A Difficult Cup to Swallow

Posted: August 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

First off, a special thanks to Rev. Rick Morley for his take on this scripture passage. His insights helped me navigate this text this week (hopefully, I referenced his material correctly as it is unmistakably his take on the text) and in truth I think he communicates much better than myself. I have used his blog as a reference for the weekly devotionals at Arborlawn on several other occasions and am continually impressed with the quality of his work. Check out his blog.

Scripture: John 6:56-69

56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” 66Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus tells all those around him that his flesh would be real food and his blood would be true drink—and all those who would eat his flesh and drink of his blood would receive eternal life. As soon as he says these words, people turn away from him. Even the disciples questioned whether they were truly following the right person – the Messiah whom they believed Jesus to be. They are shocked – offended – ready to turn away from this man they have dedicated their lives to.

To our ears, this scripture is not so outrageous or shocking. We acknowledge the body and blood of Christ each time we receive the sacrament of communion. But for the disciples this was nearly a game ender. Why?

Jesus is blatantly speaking against the Mosaic Law. Leviticus 17:10 states, “If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut that person off from the people.” This commandment was deeply ingrained in the daily life of the people of Israel. In fact, “kosher” meat producers still follow Leviticus 17 today. As Rick Morley points out, “When Jesus says that in order to inherit eternal life you must drink his blood, he was using incendiary language that seemed to go against a millenium of biblical teaching… It would have made some of [his followers] question whether they could still follow him. Could they subject their children to this blasphemous, anti-biblical teaching?”

Blood in the Jewish culture of Jesus day was viewed as dirty, as something that would cut you off from God if it was consumed. They were disgusted by Jesus’ proclamation that disregards Leviticus 17. But Jesus is not discounting the Law, rather he is emphasizing another part of it.

A good part of Leviticus defines how to make a proper animal sacrifice to God. When animals were sacrificed to God certain portions of the carcass were burned on the Altar, while other portions were to the priest or given back to the person making the sacrifice. The blood though was always given to God. Usually it was poured onto the Altar directly. Why? Because God considered it holy. Leviticus 17:14 states, “For the life of every creature—its blood is its life.” Blood is equated with life and life is holy because God gives life.

If it comes from God then it is sacred and holy and good. Life is holy because it comes from God. So when Jesus proclaims, “drink my blood,” what he’s saying is take my life, pour it into your bodies and may it fill your whole being. In essence, each time we drink from the cup, Christ flows within us and his life becomes our own.

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