THE RESURRECTION ENCOUNTER

Jesus Holding The Bread“I love God but I hate religion” is a common phrase today.  But religion can have connection if one can find it in its purest from.  If there is a pure form to connect with Jesus, one would hope he knew about it and said something about it . Otherwise he would not be a rightful founder of the Christian faith which includes in its elemental teaching “the resurrection of the dead” (Hebrews 6:2). 

First, in moving from our individual experience of Christ in the power of his resurrection, there is a context to corporate worship being a worship in spirit and truth.  To illuminate this, Christ in his resurrected body took initiative on the day of his resurrection.  He came walking on the road to Emmaus with two disciples who somehow could not recognize him.  He led them through a Bible study about their crucified leader they mentioned and how the Old Testament needed to be fulfilled.  As it got to the end of the day they badly wanted to keep his company though not knowing it was their Lord.  This is what he did. 

When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-34). 

First what we can notice is the structure of it.  It is preceded by an overview of the scriptures with an explanation of their meaning.  In my church we call that the Liturgy of the Word.  Then Jesus is at “table with them”.  This can be a setting for a meal but “table” is often interchangeable in the Old Testament with the word for altar.  So it is allowable for it to be a sacrificial setting.  “He took the bread” possibly could be the todah sacrifice of thanksgiving which in Greek is eucharistia.  Then with “and broke it” is reminiscent of Jesus saying several days ago “this is my body, broken for you” when he proclaimed a new covenant. The main pattern is consistent with the mass or Divine Liturgy in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.  Properly understood, to partake of the Eucharist is a not like partaking of Christ: it is partaking of Christ.

[H]e become a grain of wheat that dies; thus in the Eucharist he makes a gift of himself to all, gives himself to us and is held in out hands as the true Bread of Life.  Thereby the Eucharist becomes seeing, as happened in an exemplary manner to the disciples at Emmaus.  In the breaking of bread we recognize him, and it is as though the scales fall from our eyes. In the Eucharist we behold him whom they have pierced, the bleeding head now wounded (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, On the Way To Jesus Christ, 1994). 

The Greek word used here for “known” is ginōskō again which denotes an enhanced level of intimacy. This is what Jesus was getting at a year before calling people to eat his flesh and doubling down with “gnaw” (trogen).  It continues as a central experience for the early church as we see in Acts  how they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). 

This comes up again with “day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts (Acts 2:46). The author did not repeat anything about apostles teaching, fellowship and prayer but mentions breaking bread.  This is central to a gospel of the kingdom with baptism as the default, material and spiritual entrance and continues with the Eucharist.

So last, we return to Paul.  He told the Corinthians that their disorder in communion offends the Lord’s body but does not say they offend the symbol.  And shortly after his comment to the Philippians about knowing Jesus in the power of the resurrection he says this for the environment of this Christian life. 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7). 

One should keep in mind that it was customary for the letters of Paul to be read in front of a congregation.  If the highlight of their meeting was “the breaking of the bread”, then much is taught here. 

The Lord is at hand– – If the early Christians believed in what is called the Real Presence in how the bread was Christ’s flesh (John 6), then the highlight of Christ coming in communion was substantially at hand. 

with thanksgiving– – The word here is eucharistia. This is where we get Eucharist.  The Greek translation of the Old Testament uses eucharistia for the thanksgiving sacrifice.  This could be just saying thanks, but the other words imply the more likely eucharistic interpretation. 

let your requests be made known to God– – This is connected with the ancient practice of the “prayers of the faithful” which occurs after the Eucharist and has the recurring refrain of “Lord, hear our prayer”.   

the peace of God, which passes all understanding– – This points to the mystery and transcendence of God.  In context of this passage and others, I would suggested the context of this peace was in an early but developing context of the mass. 

This is further suggested to be the case in the early church writings.  Among themes expressed by Ignatius are the Eucharist as a holy, substantial, eternal and a reference point for the on true faith. 

I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life (Ignatius Letter to the Romans 110). 

They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes (Ignatius, Letter to Smyrnaeans, 110). 

And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.

This is also reinforced as a holy work by Justin Martyr. 

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh- – (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66, 154 AD).

And finally with Ireneus we see Eucharist as the summit of faith that brings together the Cross, The Resurrection and the judgment to come. 

And just as a cutting from the vine planted in the ground fructifies in its season, or as a grain of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed, rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things, and then, through the wisdom of God, serves for the use of men, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ; so also our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth, and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time, the Word of God granting them resurrection to the glory of God (Ireneus of Lyon, Against All Heresies, Book V, Chapter 2, 180 AD).

This work of the salvation begins and ends with God.  It is on the terms of Jesus and not religion that man makes up on the fly.  The articulation of it is intimate but also is always in development.  Therein lies the patience of faith. 

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RECONCILIATION

woman-caught-in-adultery

It is a beautiful thing to be reconciled to someone you love when you were in the wrong.  It may feel disempowering to admit ones guilt in the moment but if the other person is of good will then they will forgive you.  Reconciliation in its etymology has a context of thought with the Latin work cilia and can denote a connection like two people that are eyelash to eyelash. 

Within the Christian domain it is likewise hoped for that one can have an ongoing Christian experience of conversion by minding their side of the street and connecting with confession.  A common theme that could be looked at on sacraments is how they are a heavenly language and practice that connects the spiritual and material in harmony.  Such harmony is the fruit of the gospel with a pivotal point on how “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and as we will see also connects to the “laying on of hands” (Hebrews 6:2). 

Walking on the earth Jesus came to set people who were oppressed from sin and this was connected in the gospels several times where he forgave sins and healed in the same encounter.   

For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, take up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men (Matthew 9:5-8). 

This last statement was not a slip in language by the narrative of Matthew.  People were being healed and baptized under the hands of the apostles in Jesus’ ministry. Thus Jesus was able to speak sacramentally on such authority later. Jesus said to 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” (Matthew 16:19). 

In the event that someone is engaged in serious sin and will not repent after the progressive disciple protocol Jesus founded, then excommunication is more than implied. 

“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:17-18). 

So what we have here is the beginning structure of authority in a church that is tangible and would have say on ones standing spiritually in heaven and earth.  But this is not to be a matter of holding something over someone’s head.  A few sentences later Jesus speaks about forgiveness seventy times seven.   As we see below, the context of reconciliation extends from Jesus through the apostolic succession already referred to.  After the Resurrection Jesus puts the sacrament of reconciliation in the context of peace, family, delegated authority and a profound sense of intimacy with God’s mercy. 

[Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:21-23).

We can see how the pattern of Jesus as Apostle and High Priest of the Christian faith hands both the sacraments of healing and reconciliation together beyond just the 12. 

Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Eli′jah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit (James 5:14-18). 

What we see here starts with the anointing of the sick as addressed before but presupposes that there will be forgiveness in that encounter as a predictable, factual thing. 

What is worth addressing from that passage is the idea that they were to “confess your sins to one another” means there is no priesthood needed.  One can draw from both Old and New Testament passages to see the linking theme of sacramental intervention for especially serious sins to compliment this passage.

This command must be interpreted within the context of the anointing rite, where the elders (i.e. priests) presumably hear the confession of the sick person before his sins are remitted through the sacrament.  Such confession has its roots in the liturgical practice of Israel (Lev. 5:5-6, Num 5:5-10) and is implicitly mandated by the teaching of Jesus (John 20:23).

In ongoing church history such an interpretation was reinforced by notable church fathers.     

“The priests of Judaism had power to cleanse the body from leprosy—or rather, not to cleanse it at all, but to declare a person as having been cleansed. . . . Our priests have received the power not of treating with the leprosy of the body, but with spiritual uncleanness; not of declaring cleansed, but of actually cleansing. . . . Priests accomplish this not only by teaching and admonishing, but also by the help of prayer. Not only at the time of our regeneration [in baptism], but even afterward, they have the authority to forgive sins: ‘Is there anyone among you sick? Let him call in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he has committed sins, he shall be forgiven’” (John Chrysostom, On The Priesthood 3:6:190ff [A.D. 387]). 

Still there are allusions to this a few centuries later. 

Let him bring in the presbyters, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he be in sins, they will be forgiven him. . . . (Caesar of Arles, early 500’s. Sermons 13[325]:3). 

I would like to address the emotional arguments now.  As someone who had a Christian life that seemed to be overall formatted well, to go to confession went against ingrained beliefs that translated to muscle memory.  My lifelong principles were that Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man with his intrinsic holiness and no man should ever make it without him.  I can say with confidence that those principles have not changed nor would there be contradiction on this point by a priest in my church.  My pastor has said that if someone goes to him for the sacraments based on the idea that he is intrinsically holy then they will be in trouble with false hope.  A priest is a human element of Christ’s pure priesthood extended on earth as Jesus intended in his post-resurrection message when he breathed on the disciples as shown above.  This is referred to as en persona Cristi (in the person of Christ). Any subsequent counsel I get will be listened to and is not even protected by a mystical infallibility.  Their counsel is not the point, but the mercy of Jesus is. 

So going forward, there is a beauty to confession.  The gospel is indeed good, true and beautiful.  What do you have to lose in doing it except your sin? 

HOLY UNCTION

Anoint-Sick

Anyone who thinks that any religious experience will protect them from problems, they are listening intently to a lie one way or another.  Conversion includes a sense of meaning for ones existence but along the way of life there will be trials and tribulations including all parts of the person.  By that time, if one has received the new birth in baptism, the oil in confirmation for growth then what about the healing and meaning for the rough passages? 

This is among the implied contexts in the formal but general sense as the “laying of hands”  in Hebrews 6:2. 

But this is referred to in an authoritative and objective sense in James. 

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up (James 5:13-15a). 

Someone who is a student of the scriptures may look at this and wonder what is at issue.  After all, Jesus said after his resurrection that laying hands on the sick and seeing them recover would follow those who believe (Mark 16:18 c).

There is a difference between the two contexts.  In Mark 16:18 c the word used here is epitithēmi  for “laying on of” and cheir for “hands”.  The same Greek words are used in Hebrews 6:2.  But we have scriptural means to say that it is a matter of context.

If I am gravely ill, a priest or bishop may come who has been anointed with an indelible mark on their character where they represent the priesthood of Christ which Thomas Aquinas concedes as the ultimate, central priesthood while believing in holy orders.  It is a message for the one receiving that sacrament to have a context that the church on earth and in heaven is praying for him or her.  In such a grave moment, there is the light of the hope of the gospel that is objectively known to happen through church history.  However, as one who has been a charismatic Christian all of my life in different realms of Christianity I can say that laypeople can also lay hands on the sick and have hope for them to recovery. 

There is no impersonation by me of being in any holy orders.  I have known of many people being healed through Christians who did not have holy orders.  However, when it is happening, the context is a subjective experience and does not have the context of someone being set aside to communicate the transcendent and above earth perspective.  Also, if he or she accompanies the healing with some teaching or method that is heterodox then the accountability is harder to enforce with less to lose.  Being suspended from holy orders ministry is a grave issue that is hoped to not happen but at least can with much on the ordinary minister to lose. 

Below we some non-sacramental healing happening that does not conflict with the sacramental perspective. 

With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city (Acts 8:6-8).   

Yes, it is true that Philip the evangelist was in holy orders.  However he was a deacon and not an elder (presbuteros from which is contracted in English etymology as priest). But as we seen in James 5 above, it was expected one could call an elder.  So he was set up on that respect with the same faculties as any layperson. No anointing of oil but God used him powerfully.    

As we see in ongoing church history, the anointing of oil as a sacrament of healing continually affirmed.  In non-sacramental and anti-conformist sensibilities, there could be a revulsion to any uniform ceremony and it must have been developed in the medieval ages.  A look further in church history is going to show them to be historical. 

“And in this [in quo] is fulfilled also what St. James the Apostle says: if any one is sick, let him call in the priests of the Church, and let them lay hands on him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man, and if he be in sins they shall be remitted to him” (Origen,184 AD,  Hom. ii, in Levit., in P.G., XII, 419). 

There was not only an emphasis of form but all of matter in the application.

St. Aphraates, “the Persian Sage”, he wrote of the various uses of holy oil, saying it contained the sign “of the sacrament of life by which Christians [in baptism], priests [in ordination], kings, and prophets are made perfect; [it] illuminates darkness [in confirmation], anoints the sick, and by its secret sacrament restores penitents” (St. Aphraates, Demonstratio xxiii, 3, in Graffin, “Patrol. Syriaca”, vol. I, p. lv, 336-345 AD).

In a biography of St. Augustine, who was a bishop, it is written that Augustine applied this Sacrament of Holy Unction thus.

“[T]he rule laid down by the Apostle that he should visit only orphans and widows in their tribulation (James, 1:27), and that if he happened to be asked by the sick to pray to the Lord for them and impose hands on them, he did so without delay”(Possidius,”Life of Augustine” c. xxvii, in P.L., XXXII, 56). 

By this matter being consecrated by consecrated men, it was understood that anointing oil for healing would effectively be an objective demonstration of God’s power. 

We beseech you, Savior of all men, you that have all virtue and power, Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and we pray that you send down from heaven the healing power of the only-begotten [Son] upon this oil, so that for those who are anointed . . . it may be effected for the casting out of every disease and every bodily infirmity”  (Bishop Serapion 350 AD, The Sacramentary of Serapion 29:1). 

This sacrament that is at its heart Christ founded and Christo-centric has always been tied as a comfort for those leaving the church on earth to the church in heaven with the deathbed context of the Viaticum. 

Concerning the departing, the ancient canonical law is still to be maintained, to wit, that, if any man be at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the last and most indispensable Viaticum” (canon 13). Having repented of our sins and received reconciliation, we travel with the Lord Jesus out of this earthly life and to eternal happiness with him in heaven (Council of Nicaea, 325). 

To discount this quote causes two problems for those who want to discount their implications as part of the historical Christian faith.  First, it is the problem of saying this council was gravely wrong on this but completely right about the other part that defined orthodox Christology and other doctrines that non-sacramental Christians espouse.  A great hurdle arises again for how just the latter is not up for a revisionist history and abuse of the historical-critical method.  Second, it makes casual in passing reference to this being an ancient practice.  Are we to limit it to 50 years? A hundred years?  The veracity of the historical claim of the sacrament of healing holds up quite well in tandem with the fact that as an ecumenical council this is both an ancient and widespread context.  It is implied that it was applicable to the beginning of Christianity. 

This was a reference point for someone in their relationship with Christ and his mystical body which is the church.  This is to be understood as tied to being in communion with Jesus in his authority which is delegated to a visible church with his delegated authority. 

As often as some infirmity overtakes a man, let him who is ill receive the body and blood of Christ; let him humbly and in faith ask the presbyters for blessed oil, to anoint his body, so that what was written may be fulfilled in him: ‘Is anyone among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he be in sins, they will be forgiven him. . . . See to it, brethren, that whoever is ill hasten to the church (Caesar of Arles, early 500’s. Sermons 13[325]:3). 

We are told from scripture that Jesus is always the same.  He also made a promise that the church he founded would always stand.  Not only can we see in this sacrament a reference point but a power point.  And such power is upon the earth due to the nature of the Holy Spirit and grace to be known in the Body of Christ in both objective and subjective contexts. 

There is not only a beauty to the Sacrament of Healing but also to the Sacrament of Penance  or Reconciliation.  They go together and there is both rich scriptural and patristic content to support that which we will next see.

Basics of Light:The Foundation

cornerstone

In the whole world of spirituality it is popular to point out that it is hard to qualify with a quick slogan or a formula.  There is a saying in the Buddhist tradition “If you see the Buddha in the road, kill him”.  Or as Bishop Robert Barron says in the Christian tradition, “If you say you have figured God out, that’s not him” (Catholicism Series).

Jesus called for faith and to repent due to a kingdom that was at hand.  This is a great challenge and a mystery.  It is to change and experience something not comparable to other experiences.  But in Christianity, there should be some essentials.  One is that to be a Christian is to identify yourself in faith and life choices as belonging to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  He is known as the Son of God, true God and true man (Council of Nicea) who founded a visible church.  These are deep and mysterious truths not to be comprehended but truths nonetheless to at least get the general theme with some kind of faculties.  Reason is a good one but not sufficient in itself.  The fulness of the Christian faith takes a lifetime of learning possible even if you are raised Christian and live to 100 years old.  In such a journey there are many questions that come to mind not always answered and it can be hard to know where to start. 

But rest assured, there are at least some elementary things to it.  Again, not to box God in and make him “in the road,” but there are some basics in the New Testament.  God does not always repeat himself through the gospels and epistles but he does rhyme if you listen for it.   

Everyone who lives on milk lacks experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil. Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And we shall do this, if only God permits (Hebrews 5:13-6:3).

Good foundation in a system of thought is a lot like a thumb. Like how it can touch all fingers so it will touch the succeeding parts.  The “basic teaching” above overlap in the development of Christian life and doctrine as reinforcing agents.  They are respective, supportive traits of Christianity.  In Greek they could be called logoi or little words, but are effective because they point to the person and work of Jesus Christ who is encountered with those truths.

But how should we interpret the proper application of these foundational teachings?  First, it is a matter of seeing the principles conveyed that point to the Christian life being a forward one.  It is successive towards an ultimate design in Christ.  As we see the design and how it unfolds in church history there is an opportunity of seeing more than a fleshed out ideology but a lived experience of Christ as the “chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).   Paul goes on to described more about that below in the same letter. 

to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:12-16). 

Also, we should interpret it is in the context of how the first Christian society interpreted it so we do not project our post-modern prejudices into what was written in the New Testament.  For example, I could compliment the makers of Salt Lake City streets as genius founders.  The wrong bias could say I must be affirming the Mormon faith.  But if you get to know loved ones who have known me long they can add to that statement on what I believe doctrinally and the statement was about the road system.  So too is any responsible reading of the Bible which includes “basic teaching” verses. 

So from 30,000 feet, I would like to propose what those points are. I suggest the first two are more applicable to the individual in execution and the latter four are overarching fundamentals that are implemented at the macro level. 

repentance from dead works – – Provoked By The Light   

faith in God- – Engaging in the Light (both believers and unbelievers). 

instruction about baptisms- – Entering The Light

laying on of hands- – Lifelong Engagement In The Light

resurrection of the dead- – The Light of Life

eternal judgment- – Judged In The Light

Though in the case of the author of Hebrews we do not know who wrote it, we can discern from the small talk at the end of the letter that he was a colleague of big names of the New Testament.  So if we were to be fair to the context of his foundational references we can look at the other apostolic writings of the New Testament (compare scripture with scripture) and look at the writings of the early church fathers.  They were people who were handed down authority and a tradition that was a living outgrowth of the living authority of a living Jesus.  If ones is to be detective, following wherever the evidence leads, one will hunger for living out those truths in the most true to form version of Christianity as possible.  To investigate thus is to truly investigate Christianity responsibly and on what it has actually taught.  I would add solving this part of the mystery can then be more vibrant and life giving and thus is worth a closer look for which I hope to show as Christianity ultimately a true walk in Christ.  And to walk with Christ is to be engaged with all of the Trinity. 

Feeding Line, Dividing Line Part III : From Mystery to Scandal

Jesus Holding The Bread

Often religion gets a bad rap and often for undeserved.  One example is being ethnocentric on God’s the favor. But the message of Christianity is a universal in design and meant to be expressed that way.  To be a Christian is to grow in holiness while being holy.  Christians have fallen short at times in keeping Christianity moved by the world rather than moving the world.

It is worth noticing how the gospel’s proposal is unfolded with universality, mystery and challenge.  Unfortunately the proposal is met with unbelief and cynicism.

Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; 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.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,  because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.” The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:

‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  (John 6:31-51).

It was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven—  Jesus begins to challenge them to the transcendent.  If the manna, which means “What is it?”,  is drawn back only to Moses and the past then the faith is only a subjective religious experience.  Instead Jesus draws their attention to God the Father in the context of the present.

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world— The distinction here is that this sustenance, coming only come from God, is for the world.  This revisits John 3:16 in that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….”  Jesus is to be consumed and it is from divine love that resurrection life touches those from everywhere.

Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said… “whoever comes…whoever believes ….Everything that the Father gives me will come to me—  They have a hard time discerning how serious Jesus is about the nature of offering himself.  Jesus speaks to them with a qualifier about the “whoever”  and points to the heavenly Father.  To speak of this kingdom is by a family table and in mystery.  Also one can see the conversion is “both/and” in coming to Jesus by destiny and choice at the same time.

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life— But the context is in coming and believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  If it is just by a worldly point of view that he is just a carpenter, good teacher, great prophet or nice guy then there is little redemptive.  Such a perspective of all that Jesus is has  much emptiness.

Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’? —-  Paul addressed this to early believers who could have, and likely were, swayed by the philosophies of their day. Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).  However, in the context of this whole passage it is worth considering the same for the Eucharist.  To the eyes of the flesh when Jesus died not he cross it was just a Roman execution.  Likewise, to the eyes of the flesh now one could just see a wafer at an altar of Catholic, Orthodox or Coptic parish and wonder what thus fuss is about.  But with eyes of faith the perspective changes when a priest hold up the Eucharist and says.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.

I will give is my flesh for the life of the world— A beautiful thing happens in the path of conversion to Jesus.  One does get that introduction through evangelization  like what happened with the first two disciples by John the Baptist.  Then the disciples on that day by the river ask where Jesus is staying.  He said, “come and see” (John 1:39).   The measure of God’s love for the world of John 3:16 is  infinite.  The most normative way for us to respond is repentance, faith, obedience and with the greatest virtue of love.  From this we thank God for sending Jesus.  This is what early church communion was in Greek using the term for communion: eucharistia.

The Eucharist has been present since Jesus ascended and is an extension of The Sacrifice of Jesus who said he would be with us “To the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). This is not a later interpretation.  A eucharistic  interpretation was noted by St. Justin Martyr in 155 in his Dialogue with Trypho.

“And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” – (First Apology, 66. 155 AD)

St. Ireneaeus of Lyon agreed with this interpretation in 189 in Against All Heresies.

Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from the things mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the of the resurrection to eternity. (St. Ireneaeus  Against All Heresies Book IV, Chapter 18).

One interpretation is right and one is wrong. One embraces Jesus today for all he presented himself and the other has limitations. Such is the dichotomy of scandal or mere symbolism as I will address next.