Passage: John 6:41-59
The initial reaction to Jesus’ announcement that he is the bread of life is grumbling. “You’re not so special, and what you’re saying doesn’t make sense to us.” Jesus does not seem worried whether they accept him or not.
Some struggled with how Jesus could have come down from heaven. Wasn’t he born to Mary and Joseph? Others in John’s late first century context struggled with the idea that he had truly become human at all. The Gospel of John walks this middle path between the two extremes. Yes, Jesus was “born of water” like all other human beings. He really had flesh and blood like the rest of us. Yet he also came down from above. He shared the glory of our Father in heaven before the world began (17:5). Christians believe both affirmations are essential. Jesus has the same substance as us, yet Jesus also shares the same substance with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Some in the Roman Catholic tradition have read these verses as an allusion to the elements of communion literally becoming the body and blood of Jesus in some way—“unless you eat the flesh… and drink his blood” (6:53). Jesus’ death probably was in view, but the vividness may have been directed at an early false teaching called Docetism. Docetists believed that Jesus only seemed to be human, that he was really a spirit being that had disguised himself to look like us. They thought matter was evil and thus that Jesus could not have been sinless if he had flesh. John consistently undermines this way of thinking (e.g., 1:14). Our bodies may be weak but they are not inevitably sinful in themselves.
It is hard to watch someone whom you once thought was an equal grow to prominence. “Isn’t this Joseph’s boy? I remember him when he was running around playing with sticks.” None of us will ever see any of our childhood friends grow up to be the Son of God, but we may very well have friends who go on to experience a prominence greater than our own. It is easy to get jealous—which we often mask by criticism or grumbling. Of course, the rising star can also get arrogant, which is just as inappropriate. In all these things it is important to recognize that our praiseworthiness depends on what we do with what God has given us, not on what we have.
Father, free us from jealousy toward those with greater status than we have or who are more gifted at something than we are.
“There should be no division in the body, but… its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Cor. 12:25-26