I supposed it depends on who you ask and whether that person's mind permanently resides in the gutter, but the crude phrase, "Eat me!" has never seemed all that terrible to me. Funny, yes, but not the kind of funny that makes me blush. Maybe that's because "Eat me!" is essentially what Jesus says in John 6:57: "Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me." It's worth noting that, while the NRSV uses the phrase "eats me," other versions like the ESV prefer "feeds on me." I guess they don't have as much of a sense of humor.
Let's stop giggling for a moment and remember what Jesus is inviting us to do. As I wrote about yesterday, I don't believe he means for us to take a bite out of his flesh. But he uses the word "eat" or "feed" on purpose, and he uses it so many times that he must have done so for a very clear reason. What does it mean to eat Jesus?
Food is sustentative. It nourishes. It keeps us alive. We eat it often--so much that most of us take it for granted. Food is enjoyable. It is communal. It is a daily fact. I think that's the image Jesus has in mind. We are to "feed" on Jesus in a real way--as if his flesh were "real" food--so that it sustains us, nourishes us, delights us, and unites us every single day.
Let's be clear here. I don't mean daily Eucharist. Again, my shocking claim: this passage isn't about the Eucharist. Sure, the bread and wine of Communion are a reflection of this passage, but I don't think these words are primarily about that. These words are about being fed in a different way--real, yes; sacramental, yes; but always bigger than what happens in church on Sunday.
Here's the question this preacher will be asking on Sunday: are we partaking of the nourishing, sustaining, uniting Body of Christ as the Body of Christ? How do we do that? (And the answer better be something other than--or at least in addition to--Sunday mornings.) Jesus' invitation is not to the Communion rail. It's to feast on him more deeply than that. May our Eucharistic theology deepen until we recognize it as an opportunity to feast on Christ AND may our Eucharistic theology broaden until we recognize that we feast on Christ in countless other ways.