Rolheiser’s Nugget on the Body of Christ


I’ve just finished Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing. I enjoyed the read and have many things to consider. There are tons of pages “dog-eared” for future reflection. One of his strongest arguments is why one should be a part of a church.

He notes that a pattern exists in Jesus’ ministry. At first, Jesus is wildly popular, drawing crowds who are wowed by his goodness and power. “However,” Rolheiser says, “eventually something happens, a different understanding of his message seeps through, and his popularity degenerates and sours to the point where people want to, and do, kill him.” (96)

On one occasion, in John 6, Jesus tells the large-yet-“discerning”-crowd that if anyone wants to be a part of him, each must “eat his body and drink his blood,” a reference to the Eucharist, perhaps. Jesus isn’t referring to cannibalism, a literal eating of flesh and blood. Scholars suggest that Jesus is calling people to be a part of the life of the the community that bears Jesus’ name.

What is interesting, however, is Jesus’ use (through John writing) for “flesh.” There are several words for “flesh” or “body” in the NT text. Soma, in Greek, is the general word used to refer to a material body while sarx is a pejorative use of flesh, a description of a subhuman and depraved bodily experience.

Jesus uses sarx in this passage.

Jesus says, “If you want anything to do with me, you must embrace imperfect people within the community that bears my name.”

Rolheiser continues,

“By using sarx, Jesus is referring to his body precisely insofar as it is not simply his sinless, glorified body in heaven, nor simply a sterilized, white communion wafer in a church. What we are being asked ‘to eat’ is that other part of his body, the community, the flawed body of believers here on earth…

In essence, Jesus is saying: You cannot deal with a perfect, all-loving, all-forgiving, all-understanding God in heaven, if you cannot deal with a less-than-perfect, less-than-forgiving, and less-than-understanding community here on earth. You cannot pretend to be dealing with an invisible God in you refuse to deal with a visible family. Teaching this truth can ruin one’s popularity in a hurry. People then found it to be ‘intolerable language’ and it meets with the same resistance today.”

Go ahead, Ronald. Say it plain, brother.



Published by joeskillen

I'm a husband, dad of 2, Pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, KS.

One thought on “Rolheiser’s Nugget on the Body of Christ

  1. It is hard to love the souls you know are far from perfect, and certainly hard when you are also guilty of the faults you observe in your own life! But we are required to love and forgive in the same measure that Christ extends to us, and I Need a lot!

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