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Monday, October 18, 2010

Hard Teaching and Symbolic Truth

In John 6 Jesus moves into a difficult area of teaching that offended a lot of people.  He multiplied the loaves so that a little bread was ample food for a huge crowd of people.  They followed him and found him in a place where he could not have been.  The mystery of it may have sparked their interest, but he said they just wanted dinner again.

He cautioned them to seek the bread that came down from heaven, the bread that would satisfy their souls, not their bellies.  He said, "... 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 difficult to understand.   Are we cannibals?  Should we think of eating flesh and drinking blood as sacramental acts?  It is repulsive.  It is sickening.  Yet he did not soften the command.  In the next verse he repeats it: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."  This time there is a promise of resurrection attached to it. In verse 56 he says it again with the renewed promise of identification with him:  "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him."  He was adamant.  It is symbolic, but it is, nevertheless, real.

Eating and drinking of him is the closest we can get to him.  It identifies us with him.  You are what you eat.  Jesus took this truth and made it real in the meal he shared with the disciples on the night before the crucifixion.  He said the bread was his body.  Eat of it.  The cup contained his blood.  Drink of it.  This marks the dividing line for those who just want the meal and those who want the Lord.  If you cannot deal with the implications of consuming his body and his blood, then don't expect to share in the participation of his joy, his life, or his resurrection.

The followers who heard this teaching and considered it carefully were required to make a decision.  Some of them turned back, but some bound themselves closer to him.  Peter proclaimed him the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Don't be foolish enough to think you can do any less than Peter did and be a disciple.