The language of Holy Communion is familiar to most Christians today. But in this passage, the disciples are understandably confused. Leading up to this moment, the disciples are pestering Jesus to give them proof that he is who he claims to be. In John 6:31, they specifically point to God’s gift of manna to the Israelites as an example of the kind of proof they are seeking. Jesus responds by repeatedly discussing the bread of life as a metaphor for the wholeness that his salvation offers. But the disciples remain confused and continue to question. Either they’re missing the point, or the answers Jesus is giving are not the answers they want. The disciples want to know what to do to be faithful followers. But because Jesus is offering something brand new, there’s no text that has these answers. The answers Jesus offers are cryptic at best. Faithfulness is not as straightforward as the disciples want it to be. Sometimes being faithful means interpreting difficult situations or living into answers that don’t yet make sense.
Faithfulness involves real and difficult sacrifice. In verse 53, Jesus says that without eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man, his disciples will have no life in them. They will be dead, either metaphorically or literally, unless they participate fully in the new life Jesus offers. In contrast, those who do eat and drink and become a full part of Jesus will receive eternal life. Making sacrifices of faithfulness involves a life beyond what can be imagined while living in doubt and fear. Jesus makes it clear that the path he demands of his followers will not be an easy one, but it will be one with great rewards.
Bread of Life, you nourish our bones; you feed our famine; you quench our thirst. Answer our questioning; offer understanding. Raise us up so that we may eat and drink in remembrance of you, participating in the eternal life that you graciously offer. Amen.
If you could ask God for one thing, what would it be? God offered this chance to Solomon, and the king asked for wisdom to rule God’s people well. God honored this request by giving Solomon many other gifts too, as long as the king followed God’s ways. (Later on, unfortunately, Solomon lost his way.) The psalmist tells us that wisdom begins with understanding who we are and who God is. Ephesians addresses practical implications of wise living: follow the will of the Lord, be filled with the Spirit, encourage one another, and be grateful to God. The Gospel passage continues Jesus’ metaphorical description of himself as the Bread of Heaven. Here Jesus anticipates the sacrament of Communion, in which we partake of his body and blood by faith.
Read 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14. Do you hesitate to ask God to show you your call? Why?
Read Psalm 111. Where have you seen God’s faithful and just actions in your life? In the world?
Read Ephesians 5:15-20. How do you live wisely and make the most of the time?
Read John 6:51-58. What is the significance of Holy Communion in your life of faith? How has your understanding of this sacrament changed over time?
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