…that you believe: the bread come down

bread-of-life-tabernacle41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42 and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6:41-51) Continue reading

The bread come down: context

bread-of-life-tabernacle41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42 and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6:41-51) Continue reading

The bread come down: losing nothing

bread-of-life-tabernacleA Missing Piece. The sequence of Year B Sunday gospels leaves out vv. 35-41. The text from today’s daily Mass gospel centers around Jesus challenging the people’s motivation for coming to Jesus. He tells them they only came to see more signs, eat their fill, but not really “work” for the bread that is eternal. The people not only do not understand Jesus’ point, but become bogged down in “what do I have to do to get it” as though they could accomplish this on their own talents and perseverance. Jesus response is that all one need do is believe – and the conversation returns to “show us another sign” and they up the ante – “and make it better than the one Moses did in the desert.” Dodd notes that “The ‘signs’ which the people expect from the Messiah are mere miracles; yet when they see a miracle they fail to see the ‘sign’; for to the evangelist a σημεῖον is not, in essence, a miraculous act, but a significant act, one which, for the seeing eye and the understanding mind, symbolizes eternal realities.” It is at this juncture that returns to the theme of “bread from heaven” only not the one, like the manna in the desert that will spoil, but one that last forever. Continue reading

…that you believe: living bread

Bread-of-Life-John-6Comes Down from Heaven. 32 So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

At vv.12 and 27 (gathering the fragments after feeding the crowd and referencing perishable food), Jesus implicitly linked the feeding miracle with the manna story of Exodus 16. In v.32, he does so explicitly. For the second time in this chapter Jesus prefaces his remarks with the solemn, Amen, amen, I say to you. Jesus reworks four essential elements of v. 31: Continue reading

…that you believe: context

Bread-of-Life-John-624 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” 28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. (John 6:24-35) Continue reading

Who can accept: final thought

TrinityNow that we reached the end of “The Bread of Life Discourse,” I thought it appropriate to have a “final thought.” I would offer this reflection from Bishop Craig Satterlee, a Lutheran bishop from Michigan [workingpreacher.org]

“Jesus promises rather than instructs or explains. Jesus promises that whoever eats the flesh and drinks the blood of Jesus, the Son of Humanity, has eternal life now and will be raised up on the last day. Jesus promises to provide food for the life of the world, his flesh and blood. Jesus promises to nourish the world with the gift of himself. For the “flesh” and “blood” of Jesus, his incarnate life and very real death on the cross, is life-giving food for us and for the world. In, with, and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion, which is nothing other than Christ’s body and blood, Jesus nourishes faith, forgives sin, and empowers us to be witnesses to the Gospel. What would it mean for preachers to proclaim Jesus’ promises rather than explain the sacrament?” Continue reading

Who can accept: grace and will

Trinity64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” 66 As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Some believe and some don’t. This is a theme woven throughout John 6 – the tension between divine initiative and human choice. Verse 65 echoes vv. 37,39, and 55 – we are drawn to Jesus via the initiating action of God. Continue reading

Who can accept: Spirit, Flesh, and Life

Trinity63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life

John 6:63 is often a verse that one arguing against any Eucharistic interpretation of the whole of John 6 brings forward. The logic goes like this: “Jesus is saying things that are confusing. His disciples think he’s being literal. Jesus clears it up by saying “No not at all. I’m not saying that you should eat my flesh. My flesh profits nothing! I’m speaking with Spirit and life, which is metaphorical in nature.” That is more of a “hand waving” argument, but the scholarly argument proceeds along similar lines. Scholars who don’t hold the Bread of Life discourse as Eucharistic present but secondary at best also use the words of v. 63 to buttress their position. How, they argue, could Jesus advocate giving and eating his flesh in vv. 51–58 and reject the value of flesh here? Verses 51–58 thus cannot belong to the core of Jesus’ teaching in chap. 6, and the disciples in vv.60–71 can only be understood as protesting Jesus’ words in 6:35–50, not those in 6:51–58. (In case you miss the subtle of this train of thought, these scholars are arguing vv.51-58 are not part of the original Discourse but were added in later.) Continue reading

Who can accept: grumbling

TrinityChallenging the grumbling. 60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” 61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? 62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

Before v.60 the dialogue was with the people in the crowds was marked by grumbling, incredulity, and quarrelling. The same range of reactions will be found among those closest to Jesus, the disciples: murmuring (v. 61), disbelief (v. 64), rejection (v. 66), confession of faith (vv. 68–69), and betrayal (vv. 64, 71). Jesus offers his very self – and yet even among the closest there are those who turn away to a former life, forsaking the very author of life. Continue reading

Who can accept: word and sacrament

TrinityIt is Jesus’ words in the discourse that are also gift to the crowds along with the bread. The words are the gateway for the ones who ate the bread to see and believe (6:40) and thus to have life and live forever (6:51, 58). At the same time, one must eat the bread in order to live (6:53, 58). These are part of the seamless union of flesh, spirit, humanity, and divinity that are part of the integrity of the whole of Chapter 6.

It seems to me that too many commentators separate the miraculous feeding (vv.1-25) from the Christological and theological content of what follows. Their comparison point is no longer the Johannine miraculous feeding but rather the synoptic Eucharistic institution, norms of the primitive church and later patristic periods, and developing theology of later ages up and through the 17th century. Continue reading