“This is the bread that came down/descended from heaven
Unlike your ancestors who ate (ephagon) and died (referring to the manna in the desert)
who eats (trogon) this bread will live (zesei) for ever.”
We often overlook the importance of location, but John has drawn attention to it for a reason.
Capernaum was where Jesus started His public ministry, and where He recruited many of His apostles, and where He returned to after each Galilean mission, and after each feast day pilgrimage to Jerusalem during His public ministry, until the final journey to Jerusalem culminating in His passion, death, resurrection and ascension.
Because this is the place where the greatest number of people have had the most long term relationship with Jesus (outside of Nazareth); where the most people have heard His teachings and have seen His miracles. Therefore up till this point it has been the epicientre for disciples of Jesus and for wannabe disciples of Jesus.
At this point anyone remotely anti-Jesus has already left the discussion.
And those who remain, who have considered themselves His followers, are now in a bit of an uproar over Jesus insisting that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood.
The stakes as Jesus has laid out are extremely high, participation in the divine life,
eternal life and
bodily resurrection on the last day.
The conditions are clear: eat His flesh and drink His blood.
It is decision time.
Is this intolerable, unacceptable language?
(Has Jesus jumped the shark?)
Is this incomprehensible, but the speaker has proved His trustworthiness to us? (I don’t understand, but I believe and trust in Jesus, and I’m willing to trust Him on this crazy stuff too.)
Some left Him for good.
A much smaller number stayed with Him.
Jesus was prepared to keep on going with His mission from God even if no one stayed with Him as a disciple.
What was the difference between those who left and those who stayed?
The quality and depth of his or her personal relationship and commitment to Jesus.
The apostles, and those who similarly strong relationship with Jesus stayed.
One, Judas, stayed to see how this would pan out, gambling on the chance of a big reward.
The rest left.
This a shakeout of a similar magnitude to Gideon and the shakeout of the army mustered to fight Midian and Amalek. Judges Chapter 7. From 32000 men, 22000 left; of the 10,000 left, only 300 were chosen (and in a weird way; lapping from the water’s edge). In that account, the reduction was so that the victory would be seen to be God’s and not resultant from the might of men.
With those who are left Jesus can build something long-lasting, eternally worthwhile, despite the presence of a few treacherous and curious ones who will eventually get shaken out.
May this underline for you that Jesus is not seeking celebrity -ever – at all.
What Jesus wants above all is true commitment and deep relationship.
Have you decided what your response will be?
Do you remember how high the stakes are?
This is the time to choose all or nothing.
May the heavenly Father grant you the gift of being able to say with Simon Peter
“To whom shall we go?
You Lord have the words of eternal life.
We believe that You are the Holy One of God.”
…and then to act on it by committing yourself to full membership of a Christian community where the Eucharist is celebrated with a validly ordained priest (Roman Catholic, Eastern Rite Catholic or Orthodox) – whatever that takes. That’s full sacramental life, full community life, and full acceptance of the apostolic teaching preserved in those communities, and to a committed prayer life (personal and communal). Acts 2:42 (These remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers)
Wherever you see that your commitment is currently nil or partial in any of these areas, beg God for the grace to make full commitment in those areas.
The stakes are of eternal significance.
Do not delay your active response to Jesus.