Does this shock you?

November 13, 2013

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am taking the good news today from John 6:60-65.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that this disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

Jesus was speaking in the synagogue at Capernaum and told his disciples, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” Shocking words indeed and hard to accept.

Then he asks them if they would believe it if they saw him ascent to heaven as Moses and Isaiah did. Unlike them, though, he came from heaven as the living bread of life, not as manna in the desert for their forebears. As Moloney writes in The Gospel of John, “Jesus transcends all that Moses said and did. To make God known Jesus has no need to ascend from earth to heaven. He comes from there; he has been there before, and on the basis of his previous union with God his words have ultimate authority.”

However, some of the disciples were assessing Jesus’ words from a physical perspective, not from the spiritual. So, they fail to understand and, therefore, cannot accept his words. They cannot accept that Jesus is living bread, the life-giving spirit of God, the word of God. Moloney adds, “The disciples have seen the miracle of the loaves and the fish, witnessed Jesus’ coming across the waters announcing ego eimi [I am], and heard the discourse on the true bread from heaven. But many of them have found the word of Jesus impossible…and drew away from him. The true disciple is the one to whom discipleship is given by the Father and who believes in the Son. It is not information that makes a disciple, but a Spirit-filled response to the Father made known in the word of Jesus.” Those who are unable to believe, who draw away, are like Judas; they betray Jesus, the word of God.

Discipleship emanates from a Spirit-filled response to God. John’s logic is pretty straightforward. God is spirit. The spirit gives life. Jesus’s words are spirit and life. A disciple understands interiorly Jesus’ words: “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…. I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” If I can accept these words, then I can accept that eternal life is given to me in the eating of Jesus’ body and the drinking of his blood. His word is spirit and life, nourishment sufficient for me to realize the kingdom of God. I can be strengthened instead of shocked.



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