GOSPEL | JOHN 6:41-51
41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
“No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father” (v .44)
This passage is a continuation of yesterday’s text. I could say all the same things that I did yesterday, but today I was struck — as I have been frequently struck in the last few months — by the activity of the Holy Spirit in this passage. The Father sent the Spirit to actively indwell all who believe, and it is the Spirit who draws us to Christ, and so to the Father.
I can not read this passage without thinking of the Lord’s Supper: I’ll let John Calvin explain:
It is not, therefore, the chief function of the Sacrament simply and without higher consideration to extend to us the body of Christ. Rather, it is to seal and confirm that promise by which he testifies that his flesh is food indeed and his blood is drink [John 6:56], which feed us unto eternal life [John 6:55]. By this he declares himself to be the bread of life, of which he who eats will live forever [John 6:48, 50]. And to do this, the Sacrament sends us to the cross of Christ, where that promise was indeed performed and in all respects fulfilled. For we do not eat Christ duly and unto salvation unless he is crucified, when in living experience we grasp the efficacy of his death.
~ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.xvii.4 (emphases added)
Communion, then, is not ONLY “a visible sign of an invisible grace” (sorry, Augustine), because it ALSO is a seal, an effective event that actually elicits from me real spiritual vitality and growth, like a good meal naturally elicits a feeling of delighted satisfaction and my real health and nourishment. The question for me is not that it does this, but how:
Now, that sacred partaking of his flesh and blood, by which Christ pours his life into us, as if penetrated into our bones and marrow, he also testifies and seals in the Supper — not by presenting a vain and empty sign, but by manifesting there the effectiveness of his Spirit to fulfill what he promises.
~ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.xvii.10 (emphases added)
It is the power of the Spirit — active and activating, alive and regenerating, light and illuminating — at work that draws us to Christ, that reveals to us Christ, that brings us to believe in Christ, and that imparts to us the dual benefits of justification and sanctification. Thanks be to God for sending his Spirit, the Paraclete, to be my companion and guide.