3rd week in Easter, Saturday – 2nd May 2020 — Gospel: John 6, 60-69
Only real option for the disciples
As this section begins, Jesus’ own disciples declare his teaching to be “hard,” (6,60) and later we find, many of them turn away from him (6,66). What is it that they find difficult in Jesus’ teachings? Since the disciples didn’t have the prior experience of the Eucharist, they only understood his words on a literal level; that he is referring to cannibalism. They identified Jesus with physical bread, but not as spiritual food that gives eternal life. Only modern readers are conditioned to link Jesus’ words “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood” (6,56) as reference to the Lord’s Supper. However, the word ‘complain’ (6,61) is cognately used in Exodus to describe the Israelites grumbling or complaint against God and Moses in the wilderness (Ex 15,24; 16,2).They did not trust God to take care of them and their drama continued for water, food, and physical safety. Similarly, the disciples reject Jesus by responding to him just as the Israelites responded to manna. Like the Israelites, they have experienced God’s miraculous provision (6,1-13), but they lacked trust in God: “Some of you do not believe” (6,64). Unlike the Israelites, the disciples are shown in this passage as the ones who “abide/believe” in Jesus. They wish to remain with Jesus even though his teaching is difficult. They recognize Jesus’ words as life giving and never want to turn away from him. Like the Israelites stuck in the wilderness, whose only option is to return to slavery, the disciples’ only real option is: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (6,68).