Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Eating Jesus

This past Sunday, my Christian Fellowship read a passage from John, chapter 6, and talked about verse 57 for some time. Jesus says:
Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. NRSV
There was a small, collective shudder in the room at the starkness of the literal words and the agreement that these words are some of the most difficult of the Gospel. I've had less trouble with this passage since a priest examined the miracle of eating. Once you've chewed any food, gotten a good taste, and swallowed, that food becomes part of you down to the level of your cells. You can't do another thing--not breathe nor walk nor think nor act--without that food being a part of you. Eating Jesus comes down to the same thing. You have so ingested and digested his words and example that they become part of you, down to the cellular level and none of your actions can be separated from what has merged with your spirit and soul. This means that you no longer have to consciously think about the Great Commandments and how to act in accordance with them; your being KNOWS what to do.

In the Old Testament, the metaphor for this was to "write the law on their hearts" as in Jeremiah 31:33. Again, the goal is to become so connected to God's Word and the Way of Jesus that they are integral to your person.

I haven't gotten there yet, but I'm working on it.

I also find it easy to read from John 6:22 to the end of that chapter metaphorically because Jesus makes that switch for us with a bit of irony. Chapter 6 starts with the feeding of the 5,000 and these well-fed people decide that Jesus should be a king. Jesus takes off alone. The next day, these same 5,000 go looking for Jesus. They get into some boats and find Jesus at the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Somebody asks, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" I can see Jesus giving the speaker a little smile as he replies,
Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
Ha! Jesus immediately urges them to switch their thinking to another type of bread. " that endures for eternal life..." Jesus always sees right through to our truth and pushes us to tweak our perception just enough to see another truth.

I hope that you will not be like the disciples in verse 66 who decide that this whole discussion of bread coming down from heaven and eating flesh and food of eternal life is way too hard. They abandon the effort and Jesus. Be more like Peter. When Jesus asks, "Are you leaving, too?", shrug your shoulders and say, "Where would I go? You've got what I need."

This is a great chapter and inspired one of my favorite hymns "I am the Bread of Life." Read it alone, with friends, in silence and aloud. Chew on it, roll it on your tongue, get a good taste, then swallow it. Let the lessons become a part of you.

What do you find to eat in John, Chapter 6?

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