Our lesson today made special note that the Passover feast was a backdrop to the timing and message of the scriptures in John 6. Unfortunately, many of us today know so little about the annual Passover celebration at that time that we miss the meaning. It would be like an American trying to describe Thanksgiving in another country.
But Jesus takes each of the parts of the meal into his dialogue. I’m not going to go into all the details of the meal, I’m far from a scholar on this material, but there are a few highlights I think are critical.
Prior to the meal there is a cleansing that is conducted. And, during the meal, foods are dipped into salt water and then brought back out. These uses of water both represent a cleansing and an emergence. The salt water is a reminder of the tears of bondage. The washing is both and actual and ritualistic cleansing. In both cases, the item (hands or foot), is drawn back out, into a new state. We know the Jews at this time practiced baptism (i.e., John the baptist) and that many of the people with Jesus at this place and time would have had a deep understanding of both and many may have been baptized by (and have been followers of) John the Baptist.
At the traditional meal three of the main foods would have been the wine, the bread and the lamb. The wine today is presented as a drink of joy and hopefulness, but it also would have served as a reminder of the blood of the lamb painted on the doorposts on the evening before the Hebrews were freed from Egyptian bondage. On that night, they sacrificed a lamb or having painted the blood on the doorpost, roasted it and fully consumed it, leaving no part left over. They also made unleavened bread and, as noted in Ex 12:39, brought this with them as they left, carrying it into the new world of freedom to nourish them. God continued to provide manna for them all along the way.
Jesus uses all of these symbols that were foreshadows, to attempt to describe himself and teach them about who He was. He doesn’t go into lots of deep explanation, because, they understood all of the background and had participated in the tradition every year of their lives.
Jesus explained that his human body was the lamb. It would be slain and given fully for the sacrifice to pay the price of their (and our) sins. He explained that his blood would be the blood painted on the doorpost that would cause death to pass over all who believed and obeyed. He explained that He, as the Son of the Father God, was the bread of life that would nourish them not only now, but forever, taking them into the new world, raising them up into eternal life.
For us, we think this teaching is hard because we don’t have the reference and don’t understand. But for them it was hard because it meant something else. It meant that the things they had put their faith in, the points they earned and could cash in for their adherence to the traditions and rules and law and all the physical things they were doing, had now completely changed. Those were only symbols leading up to what now was in their presence. Instead of putting their faith in their work to adhere to the law and tradition, Jesus was saying, I’ve fulfilled that law, now put your faith in me. To grab ahold of Jesus with both hands, they had to let go of something that had been a part of their identity for hundreds of years. It was hard because it meant letting go of earthly things to hold on to heavenly things. It isn’t that they didn’t want the things of heaven, but it was too hard to let go of the earthly things.
As a result, the Jews brought to pass another remembrance of passover. They grumbled as the hebrews in the desert did and wanted only to return to how things were before. They also found the same result, none but the 12 who stayed were like the 12 spies Moses sent to get a glimpse of the land, but instead of only 2 (Joshua and Caleb) walking in faith and getting to eventually enter the land, we are told only 1 of this group of 12 will end up giving a false report.
The blood was a representation of the life/death of the lamb who was sacrificed. It was painted over the door in obedience and faith as a covering on the house that death would passover.
It was eaten for strength and in anticipation of moving forward out of bondage and in to the promised land. It was consumed completely, if the family was not large enough on their own, they joined with another family.
v53 Life, v54 Eternal life, raised up by Jesus at the last day, v55 Connection with what is “real”, v56 Remains in Jesus and Jesus in them, v57 Will live the same way the living Father gave life to and sent Jesus, v58. Bread (nourishment) from heaven, live forever, v59 message received in synagogue