As I write this children’s sermon on John 6:51-58 I am acutely aware that it is part of a series. In “Year B” the Revised Common Lectionary gives churches five weeks in a row traveling through John 6.
My first thought on every one of these five Sundays is to talk about the Lord’s Supper. Those references to bread, whether in Jesus’ hands or as he makes the connection with his body lead me right to the Eucharist.
And that’s clearly intended: Jesus is saying things that are only explained by the Lord’s Supper even though it won’t be instituted until the last week of his earthly ministry.
Nobody in this story has a clue about what will become the most important Christian sacrament. No wonder they were confused.
Anyway, each of the past three weeks of this series I mostly avoided talking about the Eucharist, because I didn’t want five children’s sermons in a row to be on the same topic.
The other four weeks there are other interesting and important things going on. Not this week. When it’s time for a children’s sermon on John 6:51-58, it’s time to talk about the Lord’s Supper.
One thing complicates this as a topic: different denominations handle children’s participation in the Eucharist very differently.
- Catholics wait for years and have an official, very formal, “First Communion.”
- Orthodox give infants the Eucharist immediately upon baptism.
- Protestants have policies that land somewhere in between.
If I say something that conflicts with your church’s approach, feel free to edit!
The bigger problem is that I’m trying to explain a metaphor to people whose brains haven’t developed that capacity. If you use it, let me know how it goes…
A Children’s Sermon on John 6:51-58
Good morning kids! I’m so glad you are here today. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
Last time we were together we heard a story about Jesus and bread. Actually this morning is our fourth story in a row about Jesus and bread.
- First, Jesus fed more than 5000 people with just five loaves of bread.
- Then, the people Jesus fed followed him across the lake to ask him some questions.
- Then last week Jesus gave a long speech saying how he is “The Bread of Life.”
Here’s what happened at the end of Jesus’ speech — at least this is how I imagine it.
Jesus finished off his big speech saying, “So there you have it! I’m the Bread of Life. If you want to live forever you have to eat my body!”
Well the people in the crowd were pretty confused about that.
One of them said, “No way. How am I supposed to eat his body?”
Someone else said, “That’s not okay at all. People are not supposed to eat other people.”
They were muttering and complaining. But then one kid who had been listening very carefully snuck up behind Jesus and bit him on the leg.
“Ouch!” said Jesus. “Somebody bit me!”
Jesus looked down and there he was. It was a little boy about your age and he had a very mischievous grin on his face.
“What are you doing down there?” said Jesus, stepping back. Jesus was smiling. He wasn’t actually mad at the boy, but he didn’t want to be bitten any more.
“You said we had to eat your body!” said the boy. “And when we have chicken I always like the leg best.”
“You are a total goofball,” Jesus said, laughing. “I think I better explain a little more.”
“I told you I’m ‘The Bread of Life’ and you need to eat me, but you can’t just pull parts off of me for dinner, or chomp on my leg. It’s a word picture: I want you to compare me with ordinary bread.”
The boy still looked a little confused. “What do you mean ‘compare’?”
“Okay,” Jesus said, “let’s take it step by step. What do you do with bread?”
“Right,” said Jesus. “Why?”
“Because I’m hungry?” said the boy.
“Right again,” said Jesus. “What would happen if you didn’t eat your bread? Like maybe you didn’t eat any breakfast, and you didn’t eat any lunch, and you didn’t eat any dinner?”
“I’d be miserable!” said the boy.
“What else? What if you still don’t eat your bread on the next day?”
“I’ll probably get weak and sick. Maybe I’d die,” said the boy.
“Right,” said Jesus. “You are a very bright kid. If you don’t eat your bread, you’ll get hungry. Eventually you would starve! I’m saying you need to think of me the same way. When you feel empty inside, hungry for joy, what you really need is more of me.”
“Me,” said Jesus. “If you don’t have me, you’re going to get hungry, and weak–not in your body, but in your spirit. But if you have me, I’ll fill you up with life—and that life will last forever.”
The Lord’s Supper
“But how am I supposed to eat you?”
(Now here’s the part where I’m really imagining more than the Bible tells us in this passage. Even more than the part where that kid bit Jesus’ leg.)
So Jesus looked at the boy and he remembered how hard it is for kids to understand word pictures. Then he knelt down and whispered in the boy’s ear.
“I’ll tell you something that all these grown ups won’t know about for quite a while. I’m going to teach all my friends how to eat my body. When we’re all at dinner one night, I’m going to take a loaf of bread and say ‘This BREAD is my BODY! Eat this bread and you’ll have me inside you. I’ll fill you up! I’ll give you life FOREVER!”
And that’s what we do in our church every time we have the Lord’s Supper. Our pastor takes bread and lifts it up and says the words of Jesus: “This is my body, broken for you. Take it, and eat it, and remember me!”
- I wonder if you’ve ever been totally confused about something Jesus said.
- I wonder if you’ve ever wanted to be close to Jesus in a way that felt almost like being hungry.
- I wonder if you’ve ever eaten the bread of the Lord’s Supper and thought about how now Jesus is inside you forever.
You are, of course, free to use this children’s sermon, or adapt it as you find most useful. But, if you use it, please do one (or more!) of the following.
- You can let me know that you are using it, either in the comments below, or using the contact form above.
- You can put a little notice in your church bulletin that your children’s sermon is adapted from one published on GaryNealHansen.com.
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