The notes today are from Heather. The late posting is my fault; sorry.
I find today’s passage even more complicated, both to read and to understand what Jesus is getting at – and have great sympathy with the Jews who reacted sharply to his teaching (v52). But it is important stuff for us to take on board, so let’s ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in understanding what Jesus is getting at.
In yesterday’s passage, Jesus used the picture of bread (after he fed the 5,000 with bread) not in the sense of normal physical food but in the sense of spiritual food that we need for our souls. Here he amplifies that idea as he tells the religious leaders and the people that he is the ‘living bread’ from heaven, completely different from the manna given in the wilderness long ago which simply fed the body. This living bread (ie Jesus) is able to give eternal life, but they must ‘eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood’ in order to have it.
These Jews are on a different wavelength from Jesus and seem to be taking his words literally –‘how can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ Jesus is saying that he himself is the source of eternal life, and that can be so only because his own physical life will be given up ‘for the life of the world’ (v51). John the Baptist has already hailed Jesus as ‘the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world’ (1:29) and the Jews were familiar with this idea of a lamb being killed as a sacrificial substitute to atone for the sins of the people. Even so, they simply could not grasp that God was providing a new way of forgiveness, that the old system of animal sacrifice was now obsolete, that He was revealing himself in a new way through Jesus, as in fact the Old Testament had frequently foretold, though they had not picked that up. Had they really listened properly to Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God and had open minds to see that the miracles Jesus had done signified God’s approval of him, they should have recognised that God was speaking in a new way.
As I write this, I can see how easy it can be for us even as believers to have minds that are partly closed, simply because we too can have our own fixed ideas about God and what He wants. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will keep giving us ‘eyes to see and ears to hear’…
The language of this passage reminds us about the last supper (or communion) where Jesus asked his disciples to remember him in his death by sharing bread and wine together, symbolising his body and blood. But Jesus is not referring to this here – he would talk to his disciples about that later on. For us, sharing communion together as a church fellowship is important and helps us not to forget the source of our eternal life in Jesus – as we eat the bread and drink the wine, we remember his flesh/body given for us and his blood shed – but these are symbols for us of the reality that Jesus went through. We are not physically eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood. Likewise, here Jesus is not speaking literally – nor is he saying that as long as we take communion, we will have eternal life (though Paul does see participation in communion as a participation somehow in Christ’s body and blood – perhaps as an identification and ‘bonding’ with Jesus –(1 Cor 10:16).
Jesus is talking about the need to identify ourselves totally with him and all that he stands for and commit ourselves to him in total faith if we want eternal life. Paul spells it out more clearly in Romans 6 – as believers, we have been united with Christ, in death but also in resurrection!
This is indeed a ‘hard saying’, for us today, no less than for some disciples then (v60). But the good news is that we don’t need to understand and have everything perfectly in place before God accepts us. We simply need to trust in Jesus, then go on to maintain and grow that trust – remembering that Jesus is the source of every blessing for us. Through him and his Spirit, God the Father ‘pours out his grace on our lives, day by day’. (Wendy Churchill – MP 366)
So today let’s consciously remember our identification with and union with Christ as believers, meditate on all the implications that it has for our daily life and ask for His grace to live a life pleasing to Him.