For the life of the world: death or life

living-breadMorris [335] offers this: “There is, moreover, a reference to the death of Christ, as we saw on verse 51. Flesh and blood in separation point to death. The words, then, are a cryptic allusion to the atoning death that Jesus would die, together with a challenge to enter the closest and most intimate relation with him.134 They are to be interpreted in the light of verse 47.” While most would accept the intuition of Jesus’ atoning death are implied, there are few who argue that is a major theme. Yet Morris strains against established biblical meaning. In Hebrew, the double formula “flesh and blood” emphasizes the reality and corporeality of human existence. Continue reading

For the life of the world: flesh and blood

living-bread53 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

The language is graphic and direct, including images and actions that would have been abhorrent to faithful Jews: eating flesh and drinking blood (Gen 9:4). But is the language meant to be realistic or one of metaphor. Morris’ approach [335] to this question seems fairly standard among those who do not hold to the sacramental, Eucharistic understanding of this text. “Both ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ are aorists, denoting once-for-all action, not a repeated eating and drinking, such as would be appropriate to the sacrament. And this eating and drinking are absolutely necessary for eternal life. Those who do not eat and drink in the way Jesus says have no life. Eating and drinking Christ’s flesh and blood thus appears to be a very graphic way of saying that people must take Christ into their innermost being.” I would suggest that it is hard to make this argument and at the same time demand also other biblical sources inform the understanding. Continue reading

For the life of the world: unless you eat

living-bread53 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

Most all scholarly works hold that v.53 is at the heart of the matter. In addition to the Protestant/Reformed – Catholic divide, there is a more subtle divide among scholars. Consider the position of Leon Morris [332] vis-à-vis these verses: Continue reading

For the life of the world: quarreling

living-breadThe Quarrel. 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.” 52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?”

The “Jews” themselves make the first direct statement about eating Jesus’ flesh, as they combine Jesus’ words in v.51 into one statement. What shocks the crowd is that until Jesus’ words in v. 51, Jesus’ language has focused on the metaphor of the bread of life, but now the metaphor shifts. The content of the crowd’s protest in v.52 makes clear that the sticking point is the language about “flesh”—namely, its use to refer to Jesus himself. Continue reading

For the life of the world: context

living-bread51 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.” 52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51-58) Continue reading

The bread come down: eating

bread-of-life-tabernacleEating the Living Bread. 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.”

The expression “Amen, amen, I say to you” (v. 47) also signals the beginning of a new section in the discourse (as before in 5:19, 24–25; 6:32). Yet this section opens with a reprise of familiar Johannine themes: The believer receives eternal life (6:27, 40); Jesus is the bread of life (6:35). These themes provide the theological grounding for what follows. As in 5:19–30, here the Fourth Evangelist advances Jesus’ argument by placing what Jesus has said previously in a new context. The interweaving and overlapping of theological themes evident here and throughout Jesus’ discourses help to create a cohesiveness of theological perspective throughout the Fourth Gospel Continue reading

The bread come down: drawn

bread-of-life-tabernacleComing to the Lord. 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.

Jesus now addresses the crowd for a second time and tells then to stop their grumbling. Then he repeats the saying of v.37, but in a slightly stronger form. In v.37 the word “come” (hēxei) is future, active voice and means that the person (subject) will be in the process of “coming.” But in v.44 the subject is God who will helkysē (draw, haul by force – EDNT v.1:435) the person to him. Continue reading

The bread come down: grumbling

bread-of-life-tabernacleThe Grumbling. 41 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’?”

Jesus’ words were not what the people wanted to hear. From the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 to the crowd’s references to mana in the desert, the context has been about bread they could eat. However, from v.35 onward, it is clear that Jesus’ meaning is about belief in himself, the one provides bread from heaven that last forever. The people are beginning to understand that they are not getting more bread and that this person before them is claiming to be someone greater than Moses. They rebel against the claims implied in what he said, feeling that they know very well who he is. In the face of this Jesus emphatically repeats his words. And the people grumble some more. Continue reading

The bread come down: losing nothing

bread-of-life-tabernacleA Missing Piece. The sequence of Sunday gospels does leave out vv. 35-41. The text from the 18th Sunday 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

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