Lectionary Reflection: John 6: 51-58: Flesh and Blood Jesus

            This is the third week in a row we get to read about Jesus as the Bread of Life.  What could the people on the lectionary committee have been thinking?  Personally, I think the lunch delivery guy was late.  I can picture the Presbyterian, and the Methodist are sitting off in a corner by the door, talking quietly.  The Catholic and Episcopal priests are playing cards.  The Baptist minister is sitting, staring out the window, people watching, or maybe looking for the lunch truck.  The Pentacostalist is texting.  The Lutheran has his head on the table for forty winks.  The Professor/Chairman has to bang his gavel.

            “People.  I am sure lunch will be served shortly.  Right now we might as well decide on the next gospel passage.  We have been in John, might we turn back to Mark at this point?”

            “No, no,” several said.

            “What week is it?”

            “Um,” the Chairman consulted his calendar.  “Proper 15B – Ordinary Time 20B – Pentecost plus 12.”

            “Bread, definitely,” the Lutheran raised his head to share his opinion.

            “Again?”

            “John 6.  It has some more verses.” the Baptist turned around, and several echoed  his sentiments. 

            “Bread,” they said.

            “I’m not sure there is any more bread,” the Chairman said.

            Several people groaned, and the Pentecostalist looked to Heaven as if expecting Manna at any moment.

            The Chairman frowned but opened his Bible.  “From where we left off we get John 6:51  51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (NIV).

            The Plump representative from the Reformed Church raised his hand.  “I could eat about anything right now.”

            “Not Funny,” The Congregationalist reached up and lowered the man’s hand.

            The Chairman frowned and finished the passage:  53 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. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”  (NIV).

         “Whoever does not eat is going to die,”  The Orthodox Priest finally spoke up from the corner where he was worrying his beads.

         The Episcopalian Priest said at the same time, “Gin.”

         The Catholic Priest dropped his cards.  “Very liturgical.”  He spoke of the passage.

         There was a knock on the door.  The Presbyterian got up and the Methodist stepped up beside him.  It was the Pizza delivery man at last.

         “Since you are late that means we don’t have to pay you, right?”

#######

         The Catholic Priest was right, even if Catholics are inclined to see things in liturgical terms.  This passage is clearly very liturgical – very Lord’s Supper, sacramental.  That is self-evident, and I am sure it is how this passage is generally if not invariably used.

         What is less evident is the passage also tells us exactly how much God loves us.  This passage is Jesus stating without hesitation that he gave his flesh for the life of the world.  There is much to be said here, and the love of God is a good path worth following.

         Also less evident is the notion that Jesus lived because of the Father (God) and the Father sent him so we might live because of him.  Hopefully we can see that for Jesus, living because of the Father meant being obedient to the Father even unto death on a cross.  Thus, living because of Jesus ought to mean the same – that we be obedient to him, even unto our death. 

         The sacramental part in all of this is to help us in our obedience to God in Jesus Christ. Knowing how easy it is for us to fall back into less than admirable ways, Jesus offers us a chance to partake of him in the supper: to eat his bread (flesh) and drink his blood (wine).  This is our strength, our healing, our life.  We live because of him.  It is not wrong to partake of him daily.  It is important to partake of him regularly because we all need the reminder.  We all need the strengthening and the healing. 

         But here in this passage, if we can get our heads out of the sacramental cloud for a minute, we can see two more notes worth playing in this text.  First, that God so loved the world he sent his only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  And the second, that he who believes in me keeps my commandments.  And here is my commandment for you, that you love one another. 

         That pretty much sums up all there is that matters in this life.  God loves us and wants us to love one another.  What else is there to say?  What else is worth talking about?  For myself, I think when the pizza delivery guy arrives here late, I may give him or her an extra tip, you know, as an act of love and an advent to sharing the love of God, and to make up for all the stiffs in the world.  AMEN?

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