“Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. . . . I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. . . .”
John 6:47, 51 (NRSV)
One empathizes with the Jews here who ask how to perform the works of God. Jesus replies that they should believe in him. Will he give them a sign, like the manna that Moses gave their ancestors? Jesus: “it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” They ask for that bread, and he says that he is the bread that came down from heaven, and “explains” that those who eat his flesh will have eternal life. “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” say the disciples. Difficult indeed!
Yet . . . John’s Gospel is still alive for us today. Christ seems to be elucidating what it is to believe by drawing a parallel between believing Christ and consuming Christ. The expression “feed on him in your hearts by faith” makes sense. Consume, absorb, digest, “dwell in him and he in us.” We are asked to internalize Christ’s message.
We still “look for . . . the life of the world to come” even while accepting the science of death and bodily decay. Our Catechism explains: “By everlasting life, we mean a new existence, in which we are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully knowing and loving God and each other.” (BCP, p. 862). That actually sounds quite wonderful, and possible.
Fully knowing and loving God, and each other, in communion with all people, is having eternal life. Believing in Christ is a way to come to know and love God. Believing is to have that new existence. Believing just is the having of eternal life.
— Patsy Goolsby