“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (John 6:56)
We continue looking at the words of writer of the gospel of John. Having been steeped for several weeks in this mystical and theological dialog that the writer has created and placed in Jesus’ mouth, I am feeling the sort of “being out of my depth” that the disciples might have been feeling. I know (or knew in the past) what the true intent of this teaching was, but by stepping into their place I find myself echoing their confusion. For me it culminated several verses down.
“Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.” (Verses 57 – 59)
I know that the writer of the gospel of John is trying to make a point. And may even be hammering home the point by repeating references to fleshly eating; and as soon as that thought brings disturbing images to mind, Jesus through the writer quickly accuses the listener of misunderstanding and misinterpreting it.
“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Verses 60 – 63)
It was at this point in reading verse 63 that I became completely discombobulated and “fled” to the commentators for clarification. I must tell you, beloved reader, it is a chancy thing to consult the biblical commentators. Very often they are no help and just confuse the issue further. But this time they brought clarity. It is the disciples (and the rest of the listening crowd) that we assuming all Jesus said was concerning physical manifestations. No wonder they said “this teaching is difficult.”
The portion that said “the flesh was useless” caused me to question some of my faith foundations, and the concern that I had thought Jesus had for humanity. But no. Jesus is saying your conceptualization that my teachings are about the flesh are wrong. Using flesh metaphors to understand what he was saying is completely useless.
“But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” (Verses 64 – 66)
The writer of the gospel of John has one more barb to throw – that the Creator has pre-ordained who will have spiritual understanding and who will not. I cannot and will not agree to that. Yes, there are those who will never understand spiritual theology; who will not set aside literal & earthly paradigms and take a step of faith. But it a decision born of the own mind and human will, and not a lack of cognitive understanding and theological abilities.
“So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (Verses 67 – 69)
Now this statement by Peter does not confirm his or the other twelve disciples’ understanding. But simply as they struggle to understand, they have committed themselves to believe. An act of will guided and aided by the Holy Spirit of the Divine. So, take that the writer of the gospel of John! Your mystical presentation of Jesus the Messiah does not impede those who wish to believe and follow! Shalom & Selah!