“The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” vs. 52
As John tells this story it’s pretty obvious that he has Holy Communion in mind–for him the story of the feeding of the 5000 was a prelude to the meal that would later become crucial for the life of believers. Even early on there were questions about what was happening as the bread and the wine were consumed in communion. For John the answer was easy, the bread was the flesh of Jesus, a radical notion that caused enormous confusion for outsiders. Often the early Christians were accused of cannibalism. To avoid such misunderstanding some believers adopted alternative language and began to refer to Christ’s presence in more spiritual terms. In their understanding, John’s words are not to be taken literally–for them the bread only represents the body of Christ and shouldn’t be thought of as actual flesh. This debate has never really been settled and continues among believers today. Perhaps the best solution is to see the meal as a great mystery and simply celebrate Christ’s real presence without trying to understand it. This keeps it from being a stumbling block to faith and still gives us the opportunity to regularly feast on the Bread of Life. In our eating and our drinking we receive assurance of forgiveness and find strength for purposeful living–and that’s really all we need to know!
Thought for the Day: What do I believe about the Real Presence?