“The bread I will give you for the life of the world is my flesh”
We continue on this most extraordinary piece of writing in John’s gospel. When any minister places a piece of bread or a wafer in a person’s hand we are used to one of the stock phrases “the body of Christ” but what if I or anyone else was to say “the flesh of Christ” I think that would evoke a very different feeling.
I think the reason that the word flesh is used is to hammer home the fact that Jesus was flesh and blood just like us. He is just like us – a human being.
This means that we commune as Christians with the very humanity of Jesus. There is a transformed human being in the new creation – not a disembodied spirit or soul unsullied by a real human body.
Jesus was not an angel – he was a human being and nowhere in the New Testament is that fact made more starkly than here. John is making absolutely clear here that in his own words of the prologue to his gospel the word did indeed become “flesh”. Jesus was a human being.
But this has to be held in tension with something else written in this gospel in John 6:63. “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is useless” This echoes Paul’s contention in 1 Corinthians 15:50 that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”
These things have to be held in a dramatic tension. What John and Paul are trying to convey is the central truth of the resurrection. Jesus was a man and in his resurrection - He was a man transformed – given a spiritual body – which is still a body but different. A body that was not immediately recognisable for example – by either Mary Magdalene or the disciples on the road to Emmaus. A body that could enter locked rooms – appear in different locations at the same time.
This human being became a “transformed” human being – the first fruit and template for each and every one of us. This should give us great hope. Jesus was flesh and blood just like us but God raised him and if He raised Jesus he will raise us.
That I think is the great message that John wants us to take from this. You will be raised into a transformed existence because you and Jesus were no different – we are both flesh and blood.
Jesus’ resurrection will be ours too. Jesus says “I will raise you up on the last day”.
That is future tense but the last verse of this extract is even more surprising. “But the one who eats this bread will live forever” Living forever in John’s gospel means having eternal life “now”. The technical term for this approach in John’s gospel is called “Realised escatology”
All we need to understand is that not only will we be raised to a new transformed life but that life to come can be tasted now by communing with the Lord of life. “Life in all its fullness” is another phrase that Jesus in John’s gospel uses to describe how now in this life you can connect, or plug in, to the very life of God and get a foretaste of eternal life in this present life and get a taste of what is in store for us all in the New Creation when we commune with Jesus. A communion with Life itself – a communion with God – a communion with the source of life itself.
For John has already said in his prologue. “In him was life. And that life was the light of all mankind”.