“I am the living bread … Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.”
These are the words of Jesus, a promise given in a metaphor in John, chapter 6. To “eat this bread” is to be in relationship with him, indicating a closeness that continues to grow over time, in the same way that any relationship matures.
In John 6, the Jesus relationship goes from “Listen to …” to “Be nourished by …” and now “Abide in ….” If you read through the chapter closely you can see this movement, from one phase of relationship to the next.
A crowd of 5,000 gathers to hear what Jesus has to say, and they are fed. At the next level, Jesus challenges them to “rethink bread” and believe in him. There are some who resist.
For those who are left, Jesus takes it deeper. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” Now it is not a matter of simply being nourished by Jesus, it is a matter of mutual “abiding” - you in him and him in you. There are more who resist; verse 66 records that “many of his disciples turned back” after he says these things.
The first dropouts were happy to be fed, but didn’t want nourishment. The next ones to leave were satisfied as long as Jesus was doing the nourishing, but were unwilling to allow him further access into their lives.
Jesus will nourish us, but he wants to do more. He wants to “abide in” us. Jesus’ desire is to abide in us with the kind of life that is so abundant, so amazing, so enormous, it can only be described as “eternal.”
Are we willing to let Jesus abide in us? Will we grant him unfettered access to every part of our lives? Or are there some nooks and crannies we’re just not that comfortable letting Jesus into? Our finances? Our politics? Our marriages?
What does it mean for Christ to abide in us, and to abide in Christ? What does it mean to live forever?