I’m working on a thought and I figured here was the best place to try to understand it better.
As I was sitting in church yesterday listening to Walt talk about Supper’s Ready, I came across the scripture below from John 6.
John 6:48-57 (NLT)
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”
Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked.
So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me.
I’ve heard this tons of time before. I grew up Roman Catholic. For 4 years, I heard it every Thursday at school when we went to church. I heard it in Sunday school. I’ve read it a number of times. But I never really stopped to think about it, I guess.
The first question that I asked myself yesterday was, if believing gives you eternal life, then does not believing mean that you don’t have eternal life?
The way I understand it is that when we die we either go to heaven or to hell (whether that happens right away or sometime in the future is up for debate). If you go to heaven or hell, then your soul, or whatever it is, lives on forever. So, either way, we have eternal life, right?
But that can’t be right because Jesus just said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you.” This would lead one to think that life will cease to exist unless we follow this command. Reading it now, I see the keyword in the sentence, “within.” You cannot have eternal life within you. So our lives are not eternal, but when we eat the bread, and drink the wine; when we consume and commune with Jesus, then we are made eternal because he is eternal.
Our bodies are stuck in this world. God made us in his image, but he made us from the world. When we ate the fruit in the garden, we brought sickness, decay, and death into the world. We were cast out into a place ruled by Satan who is, at root, the epitome of sickness, decay, and death. So, our bodies, our flesh, are subject to sickness, decay, and death.
When we die then, we leave our bodies, and we are no longer subject to rule of Satan. He has no power outside the world (which makes me wonder if there is sin on Mars – curiosity). Whether we believe or not, our bodies will die. Our spirit, our mind, our soul, whatever you want to call it, will disconnect from our bodies and go to one of two places.
If we don’t believe; if we don’t take in the bread of life, if we don’t accept God’s forgiveness, if we don’t acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins on the cross and was resurrected and ascended into heaven, then we go to hell. We go to a place that is completely, and utterly, without God. There is no love there. There is no justice. There is no compassion. There is only darkness, lies, sickness, decay, and death. There is no hope there. There is no mercy. There is no grace. And this is where those who don’t believe will stay for all eternity.
I think it is safe to say that hell is a place where life does not exist.
If we do believe; if we do take in the bread of life, if we do accept forgiveness, acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins, and was raised from the dead, then we will live forever. We become one with our creator. We become one with eternal life. Life, then, is about love, joy, peace, justice, truth, mercy, grace, compassion, and hope. It is a place full of light. When we consume Jesus, then all of those things live inside of us. And, as my friend M. Rockmore pointed out in his post the other day, we don’t have to wait until our bodies die to experience all of those things. You can have them today.
I guess the only question is, do you want a piece of bread?
If your answer is no, that’s fine, but don’t just set the bread down in front of you so that the rest of us can’t have any. Just say no thank you and pass it along.