Ask any protestant to define faith and they will usually give a sound answer like “faith is the belief in an unseen truth”. Defining faith and stepping out in it are two entirely different things. Protestants are, for the most part, people of faith only in the abstract but not in the practical.
Most protestants claim to be proponents of Sola Scriptura, a doctrine that stipulates that all truth must be found in the practical reading of Scripture. Nowhere in Scripture is this doctrine taught but that is almost beside the point. The reason is that the majority of protestants will even deny the plain words of Scripture because they simply lack the faith to accept them.
Nowhere is this more true than in the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel. This entire chapter is about the highest, most central act of Christian worship- the Eucharist.
The chapter begins with one of Jesus’ greatest miracles- the feeding of the five thousand. Notice that in verse 4, John explicitly ties the coming miracle to the Passover. This is no small thing. It is the Passover that points forward to this miracle, the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. The allusion is clear, even if subtle.
The feeding of the five thousand is a glimpse into the sublime mystery of the Eucharist in several meaningful ways. First, there is this exchange between Jesus and Phillip and Andrew;
5* Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii * would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8* One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9* “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?”
If you ask most people what was the purpose of Jesus test, they might respond that Jesus was demonstrating that he could meet people in their temporal needs. That is not exactly the case. yes, Jesus does meet the temporal need of these people to eat- in an extraordinary way but He did so merely as as a stepping stone by which he drew them to a much deeper reality.
They clearly missed the point and Jesus admonished them for it.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 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. 27* 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; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”
So, Jesus is saying that the miracle of the fish and loaves was not simply something that stood on it’s own but a foreshadowing of something better.
And, it turns out that this, as yet to be revealed reality is to be the penultimate test of faith.
To miss this would be tragic, so let’s examine the quote in both parts.
28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29* Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30* So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform?
Protestants often leave the second part off dishonestly. Jesus tells them that the true and ultimate test of faith is they believe in Him. They respond by asking specifically the sign that they should see and believe in. The answer is the very epicenter of faith and the very summit of worship.
Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.”
They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
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. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37* All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. 38* For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; 39* and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. 40* For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 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’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44* No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45* It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46* Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 51 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.”
Here, Jesus is showing that the Priestly Sacrificial offering, Passover meal, the Manna from Heaven and the miracle of the fish and loaves all pointed to an ultimate fulfillment in Him. Jesus would give us His own flesh and blood as spiritual food.
This revelation shocked the Jews but Jesus did not shrink from it one letter;
52* The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56* He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58* This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” 59* This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caperna-um.
For those who want to spirituality Jesus words, there just isn’t anywhere to go here, especially when one examines the actual exegesis of the passage! The word eats from John 6:54 comes from the greek word τρώγων (trōgōn) which literally means to gnaw, chew or grind between the teeth. Jesus is not only being literal here but graphically so. There is no wiggle room.
60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61*
But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62* Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?
This is now a third time that Jesus emphasizes that He is not kidding. He is not peaking in metaphors. He is speaking a literal truth. Yet, there are some who insist that verse 63 shows that Jesus was speaking metaphorically and that His flesh, which He has now said half a dozen times is the bread from heaven for us to eat, is of no avail and that He was only speaking in metaphors.
63* It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64* But there are some of you that do not believe.”
For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. 65*
And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Their interpretation is twisted to the point of breaking. What Jesus is saying here, to all present, is that their flesh is of no avail- that is, their fleshy senses. In verses 63 and 64, Jesus issues a stern and clarion challenge. Do not count what your senses and your human reasoning tell you, you either believe or you don’t.
Jesus does not admonish those offended for a lack of understanding. He never says ‘”no, no, no, you don’t understand!” or explains this parable (as He did with all His parables), He simply gives them a shocking choice, believe that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life, or don’t believe and be condemned. In fact, verse 64 basically tells us that Judas betrayed Him over this very doctrine.
One of the most oft quoted verses of Scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:7 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight
Yet, how can we say that we walk by faith and not by sight, if the two are never in conflict?
This verse presupposes that, at least sometimes, what faith tells us is true in in direct opposition to what our eyes tell us to be true.
So, Are you going to believe Jesus or your own lying eyes? This is the very test, Jesus identifies as the ultimate test of your faith. Jesus conveys this truth in Mark 14:22-25 and Luke 22:14-20. Paul adds the exclamation point in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29, with frightening clarity.
Jesus lost 60 followers that day during the Passover season because they simply could not pass the test of faith. However, the true believers stayed.
66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. 67 Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68* Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
In each Mass, is the very center and summit of worship, when, through the Priest, Jesus tells us again; “Take and eat, this is my body” and “Take and drink, this is my blood”. In every single Mass, heard every single day, in every single place, the believer is challenged anew to pass this test.
As the minister holds the host up before you and proclaims ” [this is] the body of Christ”, the believer responds “Amen”.
Amen, indeed. It truly is the Body of Christ.
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