Friday, July 22, 2011
Grain and Grace in Equal Measure
The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do." So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
So Jesus 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 you. Whoever feeds on 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. Whoever feeds on 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 whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever."
The physical famine that afflicted Egypt is overshadowed in human history by the true spiritual famine, our rebellion against God which stains mankind. In the sight of God's law no one is righteous, no one does good, and the whole world stands condemned under God's law and righteous judgment (Romans 3: 10-19). Not a pretty picture of our true spiritual condition.
But God through his storehouse of grace has made a way for us to be healed. In Joseph, a prototype of the Christ to come, the natural famine is overcome as God raises him up into a position of authority so that Egypt's great harvests are distributed to all the people, saving them from starvation and malnutrition.
In Christ, our spiritual needs are met not by the food that perishes, but by spiritual bread that endures to eternal life. This bread from heaven is found only in Christ who covers over all our sins and clothes us with his righteousness, as we feed spiritually and orally on him by faith in the Lord's Supper, which is given "for you", "for the forgiveness of sins". His body and blood distributed to cleanse us from the spiritual defilement so that our heavenly Father might refresh and strengthen us in our battle with sin. So as the Egyptians went to Joseph for their physical needs, let us approach the Lord's Table for our spiritual good, receiving Christ in Word and Sacrament for new power and encouragement.
In the name of Christ. Amen.
"Some Christians have a weak faith and are shy, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the great number of their sins. They think that in their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and Christ's benefits. They feel their weakness of faith and lament it, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith and pure obedience. These are the truly worthy guests for whom this highly venerable Sacrament has been especially instituted and appointed. For Christ says:
Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. (Matthew 9:12)
Whoever believes in (the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith) may have eternal life. (John 3:15)
Worthiness does not depend on the greatness or smallness, the weakness or strength of faith. Instead it depends on Christ's merit, which the distressed father of little faith (Mark 9:24) enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith."
- from The Formula of Concord, "Article VII: The Holy Supper"