What I’m Thinking: Scandalous Bread

After Jesus described himself as the bread of life, he urged his hearers to eat his flesh and drink his blood – a shocking thing to say or to hear. It remains scandalous today.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel (John 6:51-58). The Revised Common Lectionary has spent a lot of time in this chapter, although I’ve been thinking about and preaching on other texts from the lectionary for much of it.

It began with the sign, the miracle, of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (John 6:1-14). As is common in John, the story of the sign was followed by a conversation between Jesus and those about him about what the sign meant. It culminates in an “I” statement, in this case, “I am the Bread of Life.”

In this section, Jesus took it another step beyond. “I am the bread come down from heaven,” he said, and those who eat my flesh and drink my blood will have eternal life.

The image of cannibalism is a shocking one. It was in the first century; it is now. Christians, of course, tend to hear these words symbolically, because later on in his ministry, at his last supper with his disciples, Jesus made bread – bread made of wheat – into a symbol for his broken body. He made wine in a cup a symbol of the blood he was about to shed.

But I think we dare not stray too far from the depth of this metaphor, the scandalousness of this metaphor, because it is about a concrete reliance upon this one individual Jesus, to identify him as a deeply profound and powerful gift of God. There is no way to decrease the difficulty of that statement. It is difficult enough to believe in a God that we cannot see. To see someone profoundly human in appearance and to identify that person as having all the grace of God to share with us? It’s a hard thing to ask.

And yet, Jesus asked it and continues to ask it.

The only thing I can say is that in Jesus I have found a nourishment I have not found in other places. In Jesus I have found a hope upon which I can rely. In Jesus I have found the bread of life for my spirit. In Jesus I hope to have the bread of life that is eternal.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , | Posted on August 9, 2021

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