Drinking the blood and eating the flesh

This past Sunday, my pastor discussed the passage from John 6, in which Jesus tells his followers that they must drink his blood and eat his flesh to be a part of the Kingdom of God. He made a connection to communion, in that we symbolically drink Jesus’ blood and eat his flesh in this tradition of the church.

He also related to an Old Testament story that I had never hear connected to this reference. In 2 Samuel, David is living in the hills with his mighty men, looking onto his hometown of Bethlehem, probably longing for its freedom from the occupation of the Philistines, a long-time enemy of the Israelites. As he looks on the village, he says with exasperation that he would love a drink of water from the well in Bethlehem. Some could say that he was serious and wanted his men to actually go and get him a drink from the well in the middle of the Philistine camp, but I think he was getting across the idea that he longed for the freedom of his people and the ability of himself to get a drink of water from the well like probably had many times before.

His men don’t seem to understand the exasperation in his voice or they think that they can get some brownie points with David, so some of them raid the philistine camp to get some water from the well. They get the water and make it out of the camp alive, returning to David with a cup of cold water from the well. When they give David the water, he pours out the water from the glass, saying that he cannot drink the blood of the men who went and got him the water. Out of humility, David did not want to participate in the sacrifice of these men because he is no more deserving than anyone else among the ranks.

Using this similar idea of David drinking of the men’s sacrifice, Jesus speaks to us in John 6, saying that we must drink and eat of his sacrifice in order to be a part of his Kingdom. Often, I hear people then spiritualize this idea, making it into the sinner’s prayer or asking Jesus into your heart or something similar as though Jesus were saying you just need to use my blood and sacrifice to your own advantage so that you can go to heaven when you die.

I think Jesus idea, though, was to warn us of a very real experience that we will have when we decide to follow him. The suffering that he experienced is what we will also experience if we choose to follow him. By following him, we are agreeing to partake of the suffering that he experienced. We will have to carry our own crosses and sacrifice ourselves for his kingdom.

I continued to think about this idea of drinking the blood of people as I contemplated the abundance of resources that we have here in America. I remember talking to different people who explained previous wars that we had been involved in as really wars over resources or wars to maintain our access to resources such as oil. I also thought about how we probably benefit from countries who are in conflict also because they do not enough infrastructural strength to start charging us the money that they should be or deserve. In some sense, we partake in the blood and flesh of people all over the world, not only the soldiers who fight to protect the resources that we want. Especially if our food and drinks are bought from companies or organizations that don’t treat their workers well, then we are also drinking their blood.

I soon became overwhelmed as these thoughts continued to flood my mind, so I began to block them out for a while. What I soon realized though is that as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I do not have to live in shame for all of these things. The community of faith is not a community of shame and condemnation. It is a place where we can ask these difficult questions, realizing the blood on our hands, and receive forgiveness from God and neighbor. In the freedom of this grace and forgiveness, then, we can begin to live differently, maybe more in the way of Jesus, sacrificing for other people rather than paying or forcing others to sacrifice for us.

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~ by randallkoehler on August 26, 2012.

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