One of the oddities of the Gospel of John is that there is no “institution narrative” like in the other Gospels. In John’s account of the Last Supper, he says nothing about the bread and wine, but tells us instead about Jesus washing their feet. What I think this says is that the early Christian community connected with John’s Gospel thought that it was too important, too sacred a thing to put down in writing—lest if fall into the wrong hands?
But John is otherwise laced through with all kinds of references to the Eucharist. Jesus is the bread of life, the true bread, the living bread which came down from heaven. We must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Those who eat the living bread will live forever.
All this is from John 6, which begins with the story of the Feeding of the 5000. Jesus sits up on the mountain and we’re told it’s about time for the Passover—links to Moses on the mountain and the Israelites in the desert and manna from heaven. There may be some hints in this story about the practice of that early community. Fish may have been part of the Eucharist early on (it’s also bread and fish that they eat at that early morning picnic on the beach at the very end of the Gospel). In the original Greek it says that Jesus had the 5000 not sit on the grass, but recline on it.
It’s in John that we read about “being one”. One with Christ, one with each other, one in Christ with one another. He is in us, we are in him. Our unity in Christ is celebrated sacramentally in the Eucharist, when we eat the living bread, the flesh, and drink the wine, the blood. The fish got lost somewhere along the way in those centuries without refrigeration…
It’s that oneness in Christ we celebrate again this beautiful Spring morning. The little piece of bread you’re going to receive this morning is the very same one you’ve had before and will ever have. The same piece of bread that anyone has ever received. Being one in Christ, we’re one with that early Christian community. One with people gathered in homes and on beaches and in chapels and churches and great cathedrals this morning and every morning, this day and every day. One with all who have done this in ages past. And, marvelously, one with all who shall do this in ages to come.
Maybe even one with 5000 reclining on the grass on a hillside overlooking a beautiful lake in Palestine. And it’s only one piece of bread.
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