[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.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So 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. 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. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This 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.” (NRSV)
Grace to you and peace from God our creator, from Jesus Christ, our redeemer and friend and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
Eternal life has started already.
Did you realize that? You are already in your eternal life. It isn’t just something that starts after you die. If it is really eternal… it was going on long before you were born too. Just sit there a moment and feel the wonder of it.
Sometimes this life doesn’t feel so wonderful though. Sometimes this life feels like eternal effort. Life is hard. There is always more to do. We never quite feel secure. We are constantly on the lookout for that thing which will finally make us happy. We can feel it in our bones. There is something out there which will finally make us feel complete. We have done it all our lives. We thought we would be happy when we “got big”. Or when we finally graduated from High School. Or when we got our first ‘real’ job or when we got married or when we finally had children or we will be OK when we get that next promotion… or, or, or. It goes on and on. Don’t get me wrong. Those things are all well and good, but they aren’t what is going to make us finally be content. And yet, you know it. It is out there. Our bones haven’t lied to us. But if we are looking for it in this life, we’ll never find it. It isn’t here. Or at least it isn’t in the material of this life. It is not in the wealth or status or reputation or power of anything in this life. It is here (making motions to indicate the church and the gathered congregation.) It is ONLY to be found in the DIVINE LIFE.
The crowd sensed it that day they got the bread from Jesus’s hand, out there on the mountainside. They could feel it. THIS. This was bread worth sinking your teeth into. They could tell. THIS BREAD WAS MORE THAN JUST BREAD.
And they wanted more. They went back to find Jesus the next day after he had fed five thousand of them on the mountainside. When he wasn’t to be found on the mountainside, they hunted him down, all the way to Capernaum. They told him flat out, “We want more of that bread you gave us.” They compared it to the manna Moses and the Israelites received in the wilderness. They wanted Jesus to do it again. Just as the manna came fresh every day to the Israelites of old, they wanted Jesus to provide this bread every day for them. But they didn’t quote him that scripture accidentally. Jesus had led them there. They thought it was their cleverness, of course.
But Jesus knew they would get it… or at least some would and word would spread. Jesus fed them bread. They were out in the countryside. They put two and two together. And the next day, they all wanted that bread again. (See John 6:22-31)
Jesus, the living bread, the manna that never ends, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. Love never ends. Prophecies will cease. Tongues will cease. Knowledge will come to an end, but faith, hope and love abide. (See John 1 and 1 Corinthians 13) Abiding faith, hope and love; These three…This is the eternal life Jesus wants us to have, that John is telling us about.
“Eternal” is only used in conjunction with the divine in the scriptures. Nothing but God is eternal. Jesus is inviting us into divine life when he is inviting us to his table, with his bread, his very life. Jesus went to the cross to show us that love is stronger than death, that faith cannot be killed but always rises again. This is powerful stuff. We come to recognize that eternal life is what comes through the difficulties of pouring yourself into something and having it be misunderstood… having it be resented… having it be rejected… and rising again. This is the promise of Jesus, the Word made flesh. “Eat of me.” he says. “Live my life.” “Follow my footsteps.” Jesus is calling us. Jesus is calling us to come to him and be truly alive.
Alive to serve, that is. “Truly alive” its more than just existing. It is more than the biological life of heartbeats and brain waves. Being truly alive is a state of giving and receiving in equal measure. Breathe in. Breathe out. They must be equal to be alive. Receive. (Breathing in and hand gesturing toward myself.) Give. (Breathing out and extending and opening my hand.) Receive. (Breathing in and hand gesturing toward myself.) Give. (Breathing out and extending and opening my hand.) It is the rhythm of the breath. It is the rhythm of life.
But back to our story. Once the people had found Jesus, they didn’t like his answer. Just like Nicodemus didn’t understand in John 3, “How can I go again into my mother’s womb and be born again?”, the crowd doesn’t understand. They ask “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52, NRSV) In both cases, they are grossed out at the idea. That’s what you get for thinking literally in a figurative situation!
But don’t get me wrong. Jesus IS being dramatic here. He is, I am convinced, intentionally baiting the people with this talk of eating his flesh. They were so eager to get more food from him, he is messing with them a little. Eating human flesh is forbidden and brought down a curse on those who did so. The people know this. Jesus knows they know this. But he speaks this way to make a point. He is God. Eating his flesh wouldn’t kill his word any more than the cross did. Resurrection happens with God.
Of course the people didn’t know about that yet. We know about the cross and resurrection though. And yet this passage grosses us out too. We catch ourselves being too literal as well.
There was a grandma who used to slide up beside her grandchildren when they were coloring or doing their homework or reading and put her arm around their neck, make a gobbling sound and say, “I could just eat you up, I love you so much.” The children knew very well she wasn’t going to actually eat them up. Even as little children they knew the difference between literal and figurative understandings. Well, Jesus wants us to love him so much that we actually do gobble him up… his words anyway. And his love too.
Chew on the Word for awhile and digest what Jesus has to offer. Take it into yourself and incorporate Jesus’s love so that it becomes part of every cell of your being. With Jesus living in us is when we can serve with pure motives. That is when we can give without reservation. That is when we are truly alive. Breathe in. Breathe out. Receive. Give.
May you really live today and every day; living to receive, living to give, living to serve.
Please pray with me.
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.