Flesh and Blood?

A reading for Monday, August 25, 2014: John 6:52-59.

It's strikingly odd when we come upon today's scripture lesson without any context. "Eat my flesh and drink my blood" catches us off guard, just as it obviously caught the Jews in the synagogue off guard. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they said. Seems gross to us too...

These verses, however, are part of a much larger discourse in chapter 6 of John going all the way back to the feeding of the five thousand. From that point on, the crowd wants to know from Jesus what food they should be working for and how? How can they be faithful? They are Jews and so they reference the manna from heaven. Where will our bread come from when we follow Christ?

So when Jesus offers this image of "eating flesh and drinking blood" it is an image connected to that discourse, and not meant to be literal. Trying to discover whether the elements actually change from bread and wine to flesh and blood is missing the point. It's mystery for the sake of mystery.

Matthew Henry's commentary offers 4 benefits from faith that perhaps derive from the image:

First, It implies an appetite to Christ. This spiritual eating and drinking begins with hungering and thirsting, earnest and importunate desires after Christ, not willing to take up with any thing short of an interest in him: “Give me Christ or else I die.” Secondly, An application of Christ to ourselves. Meat looked upon will not nourish us, but meat fed upon, and so made our own, and as it were one with us. Thirdly, A delight in Christ and his salvation. The doctrine of Christ crucified must be meat and drink to us, most pleasant and delightful. We must feast upon the dainties of the New Testament in the blood of Christ, taking as great a complacency in the methods which Infinite Wisdom has taken to redeem and save us as ever we did in the most needful supplies or grateful delights of nature. Fourthly, A derivation of nourishment.

Without question, we immediately connect this image to our celebration of the sacrament of communion. Perhaps when we gather at the table this week and in the weeks to come, the same questions and the same benefits from faith will be present for us.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.   -John 6:35


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