To me, there are two types of people in the world. Firstly there are those people in the world who possess the ability to simply answer a request with a yes or with a no and nothing else. Secondly there are those people in the world who do not possess the ability to simply answer a request with a yes or with a no; those who feel that a yes or a no must be backed up with a full explanation for the reasoning behind the yes or the no. This passage is an example of Jesus fully explaining himself and the things he has just said.
Having just stated that he is the bread of life and that whoever believes in him will never hunger or thirst, Jesus seems compelled to tease it out a little further because these people he is speaking to keep hearing and seeing who he is and what he does and still they do not believe. They do not believe that he has been sent by God. They do not believe that he is God’s chosen one. They do not believe that he is the Messiah sent from heaven.
But he is.
He has come down from heaven to do the will of God, and the will of God is that all people accept what God is up to – fulfilling all that has already been promised to them and to their ancestors by sending the Son to move among them; to show them the way to everlasting life.
As Jesus explains this the Jews, who are full of doubt and suspicion about what he is saying, begin to grumble and moan: “How can he even be the bread sent down from heaven? Is he not Joseph’s son? We know the family – this guy has not been sent from God.”
Jesus is quick to stop them in their tracks. He tells them that no one can come to him unless the Father draws them because, as the Prophets say, ‘they will be taught by God!’ If God has been at work within them, if people have heard God in their lives and made room for God in their hearts then they will know that Jesus is not deceiving them.
Jesus is the one who has seen the Father. Jesus is the one who knows the Father intimately. Remember the beginning of this gospel – it says in the opening verse that Jesus, the Word of God, was there in the very beginning with God. Jesus knows God and knows what God’s mission is because Jesus, as John has stated from the beginning, is God. The mysterious and unfathomable nature of that statement does not in any way take away from its truth. Jesus is the very image of the invisible God, the only one to have seen God and therefore Jesus is uniquely qualified to say the things that he is saying.
Jesus is the bread of heaven sent down to nourish and save the soul of humankind, and the ones who believe this will have eternal life.
Having said this, Jesus then starts to change up the language a little as he moves the imagery from that of bread to that of flesh, namely his flesh. He says that the bread of life is his flesh which he will give for the world. In dropping this in here, John is creating another signpost for what is to come later in his gospel. The Jews are again confused and ask how it is that Jesus will give them his flesh to eat, to which Jesus simply responds by telling them that if they do not eat of his flesh and drink of his blood then they will have no life in them. In the same way that Jesus says he is in the Father and the Father is in him, so to are these Jews (and every one else) invited to experience a similar intimacy by receiving all that Jesus is giving (his whole self): “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them.
All this talk of blood and flesh can, of course, be off putting for any reader, but please, take a minute to hear the invitation of Jesus in what he is saying here because it is simply an extension of what he has been saying all the way though John’s gospel so far:
He is the Son of God.
He is the one Chosen and sent by God.
He is the Word of God made flesh.
He is the light which will persistently shines in the darkness.
I know…I know I keep saying that again and again in these reflections, but it is impossible to read this gospel and not keep coming back to these statements over and over again. Jesus is all of the above and Jesus has been sent by God to fulfill the mission of God in the world. He is the bread of life sent from God and he is able to nourish and sustain all who come and partake.
For millennia people have struggled to understand the significance of this and even more so to receive it for themselves.
Maybe you are one of them?
If you are struggling to receive Christ at his word; if you are struggling to make sense of what he says then please hear this:
Your job is not to understand it fully.
Your job is simply to take Christ at his word, receive the invitation he has made to each of us, and invite him to remain in us.
Your job is to allow all the fulness of God to dwell richly within you and experience the newness of life that only God bring.
Will you take Christ at his word today?