I have written on the previous three occasions of Markus Barth’s thoughts on the Lord’s Supper: its Jewish connection, its joyful fellowship centered on the sacrificial death of Christ, and its relevance to social ethics in the life of the church. The final chapter of his Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper takes a look at perhaps the strongest biblical text for sacramentalism, John 6:26-58; sacramentalism being understood simply as a strong attribution of spiritual efficacy to the consumption of bread and wine.
John 6:26-34 Jesus’ discourse on working for food that does not perish
John 6:35-51a Jesus’ affirmation of himself as the substance and the giver of the bread of life
John 6:51b-58 Jesus’ teaching on eating his flesh and drinking his blood
He begins by setting forth three areas where John appears to diverge from the perspective on the Lord’s Supper that the rest of the New Testament has:
- John is thought to most vividly emphasize the conflict between Jesus and the Jews. While the Synoptics embrace Christ as the Jewish fulfillment (e.g. linkage of Lord’s Supper and Passover), Jesus attacks the Jews in the strongest language found in the Gospels , e.g. “You are of your father, the devil!”
- John is thought to create a different impression of the Lord’s Supper than 1 Corinthians 10-11. For Paul, it’s a communal proclamation of the Lord’s death that should manifest a concern for the poor among the church. However, John 6 seems to indicate that individual consumption of bread and wine brings individual salvation.
- For John, the criterion of the faith in Christ that the rest of the New Testament announces seems to be faith in the sacramental meal. One cannot have the former without embracing the latter.
To begin to assess John 6, Barth distinguishes four schools of thought on the chapter as it relates to the Lord’s Supper: Continue reading Christ – The One and Only Sacrament (Part 5 of 5)