This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on August 30, 2015.
When considering a text such as this one, it is perilously easy for us to “get up on our high horses” and begin with thoughtless critique and dismissal of the “dead legalism” of the Jewish leaders portrayed in this encounter. There is much to be learned and appreciated by trying to understand their perspective before looking at how Jesus reframed it.
After the exile, the religious leaders of the Jews said to themselves, “Never again will we allow our people to so disregard God’s Law that cataclysmic judgment falls on our nation. In order to prevent the people’s breaking of ‘the Big Laws,’ we’ll set up a hedge or a fence of smaller guidelines that will keep people far away from such transgression.” These guidelines began to accumulate as “the tradition of the elders” (7:3), and were eventually written down in the third century A.D. as the Mishnah. Various commentators include samples of these traditions in their expositions of this text.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on August 23, 2015.
(This is the third of three reflections on Jesus’ “I am the bread of life” statements in John 6, and all three really need to be read together.)
John 6 opens with thousands of excited people who have witnessed Jesus’ miracle of multiplication and have been generously fed by His hand. The chapter ends with most of these persons having defected and with just the inner circle of the Twelve, who are as surprised and offended by Jesus’ teaching as everyone else… and one of them is rapidly moving toward the disillusionment that will lead to betrayal.
With Jesus’ repeated affirmations that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (6:56), many of those who were following Jesus pushed “eject.” “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” they asked. Not only was Jesus speaking in offensive—even heretical—ways, but He was challenging the structures of power with such boldness that it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see how this confrontation was going to end, and most of Jesus’ previously enthusiastic followers got out while they still could.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on August 16, 2015.
(This is the second of three reflections on Jesus’ “I am the bread of life” statements in John 6, and all three really need to be read together.)
Our text begins with Jesus’ shocking affirmation that He is “the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh . . . .” (6:51).
It is really not possible for Gentile Westerners to fully appreciate the shock and consternation precipitated by this statement. Jesus was speaking to Jews, for whom the consumption of animal blood had been forbidden for over a thousand years (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17, 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:23-24). As offensive as the idea of drinking human blood and eating human flesh are to us today, the horror with which Jesus’ Jewish audience received these words is beyond all imagining.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on August 9, 2015.
(This is the first of three reflections on Jesus’ “I am the bread of life” statements in John 6, and all three really need to be read together.)
One of the first things to note about a text is the context in which it appears. This important text, recorded only in John, takes place on the day after the feeding of the 5,000 (the only miracle appearing in all four gospels; Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15), and after Jesus has crossed the Sea of Galilee during the night by walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-54; John 6:16-24). John’s account of these events includes significant parallels with Moses (being in the wilderness; miraculous manna in the wilderness; climbing the mountain to be with God; miraculous crossing of the sea). These parallels are prelude to the fact that a new covenant, superior to the covenant that came through Moses, is about to take place.