Has our familiarity with the gift made us lose this awe and anguish; awe at the beauty and mystery of a love beyond imagination and anguish at seeing it poured out so freely and extravagantly?
The disciples of the Lord "receive the unheard-of gift but are expected to accept it, not only to satisfy their hunger but in obedience of faith. How far will this faith go?
There is . . .the anguish of John: the anguish that does not know itself, anguish of love on behalf of love. He sees that the Lord is squandering himself anew; he does not understand how; he sees only that this extravagance points symbolically forward to his death. He is accustomed to his Master's love going far beyond him and always inventing more fantastic ways. He finds it incredible enough that he has been invited at all to share in the whole work. Now he knows that it surpasses everything he could have imagined.
Theology had a long time, two thousand years, to make the abrupt and crude aspect of the event acceptable to us. The contemporaries were confronted suddenly with the stark and unprecedented fact: bread is flesh. John feels as if he is admitted into a madness of love forever inaccessible to reason. Until now the Lord's body was to him the guarantor of his spirit; leaning on the Lord's breast, he is receptive to the embodiment of this spirit and feels the Master's love flow over to him from it, feels his whole teaching contained in his body as in a vessel. If he now has to see this body as bread and eat it as such, in order to partake of the body, he feels that the spirit will be transmitted to him in this way. But the whole process presents a new leap of faith, which, however, comes easier to John than to the others because John's faith has already always lived by this surpassing quality of the Lord. In order to receive the spirit of the Lord through his body in the bread in the right way, he needs only to keep hold of his faith, his grace of faith. Until now he has been used to asking the Lord whenever he felt unsure. Now he has to find his answer in being fed by this bread. For he knows too well that the Lord's body is the vessel of his spirit for him to suppose that the Lord would give his body without his spirit."
(Adrienne von Speyr)