Hello and welcome to Monday’s podcast. My name is Alan, I am on the staff team here at STC and it is my pleasure to take on from Mick, this next stage of the journey through John’s gospel.
Today’s reading is from John 6:25-59. I am going to focus on v 53,
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
Sometimes I hate the Bible! Well maybe not ‘hate,’ it’s maybe too strong a word, but the Bible gets under my skin, it upsets me, it causes me stress and discomfort. I don’t know if it is the same for you?
You see, I have a good thing going on. I have a wonderful wife, great kids, a nice home and I’ve got a great job at a great church… all is ticking along nicely, I’m doing ok… and then I go and pick up the Bible and it upsets my flow. I am brought face to face with Jesus. He loves me… oh how he loves me… I know that there’s nothing I can do to earn that love of his. It’s unconditional and enduring. But Jesus has no desire to affirm my brokenness and dysfunction. He wants me to grow, he wants me to mature, he wants me to be the ‘me’ that I was created to be. He wants me to forgive, to keep short accounts, he want me to respond to hurt with love, he wants to change the way I think, what I believe about myself and others, he wants me to be generous and hospitable, to go the extra mile. So when I pick up the Bible I am aware of the gap… The yawning chasm between the life I have now, and the overflowing, abundant, beautiful and vibrant life that Jesus is ever so slowly fashioning in me.
Jesus said… “very truly…” meaning ‘listen up, what comes next is really important’ or ‘get your pens out and write this down.’
“I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
So, I hear you say, this is about taking communion right!? This is about the Eucharist, the last supper. When we go to the front of church, get a small square of fresh bread if we are lucky and a sip of strange tasting wine and we get Jesus’ life in us. Job done… move on!
Well… er… not entirely. Don’t get me wrong, the sacraments… baptism, communion and other church traditions are important and have their basis in the Bible but they can all too easily descend into empty religious practices – see years of decline in the church as proof there must be a little more to it!
So if it’s not just about eating bread at the front of church, and we are to eat or devour the flesh of Jesus… how do we do that? How do we consume him?
At the start of John’s gospel he writes, ‘the word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ Elsewhere it’s written, ‘man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
We eat Jesus’ flesh by consuming the word of God… by picking up our Bibles – the written word, discovering Jesus through its pages – the living word, and eating our fill.
So we read the Bible!?
Well, there is a saying, ‘you are what you eat.’ (If that’s the case, I am curry with rice from somewhere exotic like Vietnam or Thailand and quite spicy!) Somehow, the good stuff from the food that we have eaten since we were tiny babies has been absorbed by our bodies and become bones, organs, muscles and flesh.
But if we simply eat and eat and eat and never move, our muscles don’t develop, we remain weak and will inevitably get fat. If we don’t use our bodies the food we consume, the potential we have, goes to waste.
This was brought home to me when my daughter was little. Her sight is not great but I learnt that our human eyes continue to develop for 6 or 7 years after we are born. There were things we could do to help develop what little sight she was born with. As we use our bodies they grow and develop, they become strong and fit for purpose… our eyes, our muscles, our brains and nervous system… All develop through use or decline through neglect.
The parallel is obvious. As we feast on Jesus, his life, his teaching, the miracles, his death, the freedom he bought, the transforming love he demonstrated… as we eat his flesh, pray and meditate on the scripture, letting our minds absorb all the goodness and as we live out what we take in, we will develop that little bit more into who we were made to be…
And remember, this isn’t about earning God’s favour or being top of the class. We are also to drink his blood… to take in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, receive his grace, his love and the open, unending connection we have to God himself.
As we eat his flesh, God draws close and enable us to change, as we absorb its nutrients and exercise our muscles he transforms our hearts and minds through the power of his spirit.
So today let’s eat, drink and be filled with the life of Jesus.
Father, thank you for the Bible. As we take it in, help us to meet Jesus in its pages. Teach us to exercise, to be stretched and challenged, and grow in maturity becoming more like Jesus in everything we do, say and think. Amen.
READING: John 6:25-59
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’
Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’
Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’
Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’
So they asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’
At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven”?’
‘Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ Jesus answered. ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: “They will all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever.’ He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.