Christ is risen!
In the ancient Roman Empire there were three charges the authorities used to persecute the early Christians: 1. They were Atheists – You see, the Christians didn’t believe in the pagan gods. 2. They were incestuous – They had weekly “love feasts” and called each other brother and sister. 3. They were cannibals – They ate someone’s flesh and drank someone’s blood.
Talk about misinformation!
And yet, in the pagan world of the early Church, the Christians loved one another and they loved even the unloved in that pagan society. The Christians rescued unwanted children left exposed and left to die. The Christians fed the hungry no matter who they were, Christian or not. The Christians cared for the sick and dying no matter who they were. The Christians were Christian indeed! And their witness transformed the entire Empire! But still, there were those who simply didn’t understand what Christianity was all about. Did the Christians really eat flesh and drink blood? Well, yes, kind of. We still do, but it’s eternal food and not just “daily bread.”
Look at our lesson today in John 6:48-54:
The Lord said to the Jews who believed in him: “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
This is one of those passages that I really struggled over before my conversion into Orthodoxy. I mean talk about inconvenient wording here, Lord! Jesus isn’t very ambiguous at all. And His audience is thinking exactly what you’re thinking and what I had thought! This is a hard saying Lord.
Yes, it is, UNTIL we press out what exactly is going on.
Look how Jesus begins this passage. He starts by saying He is the Bread of Life. Then He immediately compares this Bread He’s talking about with the bread the Jews ate in the wilderness after they had left Egypt all those centuries ago. His audience knows this story well. They know how God had sent bread from heaven called “manna” (it literally means “what is it?”) every day. The Jews gathered the bread every morning, but only what they were going to use for that day. They were given “daily bread” every morning but weren’t allowed to store any of the bread up because it was rotten by the next day! The Jews ate this miracle bread but they still suffered physical death.
Jesus promises that He is Living Bread that is eternal and if you eat this Bread, you will never die!
No wonder the Lord institutes the Eucharistic meal to mystically participate in the eating and drinking of His flesh and blood. No wonder God marries the physical and spiritual together SO THAT we will see our whole lives, not just our souls, saved and transformed by His Eternal Life in us. We who mystically see our offering of bread and wine filled up with His Life Creating Presence at the Holy Eucharist are given these powerful witnesses that God can and does take our lives and transforms them by Grace to become “like Him” SO THAT we will enjoy Him forever!
Today, Jesus isn’t kidding. He isn’t speaking in metaphor. He means what He says. Unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood you have no life in you! How can you do that? Go to your nearest Orthodox Church Sunday and you’ll see for yourself how we are regularly becoming Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. This beautiful Faith is the heart’s desire of everyone on earth. But how are they ever to know that unless we provide them with ways to hear this wonderful message? That’s what you help do when you empower us to create these outreach tools through Faith Encouraged Ministries. Please help us during this Annual Pascha Appeal! Thank you.