big or small, socially acceptable or socially repugnant, God's judgment bolts out of Jesus' Body and God's wrath pours out of Jesus' Blood. Likewise, the person who receives Jesus' Body and Blood while holding on to anyone else's sins, doesn't eat and drink forgiveness for their sins either. Those clenching the sins of others in their hands still eat and drink Jesus' Body and Blood, but instead of forgiveness coming down upon them God's clenched fist of condemnation does.
Everyone who comes to this altar does receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in their hand or mouth because His own Words put them on this altar. But just eating and drinking isn't enough. Not only the person who eats and drinks holding on to their sins or the sins of others eats and drinks judgment, so does the person who eats and drinks without discerning that the Body and Blood of Jesus here. So not all who receive Communion are guaranteed salvation, and some are worse off for their eating and drinking.
If this is the case, who on earth dare eat His Body and drink His Blood? And if eating and drinking the Body and Blood of God isn't enough, what on earth or in heaven for that matter is, can be? Jesus is more than enough.
Jesus says He gave His flesh in place of the life of the world. He says He came down from His throne in heaven to give His life in exchange for the world's. Every single sinner deserves to be handed over to other sinners to be tortured for their sins. But Jesus handed Himself over in our place. Sinful men beat, whipped, mocked, tortured, and crucified Jesus for our sins. All sinners deserve to be handed over to Death and the Devil to be roasted for eternity. For our lusting and lying, for our pride and prejudice, we deserve nothing less than to be baked on high heat forever. But in place of our flesh roasting, Jesus allowed His to be baked by the fires of hell on the cross. Instead of our blood boiling over under extreme heat, the blood of Jesus boiled over on Calvary's cross.
Jesus gave His life in exchange for the life of the world. Therefore, there isn't one person you know that Jesus didn't trade places with. There is not one person you know that Jesus didn't redeem, didn't buy back from sin, Death, and the Devil. There isn't one sin that Jesus didn't pay for. He paid for the sin of the abortionist who murdered a thousand babies and for the sin of the man who murdered him. Jesus even paid for the sins of communing without repentance, while holding a grudge, without recognizing His Body and Blood, and for not communing at all.
Jesus is more than enough. He didn't leave one single thing for you or anybody else to do to satisfy God's wrath against sins. There's not even one drop left in the cup of God's wrath that still needs drinking. There's not one sin left on the scales of God's justice that needs paying or even answering for. There's not one commandment that needs keeping or one good deed that need's doing. Jesus did them all; He's more than enough.
Because Jesus did it all, His Flesh and Blood are sources of life. This can't be said about any other food. No matter what you eat or drink you're going to die. Eat low cholesterol and fat, eat high fiber and beta carotene, and you're still dying even as we speak. What you need to live now and forever is Jesus. He opens His hands and satisfies the desires of every living thing. He fed the Church in the wilderness. He made newlyweds hundreds of gallons of wine. He fed thousands with a little boy's lunch. He is resurrection and life for such dry bones as we.
Jesus is enough. Have Jesus and you have life now and forever. And how can Jesus be yours right now? By faith. This is Jesus' point all the way through John 6. He uses the analogy of eating and drinking to picture how easy yet how necessary faith in Him is. To prove that Jesus main point in John 6 is believing in Him and that eating and drinking are illustrations look at these verses. Verse 29, "The work of God is that you believe in the One He sent." Verse 35, "He who believes in Me will never go thirsty." And verse 40, "Everyone who believes in the Son shall have everlasting life."
Jesus is enough, and faith receives all of Jesus. Human reason stumbles over this teaching. Reason says, "Surely Jesus couldn't have done it all; there must be something left for me to do." Reason says, "Faith can't be all that is needed to receive the benefits of Jesus; surely I must do this or that." This is exactly where the people in the text stumbled. Jesus couldn't be sufficient food to feed them for eternity, and there was no way that just believing in Him was enough.
But this is exactly what our text teaches. Jesus is enough and faith in Jesus receives every blessing. First, it receives everlasting life. Those who believe that Jesus gave His life in place of theirs have life right now. They're not dead in their sins. Second, faith in Jesus as Savior receives the blessing of being raised on the Last Day. Go ahead; look at that graying, aging, sickly body of yours. Faith joins it to Jesus; where's He been you will go. He went to the grave; you'll go to the grave. He rose; you will too. His glorified body ascended to the skies; yours will too. Third, through faith in Jesus you remain in Him and in Him Paul tells us there is no condemnation but there is strength and courage to do all things.
Be sure of this, though. Faith doesn't make you live forever, cause you to rise, and keep you in Jesus. No, Jesus does all 3 things for you without any merit or worthiness in you. Faith receives what Jesus does, and such a faith as this receives every blessing in the communion of the Body and Blood of Jesus. But know this: What you receive at this altar isn't more than what you receive through faith. The Christians we don't give the Body and Blood of Jesus to because they haven't been instructed or because they're of a different faith than we are, still receive all the blessings of this Body and Blood of Jesus through faith. That's why after the Words of Institution I place my hand on the altar where the Body and Blood of Jesus now are and turn to the whole congregation saying, "The peace of the Lord be with you always." The Body and Blood of Jesus and all that they bring are here for everyone through faith. But those communing receive the Body and Blood of Jesus by mouth.
Why is that significant? Because we are flesh and blood. We're affected by what we see, smell, touch, taste, and hear. It's hard for flesh and blood to live with the tension of having everything by faith yet not seeing it. By faith, we're holy, forgiven, children of heaven. Yet by sight we see our sins, feel our guilt, and are children of fallen men. In Communion, the disparity between faith and sight is lessened. Here heaven and earth touch because wherever the Body and Blood of Jesus is there most certainly is heaven. As sure as I taste, smell, touch, and see Bread and Wine, so certain am I that I'm given the Body and Blood of Jesus. As sure as I'm given the same Body and Blood He gave and shed on the cross, so sure do I have all that He says comes with them: eternal life, resurrection from the dead, and His abiding with me, miserable sinner though I am.
The shocking truth is that being saved is as easy as eating and drinking the right food. Jesus is the right food. He's the Bread of Life. He's the Water of Life. All believers eat and drink Jesus as they believe in what the ascended Lord Jesus did for them by His life and death, and so they do receive all that He won for them. Believers who Commune with the true Body and Blood of Jesus that descends to their altar not only receive Him and all His benefits, they see, touch, taste, smell, and hear Him. This too is a shocking truth. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (20090830); John 6: 51-58