Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

by Crossings

Taking and Eating/Drinking The Life-Giving Body and Blood
John 6:51-58
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15)
Analysis by Michael Hoy

51″I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will have no life in you. 54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

DIAGNOSIS: Abstaining

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Disputing
Most commentators see in this text a clear and resounding emphasis on the Eucharist. Early disputes may have been traced to charges of cannibalism and the apologetics against external critics. Eating flesh and drinking blood were not only repulsive but forbidden by the Law (Lev. 3:17, Deut. 12:23). Some commentators also see the dispute about participating in the eating and drinking of Jesus’ body and blood as internal to the early church-where Christians wanted to (docetically) spiritualize the participation, so much so that church fathers like Ignatius had to bring “flesh” language right into the eucharistic prayers. Consider our own (docetic) “New Age” religions today which want to spiritualize the nature of faith-defending individualism at the expense of community. Why not a “spiritual” eating and drinking? Faith may be OK, but why this community and its meal? Even within the community, are we celebrating the presence of Jesus only-or are we also celebrating those who are with us? Jesus regularly encountered people who were not happy with his dinner company, not to mention the host himself.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – No Life Within
Separating oneself from the “real presence” of Jesus, from his very body and blood, and separating oneself from the community meal, means having no life within us. We are distant from Jesus and distant from others, and consequently have no life within us.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – Passing Away
Passing up the bread of life also has divine consequences, not just behavioral and spiritual. It is God who passes on us. Jesus is sent by the Father to be consumed. To pass up the consumption is to pass up the Father’s gift, to look the gift-Giver in the mouth. When we rely on our own food for survival, death is our end.


Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – Raising: Our Way of Life
Still, when Jesus gives his “flesh” for the life of the world, it is this very Gift that brings people into the Father’s good pleasure, sparing them from condemnation. His flesh dying upon the cross, and his blood given into death, becomes our source of life. As Jesus is raised from death by the living and loving Father, so are we raised up in him through this gift into death-and into life forever in his kingdom.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Abiding
Participating by eating and drinking = abiding = living = believing. We get to “abide” in Jesus, feeding on his life source, taking in his flesh and blood at his table as our source of life forever. Here at the table we are plugged into the “real presence” of our Lord and his life, near and dear, and our faith is renewed as we are joined to his forgiving death and resurrection.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Distributing
What we do with this communal meal in the flesh and blood of Jesus is celebrate it with the community. Our participation is not our private quiet time with Jesus-it is abiding with others, all others; at the table all are brought near through his body and blood. And, having received him, we are sent to the community “out there,” where we are the living eucharistic (= thanks-giving) presence in the world, distributing the promise through our own flesh-and-blood presence, enlivened by the flesh and blood of our Lord. How much will this food we bring agree with the world’s stomach? There’s only one way to find out: Give it away! This living promise is too good to be kept a secret.


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