August 30, 2011

Hard Sayings XIX: Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. ~John 6:53

This is the original hard saying. Even Jesus' disciples stated as much, "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”  Jesus then asks them, "Does this offend you?" Jesus knows invariably that many will leave him and , "from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." The disciples that left departed because they either did not fully understand, took Jesus literally. If it was neither of these, than those that left realized Jesus was speaking metaphorically and were scared to death of what the truth might actually be. Why would they run otherwise?

We need to see this exchange in the context of feeding the 5000. When we read the account of the feeding of the multitude we get a hunch there is something more that is unstated. The Gospel of Mark indeed shows the disciples were to learn a lesson...and they failed to do so. What is even more extraordinary is Jesus himself seems surprised or should I say disappointed over their failure.

After walking on water Marks Gospel tells us that, "They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:51-52

The disciples were too thick-headed and thick-hearted to take in the lesson of the loaves.

The explanation comes in John 6:47-51

"Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 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.”

Jesus tells the disciples that their ancestors ate in the wilderness did not grant them immortality, they died anyway. In the same vein the bread fed to the 5000 was also "regular" bread although it had been provided miraculously. Because of this miracle they had wanted to make Jesus their King. What everyone misses in the story including many today is that Jesus had come to give them bread of even more value. What is bread at its core. It is sustenance that keeps us alive. Just as we cannot live without water (Living water in the story of the Samaritan woman) so also we cannot live without life enabling bread. Regular bread gives life now as we know it but eventually all die. The bread Jesus is offering is He himself. He is offering sustenance for eternal life to these Galileans. It is Jesus that offers us the spiritual sustenance that we will need to have eternal life with Him through Him. It is Jesus and what He will do that gives us that life and removes our sins. His blood is the atoning sacrifice for our sin. Bread that was even better than the Manna of Moses' time. The Manna of Moses' time may have come from Heaven but the True Bread that gives the sustenance of eternal life came down from Heaven in the form of an incarnate God named Jesus.

Having set this scenario up, Jesus then delivered the main course. Not only had the bread of life come down from Heaven, He is clearly stating that He is the Bread of Life. True life is eternal life. Man had originally been created to be immortal. The fragile morality of man is effect of the Fall. Jesus returns the life back to the way it was suppose to have been as the last Adam just was the first Adam caused the physical death of humanity.

This is all spiritual analogy: Those who come to him in faith, receive from Him in grace perpetual sustenance and refreshment for their soul. They will never hunger (or thirst) spiritually again...they will never die.

...and here is where this saying becomes infinitely more difficult to grasp both with our mind and our hearts because of our fallen sinful human condition.

Any Christian understands the binding nature of a Christian to not only Jesus but also other believers, other humans in general and obedience to the commands and statutes of God. The question is: Do they fully understand the implications to their lives? It gets really really hard right here. To believe in Christ is not only to give credence to what he says: it is to be united to him by faith, to participate in his life...and His death.

So I imagine I still have hundreds of people that will have read this post of to this point and they will still have perplexed and bewildered look on their face as they stare at their computer screens. They will also be talking to themselves asking things like, "Okay, I still don't get it what's Andy trying to say?" \

We have already pushed the bar beyond what many can truly grasp when we say people will, in faith participate in His life but will also participate in His death. They will need to die to self. What more? It stems back to the origianl verse, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."

Flesh does not give life, it is the Spirit that gives life (John 6:63). The physical and literal meaning of Jesus' words have now been clearly ruled out. What we have is a very odd 1st century metaphor from Jesus that tells us that we are invited to take in the sufferings of the Lord and comprehend them. Internalize them to ourselves. He that reflects on the death of Christ and truly dies to self...will therefore reign with Christ. By submitting to the will of Christ assures one's heart is actually where it needs to be to gain eternal life. Killing off the old through the understanding and acceptance of Jesus leaves absolutely no room for us anymore. If we truly understand Jesus we realize it is only through Him with Him in us that we gain the Blessed Hope: Eternal Life.

This discourse from Jesus reflects the same intent as the Lord's Supper. It mirrors the same truth of the actions of the Lord's Supper, except does it in words.

"...and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes."

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