Unless you eat…

John 6:51-58

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” 52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

For the past couple of weeks we have been looking at events in John chapter 6, where Jesus announces “I am the bread of life.”

Today we continue in John 6 with a somewhat difficult text – also about Jesus as the bread of life. What does Jesus mean by the graphic language – “eating my flesh…. and drinking my blood?”

Each week I read a blog called Journey with Jesus. There is always a good essay on the lectionary texts for the week. This week was especially good. The author, Debi Thomas, talks about today’s text using two stories – two pictures. And through these stories she asks us to consider “How does God feel when we eat of the good bread that he offers us?” and “How does God feel when we reject the nutrition and true food / bread that is necessary to keep us healthy and alive?” While it might seem like a strange exercise to attempt to know or understand what “God is feeling…”, these two stories may give us a hint about the meaning of Jesus’ words in today’s text.

The first image is an example of a nursing child – a healthy child being nourished on the milk of its mother.

  • This can be very natural, but it can also be difficult at first and require practice.
  • There can be emotional ups and downs…. at first the mother worries if the baby is getting enough nourishment? Later, as it becomes evident that the baby is growing and healthy, there can be a deep sense of joy and satisfaction – a very strong bond between mother and child.
  • In our family, our first two babies were adopted and so the feeding process was not breast feeding, but hot water, formula, and lots of bottles. As parents, we shared the feeding task, even taking turns at night. I’ll never forget the deep sense of feeling “left out” when our third child arrived…not by adoption but biologically. Andrea and I were now on completely different playing fields… and little Allegra had absolutely no need for me as a father in regard to her daily nourishment. While it was very different than our first two children, we were amazed at the convenience and efficiency of breast feeding!
  • There are many pictures of God as mother in the Bible – does this image help us understand the strong desire God has to nourish us… to feed us and ensure that we are healthy?

The second example that Debi Thomas uses in her blog is that of a child suffering from anorexia nervosa, and relates the fear and pain of her own experience with her 12-year old daughter.

  • Anoriexia is a frightening psychological and emotional illness.
  • The child – or sometimes adult -for various reasons (pressure, trying to conform to an unrealistic image of what is “beautiful”, etc.) refuses to eat.
  • This condition is not something that you can simply talk a child out of. It’s not a logical discussion but a true emotional and psychological illness.
  • It’s frightening for a parent, who feels that the very child they love is slipping away from them through a lack of nourishment – such a seemingly easy problem to solve – and yet extremely tricky.
  • Does this image help us understand at all how God must feel when the nourishment he offers is so totally rejected and ignored?

Could these analogies help us imagine what Jesus means in today’s text?

Unless you eat…. You will have no life.

Jesus is inviting us to a meal, to a lavish meal. To a life that is abundant.

The bread that is offered is Jesus himself.

A relationship with Jesus, a relationship with God.

Are you feeling full, and healthy these days?

Or, is it possible that you have been starving yourself?

Come…. eat….. this bread is for you!

I encourage you to click on this link and read the powerful essay by Debi Thomas, Unless You Eat…

(the above is a summary of the message shared on August 15, 2021 during our morning worship.)