The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (8/15/2021)

[This concludes Jesus’ “Bread of Life” discourse from St. John’s Gospel, Series B (propers 13-15/Pent. 10-12 in 2021) as interlude to St. Mark’s lection; recommend reading the three Sermons together in order. pem].

Ps. 34:11-22; Prov. 9:1-10; Eph. 5:6-21; Jn. 6:51-69.

Know, Jesus said to The Twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (vv. 67-69).

This is Peter’s confession of Jesus’ divinity with the Father in St. John’s Gospel (cp. Mt. 16:16). Following Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse, divine “Wisdom” (Prov. 9:10) began to dawn on his Apostles, particularly in comprehending the miracle of “the loaves”.

After feeding the 5,000 in the wilderness, Jesus sent his Apostles ahead to Bethsaida (Mk. 6:45) bordering Gentile territory, perhaps for another “illicit” common feeding (cf. 8:1-10).

During their night sea-crossing a contrary wind the Apostles stalled progress, reflecting their hardness of hearts in not “understand[ing] about the loaves” (6:52) and believing themselves separated from the Lord. Their ignorance aptly described, “a ship of fools” (Plato’s Republic, Bk. VI).

For unbelief the Apostles continued unsuited to minister among the Gentiles east of Bethsaida. They required further instruction; so, Jesus diverted their ship to Capernaum’s Jewish western shore (Jn. 6: 21, 24, 25).

All Readings this morning direct us to “the fear of the Lord”; of putting aside foolishness for godly wisdom in Christ. We are invited to transfer from “a ship of fools” to Christ’s ark of salvation; leaving steerage travel into a new carriage for first-class accommodations (Jn. 14:2); a journey to the cross of Christ; but foolishness to those invested in steerage.

In Capernaum, the Jews taught the “letter” of Moses; of which St. Paul explained, “The letter kills, but the Spirit [which comes by Christ] gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6b). When Jesus taught, “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail (Jn. 6:63), he spoke not of his own Flesh; but equated the “letter” to our fleshly nature profiting only death (cp. 3:6). Against the “letter’ of the law Jesus contrasts his inSpirited Flesh that avails everything for life.

This distinction of law and grace is Wisdom’s crucible for comprehending the Holy Supper. First, one must discern Jesus’ own food: “to do the will of [the Father], and to accomplish his work” (Jn. 4:32, 34). God desired Jesus’ once for all sacrificial death for the life of many. Our food, in eucharistic foretaste, participates in Jesus’ death at Wisdom’s banquet (Prov. 9:1-6).

For the sake of Jesus, God set aside his “letter’s kill-shot” for the grace and truth of new life in his new Temple, the crucified, risen, and ascended body of Christ. Here then is the divide: sinful man’s gravitation to unbelief of God’s word in favor of our own definitions and supporting associations we call “worldly wisdom”; but God calls, “foolishness”.

When after the crowd’s feeding, they located Jesus in Capernaum; there he rejected their blandishments for desiring from him physical food (Jn. 6:26) apart from “living bread”.

In synagogue (v. 59) Jesus taught God’s new Torah being his inSpirited person and flesh. At first, it was religious Jews, like OT Israel, who grumbled against Jesus’ teaching, rightly discerning his claim of YHWH equality.

It was soon clear that the food of which Jesus taught was his Torah flesh destined for sacrifice. At this, many of his own disciples too were offended, returning allegiance to the “letter of Moses”.

The offense at Jesus’ teaching resulted in a shakeout of his ministry. He was abandoned by the crowds, religious teachers, and many, if not most of his disciples; though Judas Iscariot remained with the apostolic college (vv. 70, 71).

Contrary to the others, Peter demonstrated, no one comes to Jesus but the Father calls him by Wisdom’s revelation (v. 45; cp. Mt. 16:17); “Lord … we have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (vv. 68, 69).

Thus enlightened, the Apostles were experiencing a sea-change of heart. By their confession with Peter, they departed the synagogue of the Jews for the Synagogue of Jesus, no long “a ship of fools”; but, in fear of the Lord, on discipleship’s journey.

The offense to those who abandon Jesus for human “wisdom” is variegated; but broadly comes under “the scandal of the cross”. This then is the hallmark of the catholic faith, that the church everywhere, always, by all, believes: the real, eucharistic flesh and blood presence of Christ with the congregation.

Jesus claimed his flesh, given into death for sin, unlike OT manna, is Spiritual, imperishable, incorruptible, and life-giving. His flesh and blood in the Resurrection is the church’s new Food; it neither degrades nor is it eliminated from the body as ordinary food; but transforms those receiving it in faith unto his likeness.

The synagogue of the Jews, “grumbled”, rejecting Jesus as their “bread out of heaven”; eventually, they would crucify Jesus to prove his Flesh other than source of eternal Life.

Such rant against God (Ps. 14:1-3) and his Christ (Ps. 2:2) continues, perhaps is prevalent even in and out of the visible church. For this reason, the church engages takes three successive Sundays in Series B to ponder the man Jesus, our Bread of Life.

Against those denying the church’s life through her feeding on Jesus’ ascended flesh and blood, we attend, St. Paul’s warning to those who would return to the “foolishness” of human wisdom, “Let no one deceive you with empty words … walk as children of light … testing [by Scripture] what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:6a, 8b, 10). Amen.