“Does this shock you?” (John 6:61)
In the context of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is referring to his previous words proclaiming that he is the Bread of Life. He exhorts them to eat his body and drink his blood to obtain life. It was bold and unapologetic. He never waivers on his word choice. The word he uses for “eat” in the original Greek literally means “to gnaw”.
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 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. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.
Yes, this shocks me. Everything about Jesus shocks me.
In this chapter alone of the Gospel, it mentions that just after healing the sick, Jesus feeds five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish, then he proceeds to walk on water and identify himself as The Bread of Life. He tells his disciples and those present to eat his flesh and drink his blood to remain in his love. Chapter six ends by saying that many of his disciples deserted him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67)
It stings a little. I can’t imagine the pain and disappointment Jesus feels as he watches his friends walk away from him. It took courage for Jesus to ask a question that leaves him vulnerable to abandonment, but in doing so, he presses into the doubts and fears of his disciples to give them an opportunity to rise above their intellect and respond from their heart. I can’t imagine what they were thinking, and even more so, what they were feeling.
It doesn’t make sense. Nothing about Jesus makes practical sense, not to the human mind. And yet, as this question lingers in thin air, Jesus gives his disciples (and us) the chance to respond.
I must confess that sometimes the question lingers longer than I feel it should. My own frailties of mind, heart, and body fall short – all the time.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
No pause here. The enemy sneaks in to my thoughts. He tries to convince me to be content, stay quiet, do whatever will keep the peace and avoid potential conflict, even if it means compromising my beliefs. He creeps into my weakest places trying to rob me of truth, strip me of courage, and seeks to leave me wounded and broken.
This reality quickly turns my gaze back to the Bread of Life. I need his strength and sustenance to persevere. I depend on his sacrificial love to give me life to the full.
Every. Single. Day.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68)
My heart cries out with his. Jesus, where else would I go?! You are the only one. You are the one who nourishes my soul. You are the one who gives me courage. You are the one who rescues me.
How could I pause for even a moment? It is you, Jesus. You are the bread of life. The cup of my salvation. The one for whom my soul longs for. I will eat your body and drink your blood, to live forever with you.
It is you, Jesus.