Inspired by John 6:35-59
He follows that up with, “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry; no one who trusts in me will be thirsty. But as I told you, you see me and still don’t trust me.” Right away you understand that Jesus is talking about something more than literal bread and hopefully they did too. Remember, some of these people he was talking to were just fed by Jesus and as filling as I’m sure that meal was, they had leftovers if you remember, they still got hungry again. Like the woman at the well, Photini, from a few weeks ago, they were left wondering if there was more to life than what they had experienced. Was the rat race of just getting your next meal, satisfying your and your family’s physical needs, today and for their future, all there was to life? Even the rich eventually come to this same question after they realize that despite all they have, it’s never enough. Is there something more? Jesus gives us a decisive “Yes!” but it’s not exactly what we’d expect.
Jesus says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Everyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in them. Just as the living God sent me and I have life because of God, so those who feed on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven.” He just gave them a Zwiebelmett sandwich! It may have looked like a tasty sandwich with homemade bread, but it was anything but! Aside from this sounding utterly disgusting, Jesus’ flesh and blood, not the sandwich, I don’t want to insult any German listeners or anyone who likes to eat raw meat for that matter, but aside from that, this was just too much for the typical Jewish listener to handle.
But before we go any further, I’d like to say a few words about what John means by eternal life. I won’t bore you with another Greek lesson but this doesn’t mean what you probably think it means. We’ve been indoctrinated to believe that when John says eternal life he means living forever, being immortal, going to heaven. I hate to break it to you but that is not what John is talking about here. I’m not saying that John didn’t believe those things, I’m just saying that that’s not what he’s talking about here. What he is talking about is the kind of life that God calls us toward. Another way to translate it might be, a heavenly life, rather than eternal life. Or maybe a Godly life. Or, maybe just, real life. God’s plan for us is not just survive, but to live, really live, in the here and now, not in some far-off place after we die. Now, what that looks like is going to be a bit surprising so let’s get back to the story. Now where were we, oh yes, Jesus’ blood and gore…
Eating meat with its blood still in it was against their law. But human meat? Human blood? This was just too much! Why would Jesus do this? Why would he ruin a perfectly good-tasting bread metaphor? Well, many scholars over the past two millennia have tried to tackle this. And many of them make a lot of sense! But I’d have to side with the scholars that have taken a very simple approach to this. I mean, why make it more complicated than it already is, right? Ok, so, one, Jesus loved to shock people into thinking in a different way. Most of his whole ministry was trying to get people to think differently, about God, about life, about each other. And it was a way of thinking that was very counter-cultural, so much so that it was thought of as deviant and dangerous by those in power. But to get people on the road to thinking differently, sometimes you gotta snap them out of their current way of thinking with something that has some shock value, hence, the whole eating his flesh and drinking his blood!
But let’s go deeper than that. Because if you know how this story ends, spoiler alert, Jesus dies a horrific and very bloody death, then anytime Jesus mentions his flesh and blood how can we not think about his death? And more importantly, how can we not think about the sacrificial way that he lived? And let’s take just one step further, and talk about the sacrificial way that Jesus calls us to live. That’s what Jesus is really talking about here after all. And thankfully, Jesus doesn’t try to hide it inside a nice warm homemade buttered tortilla, but tells us, upfront, that following him, isn’t going to be pleasant, it might even make you a bit nauseous at times, and it’s certainly going to involve sacrifice—like any healthy relationship does. Whether that relationship be with God, your spouse, your sibling, your parent, your child, your friend, your church, or the total stranger you meet at the grocery store who’s wearing a t-shirt in support of the other political party.