If one were to play a word association game with the word “Eucharist,” the results would probably break down like this:
- 50% – Blank stares and crickets chirping
- 48% – “Communion”
- 1.99% – “Last Supper”
- 0.01% – “Feeding of the 5000”
That 0.01% is either a Biblical scholar or a preacher who fancies him/herself one.
Commentaries on the opening to John 6 are quick to point out that in John’s Gospel there is no Bread-and-Wine-Last-Supper moment. There is no, “Do this in remembrance of me.” There is no, “Take eat.” There is no Eucharist. Except that there is. Sure, it doesn’t happen on “the night before he died for us,” but in John’s Gospel, there is still a time when Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and gave it away, and it happens in our lesson for Sunday, The Feeding of the 5000.
Jesus takes the five barely loaves from the young boy’s lunch box and makes them the Eucharist, the sign and symbol of thankfulness, the outward and visible sign of the indwelling power of God. In the act of thanksgiving, Jesus turns a simple lunch into a feast for the masses. In the Eucharist, Jesus makes fish and bread a symbol of God’s more than abundant grace, mercy, compassion, and love.
In our Eucharistic Feasts, we tend to mimic the sad scene of Maundy Thursday. We approach the altar with due reverence, kneel, and give thanks for a life laid down, a body broken, blood spilled, for us. What if we brought some John into our Eucharistic Event? No, not the footwashing bits, but rather the joyful feeding of huge amounts of people bit. What if we came expecting an overflowing banquet in the form of wafer and wine? What if we really were to “come with joy to meet our Lord?”