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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 6:41–51

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (NRSV)

There is much in the Gospel of John that I love. Yet there also is much that can be troubling. Sometimes we have to dig through layers of culture and context to find the beauty. I often can’t find the beauty without naming the ugly. If one is not careful, this text could be used to justify Christian supremacy. At this point in the text, the church does not exist and Jesus and his disciples are having a dialogue with their Jewish peers—because Jesus and the disciples were Jewish. The writer of John seeks to convince the readers of Jesus’ divinity. In his perspective, we find wisdom and meaning. But we must remember that when we read John criticizing “the Jews” in gross generalizations, that’s a problem we must not repeat towards Judaism or any other religion or group of people.

What I love about this passage is Jesus’ bread metaphor. Bread is made through a disruptive chemical reaction—flour, sugar, yeast, water. Its shape physically changes with the combination of ingredients and the appropriate temperature. Although bread tastes and smells delicious, the making of it is disruptive and transformative to its ingredients. Jesus refers to himself as the living bread, which he gives for the life of the world. It’s another way of trying to imagine the power of internalizing Jesus’ message of love, inclusion, justice, and healing. It literally transforms us. We become part of Jesus’ body and can join in the bread-making of the world. It’s hopeful to imagine how a little yeast and a little sugar—a little compassion for one another and the courage to seek change as Jesus did—can really make a difference in this world.

Jesus, nourish us with your bread so that we can be active yeast in this world. Amen.

Written by Abbi Heimach-Snipes, Pastoral Resident

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