Hunkered Down Devotion

John 6:53-58 (Voice)
Jesus: 53 I tell you the truth; unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not know life. 54 If you eat My flesh and drink My blood, then you will have eternal life and I will raise you up at the end of time. 55 My flesh and blood provide true nourishment. 56 If you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you will abide in Me and I will abide in you. 57 The Father of life who sent Me has given life to Me; and as you eat My flesh, I will give life to you. 58 This is bread that came down from heaven; I am not like the manna that your fathers ate and then died! If you eat this bread, your life will never end.

When Christianity was a new and mostly unknown religion, most of their worship services were held in private.  In some cases they weren’t just private, they were in secret, because of fear of oppression and persecution.  But even in places where Christianity was allowed, many churches only allowed those who weren’t baptized members of the church entry into part of the service.  

It was common practice for the Eucharist or communion to be celebrated as part of every worship service for these communities.  It was this part of the service that was usually reserved only for members.  Catechumens, who were believers that were not yet baptized, would undergo a year long process similar to our confirmation, filled with training, discipleship and instruction.  This process usually culminated with the Easter vigil, where the Catechumens would stay for the Eucharist and partake in communion for the first time.  

This semi-secrecy, which lead to rumors and guesses about what happened in worship, combined with passages like the one above lead to some pretty crazy theories and accusations about the early church, including that they were literally cannibals.  Without any context, you can see how the words from Jesus in John 6 could be seen to support just such an idea.

I don’t think anyone today, Christian or not, is under the impression that Christian worship involves cannibalism.  Which is a relief.  But, I am almost as equally sure that we don’t all fully grasp what these words from Jesus actually do mean.

If asked, most Christians would likely say Jesus is foreshadowing the Lord’s supper, and that sacrament is about remembering and giving thanks for his sacrifice for us on the cross.  Those are certainly elements of what is involved, but perhaps not the full scope of the meaning and power of Jesus instructions here.

Jesus uses these words to underline the point that it isn’t enough to simply believe in him. Following Jesus is about more than an intellectual ascent to a set of beliefs.  Jesus Christ calls us to a way of life that is more than that, being a Christian requires up to go further than that.  

We are called to ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ Jesus in every area of our lives.  Our lives – and every aspect of those lives – is to be based on him.  Jesus is telling us that we are to rely and depend on him in every way, and at all times.  

In this case, he was making the point that intellectual belief in him is not enough. He called the people to go further than that—to base their entire lives, their very survival, on him and his words. To “eat” and “drink” Jesus is to depend on him in every aspect of our lives.  To look to him for guidance not just about ‘spiritual’ matters, but in every matter.  

Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer: Lord, help us to rely on you for sustenance in every area of our lives, because you are all that we need. Amen.

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