As we continue our read through John 6, we get to the heart of the matter: “I am the bread of life” and then “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John’s Gospel lacks the story of the bread and cup at the last supper,
1st Reading (Track 1): 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Chapters 13-18 of 2 Samuel report on internal strife within the family of King David. Chapters 13 & 14 tell of David’s eldest son Amnon’s rape of his half-sister Tamar. Tamar’s full brother Absalom takes his revenge by killing his brother. Absalom flees and lives in exile for three years, after which David’s general, Joab, attempts a reconciliation between king and son. Absalom returns to Jerusalem but David refuses to see him. Chapters 15-17 tell of Absalom’s revolt against his father and for a time he rules in Jerusalem. Eventually a battle ensues. David strictly instructs that his son not be killed, and the story continues below.
18:5 The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom. 6 So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7 The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword. 9 Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. 15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him. 31 Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” 32 The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.” 33 The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Psalm 130 (Track 1)
Psalm 130 is a psalm of lament. The writer cries out to God from the depths of distress, begging God to hear the cry and provide relief.
1 Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice; *
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
2 If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, *
O Lord, who could stand?
3 For there is forgiveness with you; *
therefore you shall be feared.
4 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my hope.
5 My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.
6 O Israel, wait for the Lord, *
for with the Lord there is mercy;
7 With him there is plenteous redemption, *
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
1st Reading (Track 2): 1 Kings 19:4-8
The prophet Elijah is on the run. He has won a great contest against the prophets of Baal, but those prophets were in the favor of Queen Jezebel and she has put a price on Elijah’s head. He is running for his life. Despite his wish to die, he is saved miraculously and given sustenance to endure a forty-day journey to Mount Horeb. The number forty is an important biblical number, popping up regularly, signaling the thoroughness of the test.
19:4 Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.
Psalm 34:1-8 (Track 2)
Psalm 34 is a thanksgiving for deliverance. The title in Hebrews says, “Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.”
1 I will bless the Lord at all times; *
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
2 I will glory in the Lord; *
let the humble hear and rejoice.
3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord; *
let us exalt his Name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me *
and delivered me out of all my terror.
5 Look upon him and be radiant, *
and let not your faces be ashamed.
6 I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me *
and saved me from all my troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him, *
and he will deliver them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; *
happy are they who trust in him!
2nd Reading: Ephesians 4:25—5:2
As we continue reading through Ephesians, the writer describes what it means to live a Christian life. All this flows from Baptism (“with which you were marked with a seal”). Just as in Baptism we died and rose in imitation of Christ, so our lives ought to be a constant imitation of his life of love. The final verse is one of the options in The Book of Common Prayer for the offertory sentence at the Eucharist (p. 343 & p. 376).
4:25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Gospel Reading: John 6:35, 41-51
As we continue our read through John 6, we get to the heart of the matter: “I am the bread of life” and then “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John’s Gospel lacks the story of the bread and cup at the last supper, but, given these words from Jesus, John’s community clearly knows the Eucharist. Yet his words are troubling for many because he seems to be crossing a line, the line of divinity. This is precisely the line John wants his readers to cross, the belief that this man is “the Word made flesh.”
6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” 41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Scripture readings (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.