“They began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’” (John 6:41)
‘We are beggars, this is true.’
This statement is attributed to Martin Luther as his last words from his death bed. It should be noted this statement is not meant as a slight to those who are in need, but is rather a reminder that we are to approach Jesus as if we have nothing to bring other our than our longing for him. As people of faith we are not to rely on our own personal strength, understanding or efforts, but instead depend upon the grace, mercy and love of God who gives us life, sustenance, forgiveness and salvation.
In a world that is built and personal achievement and often defines people by what they do (or fail to do); it is good for us to approach God with our utmost humility as we bring our deepest needs and longings.
How can we come as ‘beggars’ to God – trusting we will be fed and nourished?
One way is prayer. Jesus assures us that our prayers will be heard (Matt 6:5-15; Matt 7:7-12; 1 John 5:14-15).
Another way to approach God with our need to be fed is in the heavenly meal of Jesus we know the Sacrament of the Altar, the Eucharist, Holy Communion, and the Lord’s Supper.
How can this be?
A small piece of bread and a tiny sip (or dip) of wine hardly seems like a significant way to fill our deepest longings, yet each time we come to receive the means of grace we receive a true treasure – Jesus, “the bread of life” (John 6:35).
One can debate whether or not John 6 is a direct link to this heavenly meal shared among us but the dynamics between the people in this passage asking, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Jospeh, whose mother and father we know?’” (John 6:42) seems somewhat similar to our own question “How can eating and drinking do such great things?” (Luther’s Small Catechism – see below).
The people in the crowd seem to be asking (just as we do), “Does God really meet us in ordinary things, like a man from a small town in Galilee, or simple thing like bread and wine?”
The resounding answer Jesus gives is, “Yes, that is exactly where I meet you. Come, eat and be filled.”
Jesus meets us in ordinary things, with an extraordinary promise of the eternal at work among us. “I am the living bread from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).
As we will continue to see throughout John 6, this promise is (to use a bad pun) a tough word to swallow, yet all that is required of us is to come hungry, ‘beggars’ that we are, with outstretched hands and longing hearts to be fed by the Eternal One.
Come ‘beggar,’ come.
Eat, drink, and meet the Christ who will lead you to eternal life. And pray. Jesus will meet you there too.
-When has God met you in your deepest needs and hungers?
-What longings do you still have?
-Where could you meet others still longing to meet him?
From Luther’s Small Catechism:
“How can eating and drinking do such great things?
Eating and drinking certainly do not do it, but the words ‘given for you’ and ‘shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.’ These words, when accompanied by eating and drinking, are the essential thing in the sacrament, and whoever believes these words has what they declare and state, namely, ‘forgiveness of sin.’” (Martin Luther, “Small Catechism” , Evangelical Lutheran Worship. [Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006], 1166).