September 9, 2020
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
So what did Jesus mean when he said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you”?
Jesus most needs us to grasp what it means to “believe.” Believing means active, tangible, demonstrative trust. Way beyond the comforting, “I’ll be here when you need my help” kind of faith, Jesus wants for us to know him beyond what knowledge can convey. He wants us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” He wants our insatiable appetites and disordered desires to be integrated and satisfied by his life. As food is to the body, so is his life to our soul.
Let’s be careful at this point. It’s easy to make a wrong turn at this juncture and separate the visible from the unseen, the body from the soul, and the natural from the supernatural. God became a human person not to create dichotomies and dualities, but to bring it all together.
When Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing,” he was not discounting the human body or our physicality as human beings. He was rejoining that which had been separated from the fall of humanity. Jesus both exemplifies and executes the reuniting of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, the human body with the Holy Spirit, the source of life everlasting with the substance of frail humanity, indeed–on earth as it is in heaven.
As Athanasius put it in the fourth century, “He became what we are that we may become what he is.” He became like us so that we could become like him.
One word captures what Jesus is looking for from his followers. The word is union. In our Facebook group someone aptly referenced John 17:3, which says, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” We might also look ahead to John 17:21 where Jesus prays, “that all of them be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world will believe you have sent me.”
Union—that’s what he’s after. This is what it means “to eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood.” Jesus reaches for the most concrete analogy possible to express the most mystical reality ever. He wants us to hunger and thirst for this most supernaturally natural possibility like we hunger and thirst for food and drink. This is eternal life. Let’s give Jesus the last word: “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” (vv. 54–55).
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, whose life is the real life. We are weary of so many things that promise life and yet do not satisfy. We want the real food and real drink of eternal life. Come, Holy Spirit and give us this life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
1. Why do we settle for the things that promise life yet do not satisfy?
2. What happens when we separate the body from the soul, the visible and the unseen, and the natural and the supernatural?
3. Do you desire and are you ready for this kind of relationship with Jesus?
TODAY, and every Wednesday at noon central time, we gather on a global Zoom call to sow together for a great awakening in prayer. It is powerful. Would you join us today? ZOOM LINK HERE.
For the Awakening,
Help us, O Lord, to grow in faith (not in superficial faith) but in the supernatural faith You give to us through the Word and Sacraments and by the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Pastor Ron Bacic
First Lutheran Church, Little Rock, Arkansas