10 August 2015
Yes more bread! It is indeed fascinating that John's Gospel has such an extended treatment of this subject ... but more on that in a moment.
I seems to be a reasonable conclusion that the people did not really have any concept of the imagery or the depth and breadth of the metaphorical nature of this passage.
An intriguing omission from John's Gospel has always been the last supper account, incorporating the first Holy meal marking the institution of the sacrament of Holy Communion. Instead in John the foot washing incident (which is not mentioned by Matthew, Mark or Luke) takes place on the night of the passover meal. Most commentators regard this whole 'Bread of life' passage as John's version of the Lord's Supper ... which to us as we hear the story now, makes it somewhat easier to comprehend.
When we look at the setting in which John was writing, we start to get a glimpse of why he "goes on" in the way that he does. One of the key objectives in John's writing, was to combat the popular Gnostic movement which adamantly denied the divine nature of Jesus. To them it was not possible for God to be human. Hence the heavy emphasis on "flesh" throughout John to counteract this teaching.
John chapter 6 probably remains at the heart of the great divide between mainstream Christian denominations (along with the other 'words of institution' passsages). These passages are still at the centre of controversy with regard to what Christians believe about Holy Communion ... you see on the one hand it is the 'substance' (pardon the pun) behind the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation - the idea that the bread and wine changes into the substance of the body and blood of Jesus. Lutheran theology on the other hand, uses this passage as the core of the argument for the real presence of Christ. (Sitting in the middle somewhere is a hybrid of these, the doctrine of consubstantiation). A bit sad really, that in 2000 years of Christendom, we cannot agree on this!
Perhaps we can just stay with the idea that when we partake of His Holy meal ... we get the real thing ... not just a symbol or a reminder ... Jesus comes to us in a very special, real and personal way. Let's enjoy!