If you have been following the lectionary readings for the past four Sundays or so, you must have noticed that the Gospel Readings have come from John, drawing on bread (and bread from heaven), manna and blood. In this Sunday’s reading from John 6:56-69 Jesus speaks of “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood…”
As would be expected, many of his followers found this, not only cryptic – cannibalistic – but also offensive. For the Jews, the Mosaic Law clearly prohibited drinking of blood or eating flesh with blood in it. Furthermore, the Noahide Laws, which apply to all humankind prohibited drinking of blood. The reason for the prohibition was the understanding that blood was actually the source, or sustenance of life.
This gives us a clue as to what Jesus was actually talking about because he could not have been literal – a good lesson for the literalists!
Manna came from heaven too – for sustenance and nourishment – but it was perishable. Union with Christ, which is, actually, the deeper meaning of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, also sustains and nourishes life. Unlike in the case of the manna, though, the life is eternal, not perishable.
It is interesting to examine how some early Christian commentators interpreted this passage which drove away some followers, literally saying, “We cannot take this, we are out of here!”. Read the next post for a synopsis of some early Christian interpretation.