Saturday, February 27, 2021

True Food, and True Drink (John 6:52-59)

 The leadership was stunned by what Jesus had just previously said: he's going to give himself as bread for the life of the world. But it is more than just the oddity of what he said. We'll see as we go along here that what Jesus says is downright shocking and offensive to the hearers in this culture.

He starts off with, "Truly, truly…" to indicate that he's going to teach something new with authority. And then he tells us that we have to eat his flesh, and drink his blood. The children of Israel were commanded not to eat any meat that contained the blood of an animal. Human cannibalism is even worse. Jesus knows exactly how offensive this sounds to the people who heard him. Not only does he say it, but he doubles down, so to speak.

I think we have to deal with the question of whether Jesus is speaking figuratively. In a sense it's obvious that he is, but we should not think that belief in Jesus is somehow opposed to eating his flesh, and drinking his blood. This text is about the Eucharist, in my opinion. Scholars note that this is the only one of the four Gospels which does not contain a narrative of Jesus instituting the Lord's Supper, or Eucharist. Therefore, it has been traditionally believed that this so-called, "Bread of Life discourse" replaces the institution narratives in the other Gospels.

The straightforward reading of this whole section would be that if we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we will have eternal life. The theology surrounding the Eucharist is somewhat technical, but I think we can know that believing that we are receiving the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist is exactly what he wanted us to believe. And it is not somehow opposed to believing in Jesus as our Savior, because he is giving himself to us. If he were not God, he could not do this. Back in verse 54, that word for, "eats" is pretty graphic, more like "gnaws."

He wraps this section up by saying that his power to give eternal life comes from the Father who sent him. We can look back at the episode of the Israelites receiving the manna in the desert, (Exodus 16) and know that it was a great gift, but it was pointing to this greater Gift.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Living Bread From Heaven (John 6:41-51)

 This first statement made by Jesus in this section sounds crazy. If any other person said this, we would think they had lost their mind. The opponents of Jesus then say basically, "We know who you are, and we know who your family is. You didn't come from anywhere special."

In fact, Jesus is saying that he became incarnate by the Virgin Mary, and became man. We should remember that Jesus did not become God, but he is God, and became man.

Here in verse 44, Jesus is letting us know about a great mystery: no one can believe in Jesus unless God the Father draws him or her, and makes it possible. Some people throughout history have made the mistake of thinking that we can do things in our own power to earn God's favor. The truth is, though, that we wouldn't have God's favor unless he gave it to us. Grace is God's favor, but also his presence and power in our lives. Grace makes it possible for us to be sons and daughters of God. Jesus ends this verse by saying that he will raise us up--his brothers and sisters--at the resurrection of the just on the last day.

When Jesus quotes the prophecy, "And they shall all be taught by God," he is talking about the enlightening power of God the Holy Spirit. This is one of the promises of the new covenant that the prophet Jeremiah spoke about, hundreds of years earlier.

Jesus continues to teach that God the Father makes it possible for us to believe in Jesus. To believe in Jesus is to have eternal life. Jesus says he is the Bread of Life. Then he draws a contrast between God's gift of the manna in the desert, and the gift of the Bread of Life. Jesus says that if we eat Him, we won't die. In the end, our bodies may die, but our souls will live.

Jesus is talking about the Eucharist, or the Lord's Supper. He has more to say about this, and so do we.