Sunday

“Lord, to whom can we go?” (v. 68)

John 6:56-69 Sunday 26 August 2018

Psalm: Psalm 84

Background

It might be said that Christians have become rather used to the idea of Jesus as the bread of life. But in this passage from John’s gospel, his hearers struggle with the very direct, almost graphic introduction of this idea in Jesus’ words about “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood” (John 6:51-56 and 60). It comes after Jesus’ miraculous feeding of 5,000 people (John 6:1-14) and invites reflection on this event as one of the miracle stories that in John’s Gospel are called “signs” (John 6:14).

The introduction of the idea of the “bread which comes down from heaven” links this sign back to the story of Israel’s journey out of slavery in Egypt across the desert to the Promised Land, when they were saved from starvation by God miraculously providing “bread from heaven” in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4) and where they learned to trust God (Exodus 16:11-12).

The Greek word ‘pisteuo’ occurs frequently in John’s gospel and is normally translated as meaning ‘believe’, as it is here (v. 69). But its more common meaning is ‘rely on’ or ‘trust’. Is this passage exploring a difficult invitation: to rely on Jesus as closely and intimately as is suggested by the ideas of “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood”?

It’s no easy matter to be reliant or dependent. Our culture doesn’t help us in this regard, with its emphasis on independence and autonomy. Think of the negative associations around the word ‘needy’ – given that it’s literal sense is just being ‘in need’.

In Europe and the Western world, we tend to value and encourage independence and self-reliance as the ‘best’ of our humanity. And many of us living with illness or frailty or ageing are deeply anxious about being dependent – because the only way our culture allows us to understand that is as a ‘burden’: on resources, on an overstretched care system, on family and those closest to us.

Faith, however, wants to tell a different story: that to be most truly ourselves and most authentically human is to learn to depend on what is other, and greater, than ourselves.

 

To Ponder

  • How easy do you find it to trust? Who or what helps you to trust?
  • How might the call to a profound trust in God be communicated in a way that is intelligible in cultures that place a high value on independence?

 

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