"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"


Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 119

Gospel Jn 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

             Even in the first century people wondered if Christ’s followers practiced cannibalism. In reading this selection it is no wonder. How many times did Jesus preach this eat my flesh and drink my blood gospel? It is shocking, and likely that is precisely how it was intended to be delivered.He had been about the northern territories preaching and preforming many healings. He had fed the multitudes through the multiplication of loaves, the people were fed and then met him the next day. It is at this time he begins the instruction on that meal, now is the time that he tells them “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” These people have listened to him talk, they watched as he preformed many healings, and they were an attentive audience. Now though is where they are challenged. Jesus directly tells them who he is “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” Bread of life described in the context of the manna in the desert, the bread delivered by YHWH in their time of doubt. The bread he gives is described bluntly as flesh and blood: I am the living flesh and blood that came down from heaven. That is a challenging statement! It is challenging to them that a carpenters son has been sent to them from heaven, and it is challenging that he is describing simple bread as his flesh. With their cultural background and Jesus’s teaching at this place of Capernaum, I wonder if his audience began to see both the Messiah and the desert manna simultaneously? The Messiah as Israel’s promised salvation, and the manna as YHWH’s wisdom? To the general audience is gave them quite a bit to think about, to the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin it was a threat. Yet in this shocking gospel statement Jesus does tell us how to approach him. It is not as a word to be casually listened to, it is to be devoured and it is to be a source of strength and nourishment. It is as necessary to life as all food, an essential component of life. It is the  most direct, blunt statement of how a disciple should approach Jesus the Christ, Christ translated Messiah.I wonder what the tone of the quarreling was? I wonder if they quarreled because they did not understand, or if they quarreled precisely because they understood exactly what he was saying? I a the bread of life, I am not the son of a carpenter, but the son of God come from heaven. I am the bread of life the wisdom of God come down in the flesh. Eat my flesh, drink my blood; consume me, consume my words. Drink my blood, the blood of a covenant,a new covenant.For my flesh is true food,and my blood is true drink.Whoever eats this bread will live forever.Follow me. Salvation for some, and a threat to others…

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