Tuesday After the Fourth Sunday in Lent John 6:48-71
TUESDAY AFTER THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
When Paul wrote these words, a quarter of a century had passed since the Jews quarreled with Jesus in Capernaum. Paul could now refer to uncontestable truths that all Christians were acquainted with, but when Jesus first spoke about these things in Capernaum, He aroused violent offense. John was possibly the first to understand his Master. That's why he was so eager to explain in his Gospel what Jesus meant.
John understood that the feeding of the five thousand in the wilderness alluded to the coming kingdom where Christ would nourish and give life to thousands upon thousands of people. He wouldn't just give them something comparable to manna in the desert. Jesus would give bread that afforded eternal life. He was this bread. "And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh" (John 6:51).
John understood that Jesus referred to two things when He said He would give His life so the world would live. He was talking about His death on the cross and about the Lord’s Supper, which He would institute the evening before His death. This is why He didn't just speak about His body in Capernaum, but also His blood. He would give the invisible gifts in the bread and wine that were a part of Him and all He had to give. Paul would later call this a participation of Christ's blood and body (1 Corinthians 10:16).
The Jews in Capernaum misunderstood. They understood it as something that since has been called a "Capernaistic eating", a purely literal consumption of a piece of flesh. But Jesus says, "The flesh is no help at all" (John 6:63). By flesh He means the created and the material, not the bread of life. In a sense, it's still like bread and nourishment in that it's something we're in constant need of. We can't eat enough bread to satisfy us once and for all. We constantly need nourishment for the sustenance of life. In the same way, the life Christ gives is constantly needed. It can be compared to the blood that pulses through our veins and to bread that we eat.
And here Jesus offers more than a metaphor. He gives an outer sign, a Sacrament, a means of grace, through which we can receive Him and His life. There is an invisible gift in the bread we eat and in the wine we drink. The bread and the wine remain the same earthly substance as before, but under the visible exterior of the visible material, Christ hides the gifts that He alone can give.
Lord, they said this sermon was a tough one to take. They no longer wanted to follow You. But I say what Peter said: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). I thank You because You have so much more to give than I can imagine. I thank You because Your reality is much greater than my common sense can conceive. I gratefully receive everything You have to give. I praise You because You come to me so I can see Your gifts with my own eyes, receive You, and be one with You. You are the bread of life and have come to me so I can be with You and You with me. Praise be to You for Your unspeakable and incomprehensible gifts. Amen.