One theme I’ve noticed as we have worked our way through John in these Lenten devotionals is that in his encounters with people, Jesus will tell them who he is, often with illustrations that are difficult for them to understand.
He does that in this passage with an image that may be the most challenging yet: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” I imagine that if I had been a Jewish follower of Jesus, I might have walked away from him long before the garden of Gethsemane—much of his ministry would have looked like rule breaking to my rule-following heart. And I think this teaching probably would have been my breaking point. This is crazy cult leader talk, not to mention a scandalous violation of Jewish law. At the Passover feast before his death, Jesus explained this teaching further with the words we hear every week at the Eucharist:
On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”
But it is not until this side of Easter Sunday, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, that his followers can see how we are truly nourished by his body and blood: he is the Passover sacrifice for our sins. In this season of fasting, we are invited to turn away from food and drink and other things we rely on so that our need for Christ is amplified and we can turn to him to be filled. In doing so, we are often confronted with uncomfortable, even painful realities in our lives. This passage shows us that Jesus is faithful to confront us with the uncomfortable truth when we need it. Like some of his followers then, we may not understand now, but sometimes, when we look back, rays of understanding illuminate hard lessons from the past to show us what God was doing and who he is. Is Jesus confronting you with an uncomfortable reality this Lent?
Lord, as we turn to you in the midst of hunger, pain, and other difficult realities, please nourish us with your body and blood, teach us who you are, and grant us a vision of the last day when you will fulfill your promise to raise us up.
Diana lives in Brookland with Vesta the cat, goddess of the home and hearth. After 12 years in DC, it still surprises her how delightful the city is in the spring.