Monday, August 3, 2009

John 6:35, 41-51 - Lectionary Gospel Lesson for August 9, 2009

This is my own translation of the lectionary gospel lesson for Sunday. Please make any comments concerning the passage you want. Together, let's discuss the Word of God:

35Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. The one who comes to him will absolutely never be hungry and the one who believes in me will absolutely never be thirsty ever."

41Now the Jews were grumbling concerning him because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven," 42and they said, "This is Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we ourselves know, isn’t he? Then how does he say, ‘From heaven I have come down?’ 43Jesus answered and said to them, "Don’t grumble among yourselves. 44No one is able to come to me, unless the father who sent me might draw him, and I will rise him up on the last day. 45It has been written in the prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ All who heard from the father and have learned come to him, 46not that anyone has seen the father except the one who is from the father. He has seen the father.

47"Amen, amen, I say to you, the one who believes has life eternal. 48I am the bread of life. 49Our fathers ate in the wilderness and died. 50This is the bread which comes down from heaven so one might eat from it and might not die. 51I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If one might eat from that bread, then he will live into the ages. And the bread which I myself will give is my flesh for the life of the world."


  1. Within the similarities and differences between this account in John 6:35, 41-51 and the Mark 6:1-6a account describing activities of Jesus in his hometown, we can see the distinction between "the Jesus of history" and "the Christ of faith." In the Mark 6 account there is still a recollection of Jesus, the Jesus of history, as a son of Joseph, as a 1st century Jewish religious and political figure whose father Joseph and mother Mary had been known to other Jews in the village of Nazareth. In John 6:35, 41-51, however, and throughout the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is the Christ of faith, the Son of God who is said to have pre-existed before the foundation of the world was laid, who was the Logos, the "Word" by which the world was called into being. As the Christ of faith in John 6, Jesus is presented as having an exclusivistic claim to God as Father, as one who comes from God and has seen God. It is affirmed that no one can come to Jesus as the Christ unless God the Father draws that person to Jesus as the Christ, and that Jesus as the Christ of faith will raise such a person from the dead on the last day. The person who "eats" of this "bread from heaven" will not die. Jesus the Christ as this "bread from heaven" is far superior to the manna that the fathers of the 1st century Jews had eaten in the wilderness, for although they ate they still died. According to John 6, the bread that the Johannine Jesus as the Christ of faith will give for the life of the world is the flesh of the Christ of faith, the Lamb of God who in Johannine terms "takes away the sin of the world."

    When this John 6:35, 41-51 text is read and when it forms the primary basis for the worship service, we have an obligation to the people of the congregations in which we serve to say something about the theological development that occurred between perceiving Jesus as the Jesus of history, one among several sons of Joseph and his wife Mary, and Jesus as the Christ of faith, the only-begotten Son of God. If we do not indicate this development and show that we are aware of this distinction, we shall be propagating the longstanding and non-productive anti-Jewish polemic that is associated with this text. If we do not share some of our understanding of this theological development and of this distinction in perceptions of Jesus, we shall simply be promulgating supersessionistic anti-Jewish polemic without helping the thinking people within the congregations in which we serve to come to a better understanding of the process in the development of their Christian religion as the impact that the Jesus of history had made on some of his followers was shaped by the inspiration of God into belief in Jesus as the Christ of faith, one with God, through whom salvation and eternal life is offered to all of us.

  2. "I am the bread of life....I am the living bread which came down from heaven...."

    Interesting to me is the fact that in this passage we read of Jesus as 1. the bread, and 2. as the LIVING bread which came down from heaven. There is a distinction between bread and living bread as there was between water and living water in John 4. Somewhere I read that living water meant running water (contrast the running Jordan with the Dead Sea). Bread does not run but there is a difference between a fresh piece of multigrain bread which I had for lunch the day before yesterday, and the crust of dry, moldy bread I found in the back of my refrigerator recently when I was cleaning it out. No telling how long it had been there. It was DEAD BREAD! The living bread interacts with my body and nourishes it, just as the Spirit of Christ interacts with and nourishes my soul (spirit).

    One of my early childhood memories, and my earliest memory of Vacation Bible School (we had VBS here last week), is of a Summer morning at Calvin Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia (1945 or 46). Each morning we had a closing exercise conducted by the Rev. Arthur Herries, our Pastor. Calvin Church was built on a modified Akron plan. There was an auditorium with balcony and classrooms around the sides and back. There was an elevated platform in the front. Mr. Herries was up on the platform and faced over a hundred children and their teachers. This particular day his children's sermon was on I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. His prop was a loaf of white bread from the local supermarket. At the end of his message he asked. "Who wants this loaf of bread?' A hundred pairs of hands raised up in response. He picked up the loaf of bread and threw it underhanded into the air. It arched high above our heads. (I was off to the right side . From that perspective I could see all the many hands lifted up to receive the bread. Up, up, up it went. It arched and then came down, down, down as if from heaven. One of the taller and more athletic boys jumped up and caught the loaf of bread.

    That image of all those children's hands, uplifted to receive the bread, has remained etched in my mind to this day over 60 years later. Today in the 21st century, all over the world, children are still raising their hands for bread. Many do not get one meal a day. A crust of bread would be welcome. Many of those uplifted hands need the bread of life as well. The Spirit of God has or will touch them. How much are we doing to see that the bread of life (the Living Bread) is shared with them? What are you doing?

    For those celebrating the Lord's Supper this Sunday when John 6 is read, I would share the words of a verse written by Thomas Aquinas, the medieval saint, who has been called a "Doctor of the Church" by the Catholic Church. These words can be sung to the tune Cwm Rhondda (Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah) with a slight alteration of repeating the last few words of the last line, or Regent Square (Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation). It also fits with "Jesus Friend, so kind, so gentle" (451 Red Hymnbook). Note the words of that hymn if the focus is one children! But here are four of the verses penned by Thomas Aquinas who gave up writing his Summa Theologica to devote himself to the life of prayer:

    Of the glorious body telling, O my tongue its mystery sing; And the blood, all price excelling, which for this world's ransoming In a noble womb once dwelling, he shed forth, the Gentile's King.

    Given for us, for us descending of a virgin to proceed, Man with man in converse blending scattered he the Gospel seed: Till his sojourn drew to ending which he closed in wondrous deed.

    At the Last Great Supper Seated, circled by his brethren's band, All the Law required, completed, in the feast its statutes planned. To the Twelve he himself provided their food with his own hand.

    Honor, laud and praise addressing to the Father and the Son, Might ascribe we virtue, blessing, and eternal benediction; Holy Ghost from both progressing, equal laud to Thee be done.

    Mac McCuen