Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cannibals

continued from the prior post

The day after Jesus and the apostles crossed over the Sea of Galilee, the crowd couldn't figure out where Jesus was, since the apostles had taken the only boat. John's gospel says they had to walk along the shore to find some more boats, and "they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." So why does everyone chase after Jesus? 'Cause they want another miracle? Yes, I think so; but Jesus isn't going to give them one. Instead he's going to take advantage of their excitement to do some teaching. Knowing they're still fired up about the free food, Jesus says, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you..." And the crowd thinks, ummm...ok! They have no idea what he's talking about yet, but they have miracle food on their minds, and they remember a very old food miracle...in the desert...40 years...Oh, manna! Yes! They say, "Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Now that'd be a deal: 40 years of free food, courtesy of Jesus. "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?" And Jesus says "my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always," as in ok, fine, whatever, just give us the miracle bread already.

But Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." Enough prophet-talk, please...now, about the bread?  "The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus is puttin' on airs. Now "murmur" is when people grumble and complain to each other about someone else. The Israelites murmured, griped, about Moses before the manna miracle, and now they're griping about a food miracle again.

But Jesus goes on: "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die." What? What bread? I don't see any bread!  "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."  It gets worse by the minute! Now Jesus expects people to eat him like bread? They...are...getting...aggravated! Yes! "The Jews then argued among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Now, when someone in the Bible says something more than once, they're emphasizing how important it is. Jesus has just said that they must eat heavenly bread, which if it's his flesh means...they have to eat Jesus? Yes. Now y'all count out loud each time Jesus says that; he's said it once already. So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man [two!] and drink his blood, you have no life in you"  More aggravation: now they have to eat his flesh and...drink his blood? Yes. Girls, how about it? Ewww, gross!  "he who eats my flesh [three!] and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." Now many Christians believe that Jesus was speaking symbolically; nobody had to literally chew him up and swallow him. But then Jesus says, "For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink," so we know he's not meaning it symbolically. Then, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood [four!] abides in me, and I in him." What's abide mean? To live? Yes..abide means not just to be alive, but to dwell, like in a house, an abode. So if Jesus says we'll abide in him and he in us, what's he mean? Umm...that we live in each other's house? Yes, that each one of us dwells in Jesus; and Jesus dwells in us. He'll be at home in us. "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me [five!] will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread [six!] will live for ever." Living forever- what's that about? Is everyone confused yet?

I don't think anything else in the Bible was said six times in a row, so we can be sure Jesus is as serious as cancer about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. At this point almost everyone is...aggravated! Yes. And offended. Disgusted, even. "Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it? After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him." This is the first time the Gospels say Jesus lost followers. I probably would have left too. Eating people and drinking blood; it's too awful even to hear about.

But not everyone left: "Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Go on, take off if it's too tough for ya. Guess who answers this question? Peter? Yes! "Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." I like Peter...does he understand all this cannibal talk? No? Right, he's as disturbed as anyone else. He doesn't understand Jesus, but he has faith in Jesus even if he doesn't understand.

Somebody tell me though where Jesus is bread and people eat his flesh & drink his blood. At Mass! Yes, we know how this all turns out. But on that day, and for another couple of years, the apostles did not know how it would turn out, did not know how what Jesus said could possibly be true. But they had...faith! Yes.

A few days later Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" Son of Man is an Old Testament way that Jesus refers to himself.  And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Everybody's got an opinion about Jesus: he raised the dead and performed food miracles like Elijah, baptized like John, and aggravated the scribes and Temple staff like Jeremiah.  "He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Who's gonna answer this? Peter! Yes, as usual the Gospels show Peter is the #1 apostle.  "Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Tell me, what's the Hebrew word for Christ? Anointed! Yes, in English, good; what's the Hebrew? Messiah! Yes, so Peter is saying Jesus is...the Messiah? Yes the one all the Jews have been waiting for. "And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." Notice Jesus doesn't call him Peter. And Peter didn't figure this out on his own like a genius, but what? God told him! Yes; God is giving Peter some special guidance that he isn't giving the other 11. Tell me what Jesus says next. Thou art Peter...and upon this rock I build my church!  Yes! At this moment Jesus changes Simon's name to Peter, which means...rock. Right. Do we ever say, "Peter broke the window with a peter?" What? Do we say, "I stubbed my toe on a peter"? Ha! We say rock. Right. We might also say stone. 'Peter' is just a name to us in English. But let's see... ¿Quién aquí habla Español? Who speaks Spanish? Me! OK m'ija, digame, cómo se llama Peter en Español? How do we say Peter in Spanish? Pedro. Yes...who already knew Pedro is Spanish for Peter? Almost everybody, good. [I write Peter and Pedro on the board] Hija, when Jesus changes Simon's name to Pedro, how does he say 'rock'? Roca. Oops, sorry, how does he say 'stone'? Oh...piedra! He says "piedra". Yes, 'piedra' [piedra goes on the board beside Pedro]. Y'all see, it's more clear in Spanish that Peter is the Rock, the Stone, the words are almost the same. And by the way, how do the French say Peter? Pierre? Yes, Pierre, which is also exactly how they say stone [Pierre goes on the board under Peter, Pedro, and piedra]. It's perfectly clear to the French that Peter is the Stone. In French you can say, "Pierre broke the window with a pierre." And at the port in Charleston there are piers; what do think they're made of? Stone? Yes, and concrete too, but you see where the word comes from.

Now we know in the Bible that a name-change is a big deal, from Abram to...Abraham, yes; from Sarai to... Sarah, and Jacob to...Isaac? Close, starts with an I...Israel! Yes. In each case they got blessings and authority. So when Simon's name changes to Rock, he gets...blessings and authority. Yes. And about his Church Jesus says, "the powers of hell shall not prevail against it;" which means...bad stuff won't happen to the Church? Almost. It means that even though bad stuff may happen, that in the end...the Church will be ok? Yes.  Then Jesus tells Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Honorary sons & daughters, what's the business with St. Peter and the keys? Well, Jesus gave him the keys. Yes, to his car? Jesus didn't have a car! Peter got the keys to heaven. Oh yeah, heaven. I bet they were huge keys, heaven being so big and all. They weren't real keys. Well, put it this way, heaven is a spiritual place, so the keys would be spiritual not physical, but they might still be real. If I give you the keys to my car or my house, then you're in charge and you can do....whatever I want? Yes; but if you are trustworthy you'll try to do what's right. Somebody tell me the story about King Hezekiah...the story about the keys we acted out a couple of months ago...where he gave the keys to the other guy? Yes, the names are hard to remember. King Hezekiah took his keys back from Shebna, the dishonest prime minister, and gave them to Eliakim. King Hezekiah said,"I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open." This is like Jesus telling Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." And when the apostles heard Jesus say that to Peter, it reminded them that King Hezekiah put Eliakim in charge of his kingdom the same way. I bet they were thinking, "Ooh, Jesus is quotin' Isaiah again... he's putting Peter in charge of everything!" Now did Jesus put Peter in charge of the kingdom of Judea, or Israel? No, he was in charge of the kingdom of heaven. Yes. It's amazing that Jesus would put a sinful human in charge of heaven, and let him bind and loose "whatever." How could Jesus be ok with that? He'd watch out for him? Yes, we saw how God gave only Simon the knowledge that Jesus was the Messiah; and then Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter to indicate his new authority. So it's reasonable to think Jesus will provide his new prime minister guidance so he won't make a mess out of heaven or Jesus's church, and the gates of hell won't prevail against it.

 Class over!

3 comments:

David Peru said...

I enjoy being led through John 6 by your post, especially your use of the responses of the people in John 6 ("Enough prophet-talk, please...now, about the bread?" and "Now Jesus expects people to eat him like bread?" and "At this point almost everyone is...aggravated! Yes. And offended. Disgusted, even.").

As an evangelical I have been taught since day one that the Eucharist (what we call the Lord's Supper or Communion) is only symbolic. Only in the past few years have I been made familiar with this more literal reading of John 6 thanks to Catholics. I think the responses of the people are a strong indication of Jesus truly meant.

On top of that, the style in which you wrote it escapes some of the incredibly dry, overly academic treatments of the texts (though those are much needed). Though not as in-depth, your writing here hit a little closer to home.

I'm curious, you say you are into catechesis (I'm still very new to Catholic lingo, so be patient with me if I am mistaken). Does this mean you teach the faith? As in a classroom setting to children or teens or new converts?

If so, I'm curious, do they generally accept this more literal interpretation of the text naturally or is it something that takes them time to "see" in the text. As a youth pastor, I'm always curious about these things.

kkollwitz said...

Hey thanks for your substantial comments; some responses:

Yes, I teach what I call Wednesday Sunday School, I'm a catechist (comes from Greek katachein, "thoroughly sounding," as in a series of questions & answers between a teacher and students. This post, and most of the rest, are condensed versions of my classes. I record them and then write a post for each class. This year we're going through the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, using only the Bible as a resource.

My kids are mostly 6th-graders (some older) who vary from being well-formed Christians to some who know very little at all.

Most of the kids are raised with at least nominal faith in the literalness of John 6 & by extension, the Eucharist. Part of class is to not just accept that, but to understand it (and other thing Jesus said or did). Not with 20-20 hindsight but by going through what Jesus' listeners would have thought and done, not by having thorough understanding, but by having faith.

Magister Christianus said...

@KK...thank you for directing me to this post.

@David...I know what you mean. Growing up Evangelical, I always understood Communion to be purely symbolic, but the fact of the matter is, there is just not much to support that view. 2000 years of history, not to mention the words of our Lord themselves, all point to something more than mere memorial. I think you are right on the money about the responses of the people. If what He had said were not to be taken literarlly, then what was there to be offended by?