Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Eat this bread

In the time I spent focussing on Bible study in Taizé, I was fortunate again to be in a group led by Brother John looking at chapter six of the Gospel of John. This chapter includes the feeding of the five thousand, the calming of the storm and a long bit of teaching on “the bread of life”. It was an amazingly apposite text for the week as each day involved the feeding of five thousand young people at Taizé (and trust me the tuna and potato salad looks like there really were only two fish between everybody!), we had plenty of teaching and sharing of bread as well as a very impressive storm.

The final part of the Bible introduction I went to at Taizé focused on Jesus’ teaching on the bread of life. Brother John brought out from this text something I had not connected to before. he talked a lot about what eternal life meant. Eternal life is not that which lasts for ever. Eternal life is that which is like God as God is eternal. It's not about not dying but about living. Brother John also emphasised the sheer shocking nature of Jesus saying he was the bread. To us it may sound odd but Jesus told an audience of Jewish people bound up in laws about eating that they had to drink his blood:
I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; this bread is my flesh, offered so the world may live." Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" they asked. So Jesus said again, "I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them at the last day. For my flesh is the true food, and my blood is the true drink. All who eat my flesh and drink my blood remain in me, and I in them John 6.51-56
Now the idea of eating flesh is fairly shocking but of course to the Jewish people it is even more so as their tradition says they cannot eat meat with blood in it. Yet it was not this that Brother John said which really struck home.

We always associate this passage with the last supper; flesh and blood; bread and wine. Yet this passage comes a long way before the last supper. There is something much more significant about these words. For in eating or drinking something it becomes one with us. Once we have swallowed something within a few hours that is then part of us. This is the kind of food Jesus is talking about. Jesus is asking us to take Him into our lives so completely that it is as if we were one. That really is some challenge. Unless we take Jesus into our lives THAT much we don't have the eternal life. We're not living the life God wants.

So is Jesus so much a part of you that you have consumed that true bread? Is your life eternal?

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