(Pro. 9:1-6, Psa. 34:9-14, Eph. 5:15-20)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/FkDj4sZpkV4)
51[Jesus said,]”I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Our children’s message this morning raised an intriguing question that can be helpful to raise in our own lives every now and then. So ask yourself…do you want to live forever? Perhaps more importantly, why do you want to live forever? On the flip side, why don’t you want to live forever? Are you simply afraid of dying? Are you afraid of what comes after this life? What is so special about living that you would want to continue doing it forever? There are endless questions that arise when we answer that one question, “Do you want to live forever?” And how you answer the question reveals a lot about how you perceive life and death. If you’re one of those who wants to live forever, odds are you’re pretty happy with your current life situation. You’re at a good place in life and you want to hold onto that forever. Work is good, family is strong, friends are supportive, you’re healthy—life is pretty good. Sure, you could keep going at life indefinitely, right? What about those who’d answer the question oppositely? No, you wouldn’t want to live forever. Again, odds are you’re pretty unhappy with your current life situation. You’re struggling at work, the family is falling apart, friends are nowhere to be found, your health is deteriorating…why would you want to live forever if this is what life has to offer? Then again, the deep fear of death and what comes next can keep many of us clinging to life at whatever costs. We’d rather tolerate the misery of this life than to risk the unknowns of death. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to occasionally ask ourselves this question because how we answer it reveals a lot about how we perceive life and death.
I’m not the first person to ask the question either. Sgt. Major Daniel Daly famously posed the question to his troops as they prepared to go to battle against the Germans during the Battle of Belleau Woods in World War I. In an attempt to rally their courage, Sgt. Daly yelled out, “For Christ’s sake men—come on! Do you want to live forever?” With that simple question, Daly’s men mustered enough courage to soundly defeat the Germans. They realized that death was inevitable for all people but how they lived and fought that day was all that mattered. When we ask ourselves if we want to live forever, we quickly realize what we want to live for and this can summon great courage from within. Life, in all its frailty and shortness, takes on greater meaning and we fight for it all the more as Daly’s men had. Indeed, asking the question can give us the right perspective on whatever situation we find ourselves in. Life is short, death is inevitable, but wanting to live forever can make life all the more rewarding.
This question lies at the heart of all our readings assigned for this week. We are continuing our 5-week series on the wisdom of John’s 6th chapter in which Jesus boldly declares he is “the bread of life.” We’ve been exploring different characteristics of Jesus’ bread. Jesus feeds us with bread that is unlike any other bread. Jesus feeds our souls, not just our bodies. We’ve discussed how Jesus’ bread is long-lasting and imperishable. We’ve seen how it is alright for us to complain to God when we seem to have not received the bread of life. Our complaints don’t persuade God to provide the bread, they simply help us to realize how God is always providing bread. The bread of life is abundantly given to all. This week we explore how God’s bread bestows eternal life. The bread is not only imperishable but actually bestows imperishability to those who eat of it.
Jesus understands us better than we like to think sometimes. He knows we can’t help but want to live forever. He knows that even those of us who claim to not want to live forever actually want to live forever. He knows that each of us is more than our mere bodies. We’re made up of both bodies and souls. Even the worst among us has a soul. If you have a body, you have a soul, and the soul wants to live forever. Our bodies might place us in situations we’d much rather not be a part of but our souls want to live forever. Indeed, our souls do last forever. They are parts of the great forever that is God. We hear in Scripture that God existed before all of creation and will exist long after all of creation. God IS the great forever and our souls have their source in God. It is no wonder that we want to live forever. Jesus speaks to our eternal souls when he boldly explains, “But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus feeds our souls, our eternal beings, with his bread. Jesus feeds our desires to live forever with his bread. Jesus says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day, for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” Jesus’ bread is not only imperishable but it also bestows imperishability by connecting us to the imperishable.
When we eat the bread of Jesus, we are filled with the Spirit. It is the same Spirit that was hovering over the waters at the dawn of creation; the same Spirit that has its source in the great forever that is God. Paul encourages us to be filled with the Spirit in his letter to the Ephesians. He cautions us not to live as unwise people but to instead seek out the will of the Lord. We are to “give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our eternal souls cry out to connect with our eternal God. The eternal Spirit helps us to cry out, to “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among ourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in our hearts.” We WANT to live forever! Our souls WANT to connect with the great forever that is God. Our souls can’t help but answer the call of David in his 34th psalm when he asks, “Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?” How do we live forever? Paul gives practical ways: “Do not be foolish” and “Do not get drunk with wine.” David advises, “O fear the Lord” and “Keep your tongue from evil, and lips from speaking deceit.” Like Jesus, the Wisdom of Proverbs beckons, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the ways of insight.” Paul, David, and Wisdom herself teach us to focus less on our temporal bodies and more on our eternal souls for realizing eternal life. Listen to your souls, not your bodies. Our souls are eternal…they want to live forever!
John tells us Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus gave more than simply his words to feed our souls. Jesus gave his life so that we might live! Like us, Jesus lived in a human body. Like us, Jesus’ body got him into situations that he probably would rather not have been in. Our bodies are dying each day and will gladly try to kill our souls along the way…they have nothing to lose! Our bodies know their influence on our souls is only temporary. They eventually die off but our souls keep on going. We do live forever…we should want to live forever! Jesus’ bread enables us to live forever! Jesus’ sacrifice enables us to live forever! Jesus’ words enable us to live forever!
So is it wrong to want to live forever? Is it wrong to think we can live forever? Of course not! It is when we believe we can live forever that we begin to live more fully. Jesus wants us to live life to the fullest, taking advantage of all that life has to offer. Jesus wants us to know the full love of God, just as he knows it. Jesus wants us to live without fear of death. Bodily death comes to us all but our souls live on. Our souls are eternal so it’s only right and fitting to want to live forever. Jesus’ bread of life lasts forever and bestows eternal life. In the realms of eternal life, we give thanks for not only the food that lasts but also for…the food that sustains.
If you found it difficult to answer the question, take comfort in the response that Miss Alabama gave at the Miss USA pageant in 1994 when asked whether she would live forever if she could and why. Her reply was, “I would not live forever because we should not live forever because, if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever which is why I would not live forever.”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.