Eating Flesh & Drinking Blood? [Devotion]
Today's reflection comes from John 6:22-71. Since it is such a long passage I won't include it here. But I definitely recommend taking the time to read it. We pick up the morning after Jesus fed the five thousand (John 6:1-15). The crowds wake up, realize that Jesus has crossed the sea of Galilee, and they all decide to go see if He's offering a breakfast buffet. When they finally find Jesus He chides them for seeking so earnestly after an earthly meal rather than after the bread of life (6:27) the crowd then asks what they have to do to be doing God's work to which Jesus replies that they must believe in the One whom God has sent. The one-track-mind crowd then asks, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?" (6:30). Being rather hungry and totally missing the point of what Jesus is saying they bring up the sign Moses performed in the wilderness... manna from heaven. So let me explain... is too much, let me sum up. Crowd: wakes up, wants food, finds Jesus. Jesus: why are you not looking for spiritual food this earnestly? Crowd: fine what does God want us to do? Jesus: believe the One He sent. Crowd: okay we'll believe you if you perform the sign of... giving us food. Needless to say they're totally missing the point. So Jesus starts to explain that the manna from heaven was from God not Moses and that God also gives, "...the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world," (6:32-33). Jesus tells them that HE is the true bread from heaven that He gives life to the world but the audience treats it like a sandwich order and respond by saying, "Sir, give us this bread always." So Jesus proceeds to make it plainer and point blank tells them (6:35-40) that He is the bread of life that comes down from heaven and that everyone who comes to Him and believes in Him will have everlasting life. At this point the crowd gets snarky saying that He is the son of Joseph and Mary so, in their mind, it's ridiculous for Him to claim to be from heaven. Jesus explains that those who follow the Father will follow Him because the Father has given them to Him. He reminds them that those who ate manna in the wilderness ate but still eventually died, but He tells them that those who eat of Him, the Bread of Life, will not die since He is the Life of the World. Continuing with the snark the crowd asks how He's going to give His flesh for them to eat. And then Jesus drops a bombshell. " 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." (6:53-58). To a first century Jewish audience this is one of the most offensive, disgusting, revolting things He could say (even with modern audiences it doesn't play too well) and you can well imagine the response of the crowd. They leave and even some of His disciples leave because of this! So Jesus turns to the twelve and asks them if they're going to leave, too. Now remember we know that Jesus is referring to the new covenant that would be established by the breaking of His body and pouring of His blood (as symbolized in communion). We understand that Jesus is not referring to an cannibalism but rather that we must partake in his sacrifice in order to be saved, but His disciples didn't know that. All they knew was Jesus had just said some rather difficult and potentially disturbing things (hence the popular response of leaving). But then we look at Peter's response in verses 68-69, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." This is so incredible and, in my opinion, epitomizes the correct response of true believers to the difficult questions we encounter. Peter knows what he heard and isn't sure what it means. It's difficult and disturbing but Peter responds in faith! He understands that, while he doesn't have the answer to what on earth Jesus is talking about, Jesus knows exactly what He's talking about and since Jesus has the words of eternal life and is the Holy One of God that he (Peter) can trust what Jesus is saying even if it seems unacceptable to the world. This faithful response should be ours when we come up against the questions and objections raised against the Word of God by the world. We may not always have the answers (though we should seek to know them), but when we don't or can't know we must trust that God can and does know. And since God is the Holy One we can go to no one else because God's word trumps all others! This was long, I know, but I'm not going to apologize for it. Thanks for reading and I hope it encouraged you and made you think!