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Proper 15B Gospel

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Adjunct Professor of Bible,

Southern Nazarene University, Independent Wesleyan Biblical Scholar

In a modern context that declares, “Depend on me, myself, and I,” Jesus’ declaration in John 6:51-58 is a new kind of radical posture – one of dependence on him. In a world that touts agendas from the rulers of the day, Jesus calls his people to lean on to the agenda of the slaughtered and risen lamb.

After another sign and wonder through the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus declares his identity as the “bread of life,” and it is because he has been sent by his Father – the living God – that he himself can give life. Just as the manna has “come down” from heaven to nourish the Israelites in the desert, so has Jesus come so that the people of God may have life eternal. Jesus’s nourishment is not temporary like the manna from heaven, however. The life that Jesus brings cannot be taken away. Marianne Meye Thompson puts it like this,

“As Jesus’s assertions shift from themes of eating and drinking, understood as believing in coming to Jesus, to the more graphic and specific imagery of “eating flesh” and “drinking blood” of Jesus, the responses shift from grumbling to dispute. While the reference to flesh evokes the assertion that the Word became flesh (1:14), the addition of blood (haima, 6:35-56) shows that the death of Jesus is also in view, and that “eating the flesh” and “drinking the blood” constitute an allusion of the Lord’s supper. While the Pauline and Synoptic accounts of the Lord’s Supper speak of the body and blood, not the flesh and blood of Jesus, the other early Christian authors did speak of the Eucharist in terms of “the blood” and “the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ."[1]

This life-giving bread is Jesus’s self which is laid down at the cross. It is because of the incarnation that Jesus’s life giving power is unlike any other. It is because he comes from God and also reveals the heart, character, and nature of God, that the life-giving power is realized. All are now welcome to come and discover the once hidden treasure now revealed in Christ.

The practice of the Lord’s Supper is a reminder of our bond with the risen Lord. It is an embodied practice that reminds us that if we do not “eat the flesh of the son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (Jn 6:53) In a modern-day context that touts self-reliance and hyper individualization, Jesus’s words reverse our distorted mindsets to remember that it is in Christ in which we find life. We therefore cling to Jesus, feed on Jesus, come to Jesus, live in Jesus, depend on Jesus, and lean on Jesus with everything. We are reminded that Jesus is more than a historical figure we read about once a week, but Jesus is our sustainer. Jesus is more than a once-a-week-hourly-thought; he is our source. Jesus is our treasure, vision, path, and life.

The world will tug our hearts to adopt distorted “saviors” and others sources of temporary life and meaning. These “saviors” might show up in the form of money, power, career, personal ambitions and goals, and success. But until we declare our moment-by-moment dependence on the bread of life, we will on experience fleeting moments of joy. Declare your dependence on King Jesus today.

[1] Marianne Meye Thompson, John: a Commentary, The New Testament Library (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 154.

Tara Beth Leach

Pastor, Pasadena First Church of hte Nazarene

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