Jesus describes him­self as the bread of life … the bread that comes down from heav­en, which one may eat and not die. I am the liv­ing bread that came down from heav­en. If any­one eats of this bread, he will live for­ev­er. This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world … I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Who­ev­er eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eter­nal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (John 6:48 – 55).

While the church has often inter­pret­ed Jesus’ words as sup­port­ing an ele­vat­ed, real­is­tic view of the Eucharist, these texts also pro­vide the the­o­log­i­cal ratio­nale for devour­ing the Scrip­ture, for gnaw­ing on it like a dog chew­ing on his bone. For the Scrip­tures speak of Christ, from begin­ning to end. Think of the expe­ri­ence of the dis­ci­ples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus scolds them for fail­ing to under­stand the Scrip­ture and how the texts they had stud­ied for much of their lives point­ed to him.

How fool­ish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spo­ken! Did not the Christ have to suf­fer these things and then enter his glo­ry? And begin­ning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scrip­tures con­cern­ing him­self (Luke 24:25 – 27). It is when Jesus breaks bread with these dis­ci­ples that their eyes are opened (Luke 24:31). What had been their prob­lem thus far? They had been slow of heart to believe” (Luke 24:25).

Jesus is insis­tent. He reit­er­ates the point he made on the road to Emmaus when he appears to the dis­ci­ples, per­haps with­in hours, again in a con­text of eating and fel­low­ship: They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their pres­ence. He said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: Every­thing must be ful­filled that is writ­ten about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:42 – 44).

To med­i­tate upon the Scrip­ture — a key aspect of lec­tio div­ina—involves more than sim­ply read­ing it. Med­i­ta­tio is a slow, paced, leisure­ly gnaw­ing on the Scrip­ture, a read­ing that breaks through the bone and sucks out the mar­row, Christ him­self. Med­i­ta­tio is a Chris­to­log­i­cal munch­ing, an escha­to­log­i­cal feed­ing because the food offered to us is grown and har­vest­ed in the fields of the age to come, assim­i­lat­ing Jesus, as Peter­son puts it, metab­o­liz­ing him in a con­crete, earthy fash­ion so that he becomes what we are and in so doing changes us into himself.

To stay with the direc­tion of the metaphor, we can see how this kind of eat­ing will like­ly be a slow-paced, delight-filled affair. Crack­ing the bone will take some time. We will need to be patient, with the text and with our­selves. As far as the text is con­cerned, we all know that cer­tain bib­li­cal texts are acces­si­ble, delight­ful, and read­i­ly feed us. There is lit­tle bone to crack, for instance, in Psalm 23. Oth­er texts are less acces­si­ble, bony, resis­tant to our gnaw­ing, well-nigh indi­gestible. Why would the Holy Spir­it want me to know this?” we ask. How, in any dis­cernible way, is Christ present here?

We don’t desert exe­ge­sis at this point, let­ting our imag­i­na­tions run wild in a search for spir­i­tu­al insight. Rather, exe­ge­sis helps us to crack open the text. Or, to devel­op the metaphor, sol­id exe­ge­sis is a tex­tu­al nut­crack­er. Yet if we sim­ply exegete the text — ana­lyz­ing it in terms of its syn­tax, his­tor­i­cal, and cul­tur­al back­ground, autho­r­i­al intent, and so on — with­out feed­ing on the rich­es exe­ge­sis has revealed — we can starve spir­i­tu­al­ly. We have set the table and pre­pared the meal. In med­i­ta­tio we enjoy the feast.

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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