Thursday 13 February 2014

Epiphany 6, John 6v35-40, The bread of life

It is interesting how the crowd, having just witnessed the feeding of the 5,000, asks for a sign. Obviously, the feeding is not proof enough of Jesus' divine authority; they want a true Exodus sign, the sign of manna. In the eyes of the crowd the giving of the manna authenticated Moses' authority and a similar sign would authenticate Jesus' authority.      
The true, the "real" bread from heaven is available now for the eating.

Bread comes in all sorts of shapes and textures. I like making bread and Im attempting to different breads from around the world. I was brought up on Hovis sliced but now I make my own breads rye, sour dough, pumpernickel, Italian rustic, apple and cinnamon. Some bread is not as good for you as others. And it is the mainstay of peoples diets throughout the world.

Life too comes in all shapes and sizes. Life for a rich North American banker with a range and a yacht is very different than life for an orphaned girl in Sub Saharian Africa, in Tanzania, in the shanty towns of Brazil or Soweto. Education and health, food and family experience will be very different. 

In the desert the Israelites were given a white substance that was called manna. It sustained were sustained for their journey to the Promised Land them but they were only given enough for one day. Today we have become greedy and want enough for a lifetime, while others starve to death.

At the eucharist or Lords Table we eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus. This has been highly controversial down the centuries some believing that it is actually Christs body and blood and some that its symbolic. It also suggests sacrifice, the giving of blood. The word disciple means literally martyr.  Jesus relates this to his death on the cross-his sacrifice.
The congregation people listening to Jesus 'find it meaningless.
The Jews were arguing, wrangling, quarreling. A very strong word is used "strove". The reaction of the Jews to Jesus' words is understandable. How are we meant to eat his flesh? How can he give us his flesh?
Jesus further clarifies how he fulfils the text "I gave them bread from heaven to eat". Whoever eats and drinks of this flesh and blood / whoever believes in this sacrifice, lives forever. Jesus' words at this point cause offence, even with some of the disciples. It seems likely that they understand what Jesus is saying, namely that the messiah must suffer and die for the life of the world. A suffering messiah, even unto death, is a difficult teaching and hard to accept for all of us even today.

Jesus says “Truly truly I say to you”. This was to reinforce the importance of a statement and it is the 4th time the phrase is used in this chapter. 
He restates the necessity of eating his flesh.  Jesus adds that it is necessary to drink his blood, clearly intended to confront his audience, in like manner the kingdom parables draw out the true seeker from the crowd. In this sermon so far, Jesus has made the point that for the people of Israel in the wilderness manna was certainly a miraculous bread, but once eaten, hunger returned, and inevitably death. The heavenly bread that God gives in Jesus, once eaten, results in eternal life. Therefore, a person must eat this bread, that is, "come" to Jesus, "look on" Jesus, "believe" in Jesus. Next Jesus aligns the bread with his flesh. The Jews naturally balk at the image. Now Jesus restates the idea and reinforces it with "drink his blood." Although numerous interpretations have been suggested, especially in relating this verse to the eucharist, "blood" most likely represents "shed blood, and therefore, violent death". So, Jesus is making the point that belief in him entails belief in a crucified messiah. 

He refers to himself as the Son of Man.This messianic title drawn from Ezekiel and referring to the one who receives heavenly authority and rule from the Ancient of Days. 
If we fail to believe in the crucified Christ then we fail to possess eternal life, you have no inner life-the one feeding on, nibbling, munching, gnawing. The verb was originally used of animals eating, later of humans, but of eating in a rough manner. 

"I will raise them up" is a reference to the resurrection in the last day. Note the move from eating the body and drinking the blood to eating "me". 
The manna came down from heaven and this action is compared with Jesus' coming from heaven. This is the tenth reference to such a coming in this chapter. 
"Your forefathers they ate and died".
Jesus was actually in the synagogue when he gave this sermon, in Capernaum. He is local. Some manuscripts add that the instruction was given "on a Sabbath". 

Jesus' discourse on the bread of life, comes to a pointed conclusion in these verses. In the wilderness, the children of Israel ate manna and were sustained for their journey to the promised land. Yet, they all inevitably died. Jesus, on the other hand, provides a food that will sustain to eternal life. 



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