Sunday, 16 August 2015

Strength to the Creator

At the beginning of Aronofsky’s movie Noah (which I still need to finish watching), Noah encounters a wounded animal. A small band of hunters are pursuing it, and because they threaten Noah, he kills them.

Later, one of his sons (probably Ham, he does have the name for it) asks Noah why the men were intent on killing the animal. Noah replies that they thought eating the meat of the animal would give them strength. The son asks, ‘Is it true?’ Choosing the indirect reply, Noah responds, ‘They forget: strength comes from the Creator.’

I was reading today’s Gospel (John 6:51-58), in which Jesus says emphatically that the one who has eternal life is the one who eats his flesh and drinks his blood. Verse 57 struck me in a new way: ‘As the living Father sent me, and I live through the Father, so the one who feeds on me (*), even he will live through me.’

A comparison is drawn here: Jesus relates to the Father as the believer (or rather: the eater) relates to Jesus. What struck me about this is the connection between ‘living through’ and ‘being sent’, which is only made explicit in the first half of the comparison. Being sent implies executing a mission for someone else, giving your strength to accomplish someone else’s will. So the Son draws his life from the Father, but the life itself is expended in doing the Father’s will.

So, to extend the comparison: the one who stands forward to feed on Jesus thereby indicates his willingness to be sent by Jesus. The strength that is given is not appropriated for oneself, but is lived out in mission: the strength from the Creator is expended for the Creator in the practice of obedience.

(*) I have used the ESV-translation of the verb trōgō. Some Catholic exegetes make much of the fact that John uses a word with the graphic original meaning of ‘chewing’ or ‘gnawing’. However, Strong indicates that the word can also be used in the more general sense of ‘eating’. Hence the slightly more neutral translation.

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