Let Us Be Satisfied at the Lord’s Supper
Let Us Be Satisfied at the Lord’s Supper (John 6:35-59)
If you follow social media or even read newspapers or magazines or watch television, you’ve probably wondered, “Is anybody ever really satisfied?” Every day we are bombarded with articles and images showing apparent perfection. Perfect homes. Perfect careers. Perfect children. Perfect lives. And these portraits of perfection, which we’ll never achieve, make us a tiny bit envious. Maybe a little bit dissatisfied with our own lives. Recent research suggests that spending a lot of time on social media is linked to a higher incidence of depression, and is that surprising? Holding up our own experiences against the exciting, amazing, spectacular photos and accounts other people are sharing can lead only to dissatisfaction and regret. Our previously “good enough” lives pale by comparison.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus talked a lot about the danger of getting too attached to material things. Most people can quote his words from Matthew: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . . But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21). But what follows is just as important. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” If we train our eyes on what we don’t have, those images of illusory perfection all around us, the light of Christ fades within us. When we constantly feed our appetite with such deceitful beauty, we consume only the empty promise of perfection, leaving us even more hungry than ever for what we do not—or cannot—have.
Just before this passage in John, Jesus had fed more than five thousand men, plus women and children, with five barley loaves and a couple of fish from a little boy’s lunch box. The next day, some people from that crowd searched for and found Jesus. He told them, “You’re looking for me not because of the miracle but because you ate the bread and now you’re hungry again. Don’t bother with food that spoils. Instead, choose the food that endures to eternal life.” The conversation that followed was confusing to them. He told them that only by consuming his flesh and blood could they have everlasting life. But the law prohibited eating human flesh and drinking human blood. What was he talking about? Who was this man, this son of Mary and Joseph who claimed to have come down from heaven? How could he call God his father, and how could believing in a man give them eternal life?
Jewish law required many sacrifices. There were voluntary sacrifices—burnt offerings, grain and drink offerings, peace offerings—and mandatory sacrifices, the first of which was the sin offering. Its purpose was to atone for sin and cleanse the sinner. For this, an animal was killed and its blood was drained and sprinkled on the altar, some of its organs and fat were offered to God, and the rest of the body was either burned or prepared and eaten by the priests, the Levites, and sometimes the people for whom the sacrifice was offered. Blood was not to be consumed. The Jews that Jesus was conversing with in this passage were familiar with the sacrifices. But they didn’t understand that Jesus himself was going to be a sin offering on their behalf. “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” His words were cryptic, to say the least. In fact, many people who had followed Jesus to this point abandoned him because they could not accept what he told them.
In a year, Jesus would go to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with his twelve closest disciples. He would tear the bread and offer it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you.” He would take the cup of wine, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” He would be arrested, tried, and convicted. He would be beaten, scourged, and nailed to a cross, his body torn and his blood freely flowing. He would be the final sin offering for all people. “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty,” he had told the people. Those who come to him will receive the best gift of all: life eternal. Never again will we feel the need to long for or chase after ephemeral things. When we fix our “good eyes” on him, not on the false god of perfection, we will feel the light within us glow brightly, a shining beacon to those around us who also hunger and thirst for genuine life, the life that only Jesus can offer through the sacrifice of his body and blood. Only in him, through his grace and mercy, can we be truly satisfied.