In John 6, Jesus has a long discourse on the manna that God gave Israel in the wilderness. But Jesus says that he is the true bread from heaven. The Israelites ate the manna and are dead (6:49, 58). Notice what the Jews do: he says that he is the true bread from heaven, the bread of life, and then the Jews complain (6:41). He says again that he is the bread come down from heaven and the bread that he gives is his flesh for the life of the world, and then the Jews quarrel among themselves, asking how he can give his flesh to eat (6:51-52). These Jews are just like Israel of old complaining and quarrelling and asking whether God can give them bread and meat! Jesus says that he can and he has, and itís standing right in front of them! Finally, notice the reoccurring emphasis on the resurrection (6:39-40, 44, 54, 58). Remember what we said about the manna being a taste of Canaan while Israel was still in the wilderness. Jesus says that ďeatingĒ him consists of believing in him (6:35-36, 40, 47-48) and of course we know from later in the gospel that Jesus will identify his flesh and blood with the bread and wine of the Passover meal. How is it that old Israel ate the manna and died, but we who feed upon Christ will live forever? The answer is the resurrection. In an important sense we are like Israel in the wilderness, freed from the bondage of Egypt and beginning the conquest of the land. But now, when are not yet fully settled in the land, God gives resurrection life now by seating us at his table, giving us a taste of that honey that will one day characterize this world. The problem with some views of the Eucharist is that they tend to make the bread and the wine mechanical operations that download or inject some nebulous substance called grace (as if it were medicine) into our systems. The Eucharist is the communion in the body and blood of Jesus; here God gives us the true bread from heaven. But we are not communing with magical powers or forces or just grace in general. The grace that God gives us is Jesus. We are communing with a person. Jesus told the Jews that the bread of heaven was standing right in front of them and they didnít believe him (6:35). To eat at this table is to fellowship with Jesus; it is to abide in him and for him to abide in us. Do not grumble, do not complain, and do not ask how God is able to do this. Believe in Jesus, believe that he died and rose again so that you may live forever. Believe the word of God and come, eat, drink, and give thanks. Jesus is the life of the world.
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