To recap from last week, the RCL includes verse 35 this week . . .
“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
In addition, remember that the writer of the gospel of John profiles Jesus’ spiritual side, and uses spiritual imagery and allusions. Not illusions, which are false; but allusions that function as metaphors portraying the character of Jesus. I will explain as we go along.
“Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (Verses 41-42)
“The Jews” – by which the writer of the gospel of John sometimes means the people who were around at the time and other times means the Temple rulers, Pharisees and Sadducees and the like – understood in a vague what Jesus meant. That Jesus came down from heaven and is claiming a special identity and characteristics. What Jesus meant is that he is the means by which faith and salvation comes to the world.
But the writer (of the gospel of John) does not have Jesus explain his meaning, but has him further antagonize “the Jews.”
“Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (Verses 43-47)
Jesus tells them not to complain about these truths he is saying. And that he and God work together in teaching humankind what they ought to know. And the implications of this work start in this world but reach into the world to come.
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.” (Verses 48-51)
Taken literally, this sounds kind of weird. If one has heard biblical theology such as this for most of their adult life, you get to understand what it means to have the “Bread of Life” and that the “Bread is Jesus’ flesh”. But to those who are unaware of what this means, it sounds gruesome. And many of the early Christians were misunderstood because of it. But the writer (of you know what) forges ahead having Jesus give all sorts of speeches and lectures. I am not being critical or saying it was wrong. My point is that much of the book of John, and many other parts of the bible are not easily understood by those who do not have an understanding of such matters.
I cannot think of a time in my life that I did not have a foundational understanding of what was meant in the gospels when the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was being talked about. I encourage you, beloved reader, to think back to when you were forming your understanding about what was meant by faith and biblical language. We read such things, and understand them seamlessly, moving from literal to figurative and back to literal. We are more cognizant about faith matters than we have awareness of. It is good to remember that once in a while.
May you, beloved reader, enjoy and grow because of the time you spend reading scripture. Selah!