I don’t suppose most of you have heard of what is called the Plastic Reindeer Rule. I think that’s probably a fair assumption. The Plastic Reindeer Rule is the popular legal name for a Supreme Court ruling regarding Christmas. It basically came out of a lawsuit; the case was Lynch vs. Donnelly, that reached the Supreme Court. In that case, the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island; and they sued the city because the city had in its Christmas display: a manger, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, kings, and animals. The ACLU sued Pawtucket because they said that is a violation of the Constitution. Though I’m sure, as you well know, the Constitution says nothing about separation of church and state, there is some kind of a mounting tradition that it does; and it has become known as the establishment clause, or the establishment basis.
The city went to battle, and interestingly enough, won. It was determined by the Supreme Court that Pawtucket, Rhode Island had not violated the establishment clause, and the reason they had not violated it was because also right there, mingled into the manger scene was: Santa Clause, his house, candy-striped poles, a Christmas tree, a banner saying “Season’s Greetings,” cutouts of a clown, an elephant, a teddy bear, and some plastic reindeer. And the court ruled basically that since the manger scene was not alone there but also encompassed all these other things, that it did not, quote, “endorse Christian doctrine.”
I guess the assumption, as a footnote, is that any depiction of anything Christian is tantamount to an endorsement of it. But the high court ruled, and here are the words of Chief Justice Warren Burger, “Whatever benefit to one faith or religion or to all religions inclusive of the manger in the display effects is indirect, remote, and incidental, and is no more an advancement or endorsement of religion than the congressional and executive recognition of the origins of Christmas, or the exhibition of religious paintings in governmentally sponsored museums is okay.”
Now you say just what I said, “What does that mean?” What it means is simply this: if any display of the manger gives no benefit to faith or religion, either a single faith or religion, or all religions inclusive; and if any reference to Christianity is indirect, remote, or incidental, and neither advances or endorses that religion, it’s tolerable. Lawyers have come to call this the Plastic Reindeer Rule, and the whole key is, you can have a manger scene if somehow you hide Jesus. And you can hide Him behind a teddy bear, an elephant, a cutout of a clown, a season’s greetings banner, a candy-striped pole, Santa Clause, or some plastic reindeer.
Now this law gets played out every year. For example, recently, a federal judge in Monterey, California, here in our own state, gave the city officials of Monterey three days to dismantle the manger scene on the lawn at City Hall, or add some plastic reindeer, or candy-striped poles, or even Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Well, every year, we face it again, don’t we, people who are bent on removing the centrality of Jesus Christ from Christmas. Anything to cloud the picture, anything to make it confusing or chaotic, or to make the birth of Christ somehow incidental, insignificant.
Now, nothing could be further away from the proper response. And as I was reading that this week and thinking to myself, the thing that people should do is absolutely opposite that. In contrast to obscuring Christ so that He becomes incidental to Christmas, we need to make Christ so central, and to become so intimately involved in the centrality of Christ as to shock people with our devotion to Him. And I was thinking to myself, “What passage in the Scripture might illustrate profoundly, maybe somewhat shockingly, how we should respond to the Christ of Christmas?”
My mind was drawn to what has to be one of the most shocking, startling portions of Scripture: John chapter 6. Turn to it with me. John chapter 6. And I want to read to you, verses 51 through 58. And I dare say, I could probably doubt that this text has ever been used by anybody to preach a Christmas message; and therein lies part of the fun of it.
But I would also note for you that in verse 51 you will see a phrase. The phrase is, “came down out of heaven.” And then at the end of the text in verse 58, you will see that same phrase again, “came down out of heaven.” Certainly there you have some very direct allusions to the birth of Christ, to the incarnation, to God becoming human, to the manger, to Bethlehem. In fact, the text I’m going to read to you is bracketed by those two mentions of the Lord coming down out of heaven. You’ll note, the same phrase appears also in verse 50, three times in this section of Scripture.
Let’s begin at verse 51. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” The Jews therefore began to argue with one another saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he shall also live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread shall live forever.”
This shocked the Jews, this somewhat apparently cannibalistic talk, and yet it expresses to us exactly and precisely how we are to respond to the Christ child. This one who came down out of heaven is not to be held at arm’s length, not to be treated with some kind of observance, some kind of curiosity, not to be mingled in and among mythical things hidden in obscurity, but rather the very opposite: He is to be understood, He is to be seen, He is to be eaten, and He is to be drunk. The very opposite of obscuring Him is the amazing intimacy with which this language expresses what is a proper relationship to Him. We’re not to obscure Him, we’re not even just to look at Him; we’re to take Him in in His fullness.
Look at the pronouncement, first of all, in verse 51, and let’s start there. Jesus speaking says, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven.” That tells us a lot about the birth of Jesus Christ. That tells us that that little Child in the manger was God who came out of heaven. It also identifies Him as bread, bread.
What is the point? Well, this is an analogy. Obviously, Jesus is a human being and not literally a loaf of bread. But there is a sense in which bread depicts wonderfully the reason He came. He came to this earth to be bread to the soul, to the hungry soul. And He says, “If anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever.” What a statement. The Christ child came down from heaven to be living bread when eaten, providing eternal life. There’s the gospel. There’s the meaning of Christmas.
Now, when we think about this analogy, it should just conjure up in your mind all kinds of appropriate relationships to the spiritual apprehension of Christ. Let me see if I can’t help you with that. Eating – just take eating in general if we’re talking about the physical bread and the physical eating.
First of all, eating is a necessary act if I am to derive any advantage from the bread. Is that not true? Now, I like bread; I like bread a lot. I grew up with a mother and a grandmother that made bread all the time, still do. Rarely do I ever visit my mother when she, knowing I’m coming, doesn’t have bread made for me. I love bread.
My wife makes bread. We have a bread maker. I like to walk in the house and smell it. I like to see it. I like the color of it. Sometimes I like just to squeeze it. And I can go on and on about the – I can eulogize the crust. I can get into this stuff.
I like all kinds of bread with all kinds of different things in it. But I may look at that bread, and I may admire that bread, and I may sniff that bread, and I may analyze that bread, and I may philosophize about that bread, and I may eulogize its qualities, and I may touch it and handle it, and I may be assured of its excellencies, and I might even trust the baker; but if I don’t eat it, it doesn’t nourish me. How obvious is that.
And all that is equally true in what Jesus is saying about Himself. You can sort your way through the assorted plastic reindeer, and get to the creche or the manger where the Christ child is, and you may be enamored by all of that. And your sensitivity toward little children, tender babies may be excited. And you may even be amazed and somewhat adoring of the life of this one, Jesus Christ, who could do miraculous things, and who demonstrated miraculous love and forgiveness; and you may be in awe of it. And you may wonder at all that He was, and all that He said. You may admire it, you may talk about it, you may speculate about it, you may philosophize or theologize about it; but if you don’t eat Jesus Christ in the sense that you take Him in, He does you no good. Knowing the truth, speculating about the truth, talking about the truth, believing in the goodness of the truth doesn’t do you any good.
Secondly, in this analogy about eating, eating is in response to a felt need. No matter how good the bread looks, or how good the bread smells, if I am not hungry it doesn’t have an attraction to me. In fact, I may be indifferent to it on some occasions; but on other occasions, I may be so well-fed that I find bread to be repulsive. I mean, you know how it is when you’re just really full; it doesn’t have any attraction to you. In fact, the thought of it is repulsive. But on the other hand, when you are hungry, and your stomach is gnawing, and your body is craving food, it becomes almost a passion to get it cut and butter on it and get it in, to satisfy that hunger.
It’s the same spiritually. You see, when the sinner loves his sin, and when he is stuffed full of the world and the flesh, and he has had his fill, and he is satiated with his iniquity, and he is self-satisfied, and he is fed literally up to his cheeks with the food that doesn’t satisfy, then you present the thought of the bread of life and he has no interest. He may be indifferent to it; he may be repulsed by it; he may be nauseated by it. You put Jesus Christ on the table, and he may mock or disdain in his sin, self-satisfied bloatedness; he will push Christ away, because eating bread is a matter of a felt need; and the same is true spiritually.
On the other hand, once a man feels spiritually hungry; once a man knows that all that he has been consuming of the world’s fair has left him hungry, and he has a gnawing in his spiritual stomach, as it were, and he is broken over his sin, and he is awakened to his lost condition, and his purposelessness, and the lack of love, and the absence of forgiveness, and the fear of judgment, and the anticipation of hell; and he senses the void and the emptiness, and he hungers for reality and peace and joy and forgiveness and love and meaning and hope and security; then he will eagerly when presented with the bread of life, move to eat it. Eating demands – I should say, receiving the bread of life demands eating, and eating demands a felt need.
Thirdly, and very obviously – these are patently obvious points – eating implies an act of appropriation. It implies an act of appropriation. The food that you eat becomes part of you. It becomes part of you; you take it in. And here we find just exactly what Jesus really has in mind here. “If anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever.”
Christ may be presented to me in all His beauty. He may be presented to me in all His glory, in all His wonder, in all His majesty. I may respect His wonderful person. I may admire His perfect life. I may be touched by His unselfish love. I may be amazed at His tenderness. I may cry tears as I see Him dying on the cross. But it’s only when I appropriate Him, it’s only when I take Him in that He comes to dwell in me; and then that appropriation becomes literally, a part of me. And that’s this third point.
Have you noticed that the bread you eat becomes you? And the more of it you eat, the more of you there is? The analogy holds at that point too. When you take in Christ, Christ becomes inextricably mingled with your life, your life. When He comes to you, He dwells in you. He becomes part of you.
And then a last little point in this analogy is that eating is personal. Some days, you know, I get so busy, I would just like to call up my wife and say, “Honey, I can’t stop, I’m busy studying. I just can’t take a break. Would you eat for me? Could you just grab a sandwich? I need the nourishment, haven’t got the time.” No, you can’t do that. You can’t eat by proxy. Eating is a very individual thing. No one can do it for you. If you are to be nourished, you must eat. “If anyone eats, he lives forever.”
Well, it is obvious, isn’t it? These points aren’t that difficult to understand. What our Lord is saying is, “As you must eat to derive benefit, as eating comes from a felt need, as eating means appropriation, as eating is personal in that sense, you must eat Me, the living bread.” So He says in verse 51, “Eat and live forever, forever.” It’s amazing how people can refuse such an offer. But again, if they’re not hungry, if they’re satisfied with the food that perishes, if they’re self-satisfied in their sin and full of their own iniquity, Christ will be repulsive to them.
Jesus takes another step in verse 51 in presenting this picture to us. He says, “And the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh. The bread also that I give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Now He’s defining for us this bread. He said, “I am the living bread.” But now He says, “The living bread also encompasses My flesh.” What does He mean by that? Basically, He’s looking forward to His death on the cross, where He literally gives His human flesh as a sacrifice for sin.
You see, if all Jesus had done was come into the world as the living bread come down from heaven – that is to say incarnate God, God in human flesh – and tell us who He was, and demand our obedience, and show us a pattern of life and then leave, we would be in as hopeless a condition as if He never came, only far more responsible, because now we knew what we couldn’t live up to. It wouldn’t be enough for Him to be God in human flesh, living bread, if He didn’t die.
Just as He Himself said in John 12:24, “Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone.” What a profound statement. “But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” And had Christ come as living bread and not died, He would have abided alone. But when He died, as a result of His death, He brought in much fruit.
That grain of wheat that makes bread has to be cut off the stalk. It dies; it’s crushed; it makes bread. And so, like bread, Jesus said, “To be the living bread, I have to give My life for the world.” And that statement, “I shall give,” is a promise of His death. This Child that was born to be living bread knew that in order to be bread, He had to be crushed. He didn’t just come and leave, He came and died.
You see, without the shedding of blood, there’s no forgiveness for sins; that’s very clear in Scripture. He had to die as a substitute for us. First Peter 2:24, “who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the cross; and by His scars we are healed.” Literally, when His life was crushed, He became the bread of life. This is a common New Testament theme, this idea, “I shall give My flesh or My life, for the life of the world.” That’s what’s called “substitution.”
In Galatians 1:4, it says, “He gave himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world.” In Galatians 2:20, it says, “He loved us and gave Himself for us.” In Ephesians 5:2, it says, “Christ loved us and hath given Himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.” In Ephesians 5:25, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it.” First Timothy 2:6, “The man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” Titus 2:14 says, “who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity.”
Constantly the Scripture talks about how He was the substitute: “He gave Himself. He gave Himself for us, for us.” And here He says, “for the life of the world.” There is a sense in which the atonement was unlimited. He gave himself for the world. He provided a salvation that was sufficient and adequate for the world. This was voluntary. He said, “I shall give for the life of the world My flesh to become bread.” In John 10:18 He said, “No man takes My life from Me, I lay it down of Myself.” No one could even touch Him until His hour came to voluntarily give His life.
This living bread then is the bread that gives us forever life. And so He says, “I am the living bread.” It was living bread that was born at Christmas, becoming the satisfying bread for sinners through sacrificial death. And if anyone eats, he will live forever. The promise of eternal life, that’s the great pronouncement. That’s what Christmas was all about.
Look at the perplexity of the Jews to follow in verse 52. They seem to always respond in such ignorant ways to the veiled analogies and statements of Christ. “The Jews, therefore, began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’”
What are they saying? Well, they’re looking at it physically. They’re saying, “There’s not enough of Him to go around. What is He talking about? The Old Testament, of course, rejects cannibalism, or self-emulation, making yourself a sacrifice. So how could He do that? And what makes Him think we would eat? And how would there be enough to go around? And what is He talking about?”
Well, they should have known. Look back to verse 35. In verse 35, He said the same thing earlier the same day: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” He had already told them what He meant by eating. He meant coming and believing. He had already defined the analogy.
Look at verse 40. “This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life.” Beholding Him: that is looking and understanding, and then believing in Him. So the idea of eating had already been clearly defined to them as coming, beholding, believing. Theirs then is a willful ignorance that renders them blind. It’s another way for them in their rejection to mock Christ.
Now notice His response, verse 53: “Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Those two verses say the same thing, exactly. One says it negatively, the other says it positively.
Verse 53 is negative: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” Verse 54 says it positively: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” He says the same thing twice as if He is hammering it into their thick skulls.
And what is so interesting to me is He never stops to clear up their perplexity. He never stops and says, “Now wait a minute, guys, you don’t understand. I’m not talking about eating My physical flesh.” He never stops to say, “Well now, let Me see if I can’t clarify that. I know it is an easy statement to misunderstand and you might be confused.” No, He just hammers it home all the harder.
And He even makes it more explicit, and in some ways, more shocking. “You must eat the flesh of the Son of Man” – and He adds – “drink His blood.” He adds that, which even hits them harder, because their problem is not simply misunderstanding, their problem is deep-set unbelief and rejection. They heard His definition of eating as coming, beholding, believing.
Why are they mocking Him with this silly response as if they did not understand that He was talking about spiritual appropriation? It’s because of their willful unbelief. Rather than toning down His statements or modifying them, He strengthens them, so that what seemed impossible and absurd at first now is made even more seemingly impossible and absurd.
“Not only do you have to eat My flesh, but drink My blood.” What did He mean by that? “You have to accept My incarnation. You have to accept My death, My death, My blood sacrifice for sins. That’s what you have to accept.”
And the Jews really couldn’t handle that. A blood-spattered Messiah nailed to a Roman cross naked before the gazing world was not their idea of Messiah. They were looking for a military, political, economic leader who would come and conquer all their enemies, and life Israel to be the supreme nation of the world to which other nations would bow. They couldn’t see a dead Messiah. That’s why Paul in Thessalonica, Acts 17, had to preach on why Christ must needs have suffered. That’s why 1 Corinthians 1:23 says that the death of Christ on a cross was to the Jews “a stumbling block.”
But Jesus says, “If you don’t eat My flesh, that is accept My incarnation, and drink My blood, accept My sacrifice on the cross, you have no life in yourselves, no eternal life.” You see, this is the heart of salvation right here, to believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, and that He died as a substitute for your sins. That’s the gospel. And it is that very faith to which Jesus calls these people, as He stands in the synagogue in Capernaum and speaks to them. And He promises them that if they will eat and they will drink, there will be four benefits.
Benefit number one: Life. Life, verse 53: “If you don’t eat and don’t drink, you have no life in yourselves,” present tense. What’s He talking about? Spiritual life: spiritual life then and there; the abundant life that He said He had come to bring; that real, rich, abundant, thrilling, exciting, invigorating, purposeful, hopeful, loving life that only Christians know.
He says, “The one who eat My flesh, the one who accepts that I am God incarnate, the one who drinks My blood, the one who accepts that I died a substitutionary death on the cross for the world, the one who believes and receives will have life here and now. If you don’t believe, you don’t have life.” It’s a present tense gift. You see, we who know Christ have life here and now, abundant life – life filled with love, joy, peace, and all the things that God grants.
There’s a second promise, and that’s in verse 54: Eternal life. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” Now He adds the eternal component to it. “Not only do you get life here and now, but it is forever.” It is an eternal life. It goes on forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, in all the fullness of the very life which is the eternal life that God Himself possesses.
Then He says there’s a third promise, verse 54: “I’ll raise him up on the last day.” That’s a promise of bodily resurrection; bodily, physical resurrection. You say, “Well, people have been dead a long time. There’s not going to be anything left.” No, they’re going to get a new body. Everybody gets a new body.
First Corinthians 15 describes it – we won’t take the time to do that. But the promise is, you’ll have a bodily resurrection. “I’ll raise you up on the last day. I’ll raise you up on that glorious day when I establish My kingdom. I’ll raise you up to participate in that kingdom, in that glory.” Certainly that was in the anticipation of the Jews. It was certainly in their heart. It was certainly what they wanted.
Daniel 12: “Many who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake to everlasting life.” There’s coming an awakening, and you’ll be a part of the resurrection to everlasting life. “I promise you life here and now. I promise you life here and now that lasts forever. I promise you physical resurrection.” Tremendous promises.
And then in verse 55, He says, “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.” True could be translated “real,” “genuine.” Other foods, they don’t last. You eat bread, four hours later you need more. Even the Jews, you remember in the Old Testament, enjoyed manna from heaven, but they had to eat it every day. It didn’t have any permanent quality at all, and so it wasn’t the really true food.
You know, Jesus, earlier in this very same chapter, had fed five thousand men, and surely five thousand women, and who knows how many thousands of children – twenty to thirty thousand people. And He created bread, and He created fish to do it. And they thought, “This is the greatest thing that’s every happened. Now we have a permanent welfare state. We just show up, Jesus makes food, no more work.” They came back in the morning to where He was, and they were waiting for breakfast. And He said, “You’d be better off pursuing the true food. You just came because you wanted to fill your stomachs. I’m here to fill your souls.”
So what He’s saying here is that same thing: “The manna that God provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness isn’t the real food, and the stuff that I created for you yesterday isn’t the real food. My flesh is the real food, My blood is the real food. It is the real soul food. It results in life abundant; it results in life eternal; it results in bodily resurrection. And the power isn’t in the eating, it’s not the works; the power is in the food.”
And then Jesus adds one other promise in verse 56: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” What a statement. You not only will have life, life eternal, bodily resurrection; but you’ll be one with Christ. That’s what He’s saying. It’s back to that part of our analogy we talked about earlier, that whatever you eat becomes you. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?
You see, that’s what Paul was going through when he wrote, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” He can’t pull himself apart from Christ. Christ in you, the hope of glory. “He that is joined to the Lord” – Paul said – “is one spirit,” so much so, that when you sin you join Christ to the sin. We are inextricably united with Him – spiritually, eternally, joined to Christ.
That’s what Jesus promised. He said, “When I go away, I don’t want you to think I’m going to stay; I’m not. It’s not going to be permanent. I’m not going to leave you without comfort, without power, without resource.” He said, “I’m going to come to you; and I’m going to come to you, and I’m going to take up My tent, and I’m going to live in you. And in that day” – John 14:20 – “you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” What a statement.
And Jesus answered in verse 23, same chapter, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him. We will come to him and make Our abode with him, with him.” God in us; Christ in us. He’s taken up residency there. He lives in us, the perfect Savior, the powerful Savior, the pure Savior; and He makes us to mature, to be strong, and to be holy.
In 1 John 3:24, it says, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He’s given us.” The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is none other than the presence of God, the presence of Christ.
In 1 John 4:12, “No one has beheld God at any time.” If we love one another, God abides in us. Verse 15: “Whoever confesses Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and He is God.” Verse 16: “We have come to know, believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Over and over, He keeps saying it. He abides in us. And it’s evident, because our lives have been changed, and they manifest the holiness and the love and the character of God.
If you want to understand Christmas, want to clear away all the stuff that clutters the manger scene, go directly to the person of Christ and realize that this One came down from heaven to be the living bread, to provide His life as a substitute and a sacrifice for sin on your behalf and mine; and that if we take Him in by faith, coming to Him, beholding Him, looking on Him, understanding who He is, and believing in Him; we receive life, abundant life, eternal, future resurrection, and union with Christ.
I can’t even imagine what an elevation that is of this sinful, wretched, useless, worthless, mortal frame, to think that God would come and make His abode in me. Beyond imagination. And that He would, in the process of being united to me, make me more and more like Christ, until someday when I leave this world, I become like Christ.
Verse 57 is a final thought on this: “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me.” The life of God is passed down through Christ to us. We live because Christ lives in us. He gave us His life. God the Father gave Him His life. As God the Father gave Christ life, so Christ gives us life; and we’re all tied into that eternal life with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. So to eat the bread from heaven, to drink His blood, is to be ushered into a union with God.
Then, a climactic summary in the nature of a closing invitation comes in verse 58: “This is the bread, what I’ve just described to you, is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate” – not like what they had in the wilderness, manna – “and died.” He says it again, just as He began, “He who eats this bread shall live forever.”
It’s for sure, isn’t it, that the world doesn’t understand this. Do you think the Supreme Court of the United States would be so busy making sure nobody could focus on Jesus at this time of year if they really understood this, if they really believed this? We would consider them to be soul murderers, soul killers, damners of the populous, which indeed they are. If they will demand that attention be taken off Christ, in effect, they have sided with Satan. Have they not? It’s a sad thing. It’s a sad thing.
But it’s really the spirit of this whole age. There’s a certain entertaining interest about this whole Christ thing; but a massive attempt to hide the fact that He is the living bread, and without Him there is no life. Who do you think is leading that attempt? Obviously, the enemy of the souls of men. It’s sad to say, he has garnered assistance from those in high places in our own country. It’s wonderful to appreciate Him like shepherds and wise men. It’s wonderful to bless and thank God for Him like Simeon and Anna. But it’s only acceptable to appropriate Him.
Back in the seventeenth century a German poet wrote this, and it’s been translated into English. It really pulls it all together. I’ve often used this. “Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, if He’s not born in thee, thy soul is still forlorn. The cross on Golgotha will never save thy soul; the cross in thine own heart alone can make thee whole.”
His point is, if you only have Christ born in Bethlehem and you haven’t take Him in to be born in you, His birth was useless to you. If you only have a cross on Golgotha and blood shed there historically, but not having taken that into your own heart, His death was meaningless. You must accept Him as bread, God incarnate, and eat that bread; accept Him as the one who shed His blood, the sacrificial substitute, and drink that blood. And the world may try to hide Him in the plastic reindeer, but they better clear that stuff away and understand who they’re dealing with. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank You for the gracious invitation that our Lord Jesus gave to those men that day in Capernaum in the synagogue. We thank You that He made it so clear. But it’s such a sad scene, so sad. In fact, the demand was so high that many, it says, of those who called themselves His disciples, withdrew and didn’t walk with Him any more. And Jesus said, “Do you want to go away too?” And Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
It’s so sad that when people can look at Christ and just see Him as one in the crowd at Christmas, they can be enamored; but when you press the issue to eating and drinking, they walk away; and only those remain, who know You, have the words of eternal life. And, indeed, You are the Holy One of God.
We stand among those thankful that we have taken the living bread, and we have life: abundant, eternal – the hope of resurrection and union with You. We’re grateful, Father, for all that You have given us in the One who came down out of heaven, the One in whose name we pray, Amen.
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