Monday, August 17, 2009

John 6:56-69 - Lectionary Gospel Lesson for August 23, 2009

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

56"Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." 59He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father." 66Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" 68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."


  1. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

    Back in the 70's when I was Pastor of Stone Church in Elm Grove I preached a sermon one Sunday morning on a familiar resurrection / eternal life text. I believe it was from the Epistle to the Romans. After the service I was standing at the church door greeting people. One of my elders came by, shook my hand, and said. “Pastor, why do I get the feeling that I have just been to a funeral service?”

    The text for the day was one I had used at many funeral services I have read this morningÆs text at all of the committal services I have ever done. “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” They are part of the service in the old Book of Common Worship. They are an optional reading in the new book. I do not consider these words optional. What an appropriate question to raise at the graveside! It is a relevant question at any time.

    This question is an appropriate question in an age when many are leaving the Church to worship other gods -- Mammon (the American way of life), Eros (the goddess of sex and fornication), Minerva (the goddess of wisdom - for the worldly wise who insist that the scientific method rules out the validity of the world of the Spirit), etc.

    But to those of us who cling to GodÆs promises, the words of eternal life are everything. What are those words of eternal life?

    “You sins are forgiven.”

    “I am the resurrection and the life.”

    “, you will be with me in paradise.”

    This week someone sent me an e-mail of a group called Divo singing a familiar Christian hymn. It was filmed against the back drop of the Roman arena where many Christians lost their lives for the faith. As this powerful hymn was sung and the bagpipe played I reflected. ôHow appropriate! The powers of darkness, once thought supreme, have been defeated; and Christianity and her Lord have triumphed! In the place of death is life (Ps. 84: 6). In the video clip they sang:

    Amazing grace, how sweet the sound....

  2. In this segment of the John 6 "bread from heaven" discourse, there is no fully developed covenant and naturalization ceremony comparable to what we see in Joshua 24. This is not surprising, since Christianity did not become a civil religion, a state religion, the religion accepted and imposed upon all who live in the territory controlled by a state or nation until the 4th century -- nearly two and one half centuries after the composition of this text. There is, however, a call for a decision in the words of the Johannine Jesus, "Do you also wish to go away?" The Greek construction of the negative and the indicative mood indicates that a negative answer to Jesus' question is expected. The phrase in John 6:67 could be translated into English as "Perhaps you also wish to go away?" with an emphatic "No!" being expected, or "You do not wish to go away also, do you?"

    Although it is difficult to decide which translation into English is the most satisfactory, any exposition of this text should include an explanation that the Greek construction indicates that a negative answer is expected. The particular translation that we make or use will have a heavy impact on how Jesus is perceived in this text. (Ideally, we should all learn Greek and not translate this sentence at all!) In Greek, English, or any other language, the inflection of the voice as John 6:67 is read is crucial. In this particular setting in the Fourth Gospel, with the always-confident Johannine Jesus as the speaker, possibly the best translation that we could make would be to render John 6:67 as an affirmation, "Perhaps you also wish to go away," rather than as a question. (The Johannine Jesus is presented as knowing everything and has no need to ask anyone for information.)

    At any rate, Peter's response is decisive. "No! There is no one else, Lord, to whom we can go! You have the words of eternal life! And we have decided to believe and to accept that you are the Holy One of God!"