Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Only be sure that thou eat not the blood (John 6)

John chapter six thankfully looks a lot easier than chapter five was. Especially since I already answered "Can God be seen?" in chapter one.

So, this chapter has a few miracles, the first of which was feeding five thousand men. Funny thing that occurs to me about this miracle is that I've heard many sermons on Jesus feeding large crowds, and typically they will say at some point, "This is five thousand men; imagine how big the crowd was if you counted women and children, too!" I think this is making a bit of a possibly unwarranted assumption: that the Apostles literally did a head count, but said, "Let's not count the women and children." While I don't think there's a reason to think the number is hyperbole, I really doubt that it was anything more than a rough estimate, and if it was, who knows what exactly was counted? Some people have suggested that rather than a miracle, this is a story about a crowd of people who became very generous when they saw a young boy give up his lunch for Jesus. It's not out of the question, but the fact that there was so much food gathered up afterwards makes it seem unlikely; would these people be so generous they gave more than was needed to feed everyone? Anyway, shortly after this, Jesus walks on water which, as a miracle, is of course antiscientific and absurd to the SAB. Go figure.

Verse 29 is an interesting note in the discussion of salvation by faith vs. works: Jesus says believing in him is "the work of God". Verse 46 once again raises the question of whether God can be seen, which I answered in John chapter one.

Verse 53 has Jesus talking for the first time in this Gospel about eating his body and drinking his blood. Christians of all denominations take this to be talking about communion, but there is a lot of disagreement on what communion really is, when it should be taken, and other things. As the SAB seems to be implying in a clever way, Catholics believe that when the elements of communion are blessed, they literally become the flesh and blood of Jesus, a process known as transubstantiation, while Protestants believe it's entirely symbolic. I once heard a pastor point out that since Christians are taking the communion, and it becomes part of them, then since Christians as a whole are called by the Bible "the body of Christ" then there is a sense that transubstantiation happens in the end anyway.

Is it OK to eat blood? This is a straightforward no, since it is forbidden not just to Jews, but it was forbidden before the Jewish Law and by the leaders of the early church. Yes, Jesus tells people to drink his blood, but this is obviously a special exception, whether it's only symbolic drinking of his blood, or somehow literal. And going back to the subject communion, in case John 6:55 is not quite clear enough in the KJV, the New International Version reads, "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." So Jesus does seem very serious about this. However, the wine and bread of communion originated from the Jewish Passover, where it is also symbolic of blood in part.

Lastly, the SAB makes note on verse 70, about Jesus saying one of the Apostles is a "devil", that supposedly Jesus made a mistake. It's definitely not a mistake, as Jesus knows about Judas's betrayal before Judas is even called. You can see here that Jesus is aware already, and when you look at the evening of Jesus's betrayal, you see that Jesus doesn't just know he's going to be betrayed, he actually tells Judas to betray him! More on this when I get to John 13:27-30.

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