John 6: 60-69 (MsgB)
Many among His disciples heard this (only insofar as you eat and drink…the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you) and said, “This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow.” Jesus sensed that His disciples were having a hard time with this and said, “Does this throw you completely? What would happen if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where He came from? The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen. Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this.” (Jesus knew from the start that some weren’t going to risk themselves with Him. He knew also who would betray Him.) He went on to say, “This is why I told you earlier that no one is capable of coming to Me on his own. You get to Me only as a gift from the Father.”
After this a lot of His disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with Him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: “Do you also want to leave?” Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that You are the Holy One of God.”
Have you noticed?
So many times in the Christian life, Jesus, the Bread of Life, becomes way too tough to swallow.
Kind of reminds me of when my loving mother would insist that I put that awful-tasting liquid medicine in my mouth so that I would start to feel better. Yuk.
So it is with following Jesus. Especially for those of us who are called by His Name to shepherd the sheep. Not only do we, as pastors and overseers, have to make certain the sheep are eating the right foods and taking the correct medicines (see my last blog session) but we also have to eat right and take our Jesus-meds regularly as well. In this case, the doctor has to take a heavy dose of his or her own medications, just as the patient does.
In truth, the Jesus we find in the Gospels just doesn’t play favorites. He is an equal-opportunity offender. He cares not about our human comfort zones. He doesn’t give a bit of respect to our human pride or fleshly positions in life. He offends us whether we’re old or young. Rich or poor. Leader or follower. To Him, we’re all in the same boat. Humans in need of a Saving God. Sinking on our own. Saved, if we cling to Him.
As I see it, ‘seeker-sensitive’ takes a big hit here in today’s passage. Apparently Jesus is just not interested in ‘bigger is better’ with His disciples, and it makes me wonder if we just might be missing a bit of God’s Kingdom truths when we soft-sell the shed blood and broken body of Christ while bending over backwards to keep the people in our pews.
Could it be that Jesus is still as radical as He seems here? Is He still looking at us, His shepherds, in our one good eye, just as He did with Peter and the gang, giving us the option to leave when His teachings get just too difficult to swallow?
And what would our response be to Jesus when seeker-sensitive has worn out its welcome and the hard truth is just too difficult to chew on?
Will we respond like Pete? Or will we continue to bend Jesus’ tough teachings into easily-digested, mini-bites of half-truth? Will we be like so many of His followers here who desert Jesus just when the going gets tough? Will we head for the hills when the difficult sayings of Jesus challenge our religiosity to our core?
Well, enough tough questions for today. Maybe I’m just being too hard on us? Maybe we need to flip over to another part of the gospels where Jesus just talks about loving the little children. Wha-da-ya-say?
My prayer: Ouch, Jesus. You’re teachings are, so very often, too tough for me to swallow. Like Your followers in the first century, I’m offended at times by the way You say things and the difficult things You do. As my Lord and Savior, may Your Holy Spirit continue working in me, as I choose, like Peter, to stay put, even when it seems nearly impossible to do just that. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: I believe it was St. Ignatius who suggested that we Christians open our Bibles not just to the sections that comfort us, but to the passages that truly trouble us as well. What parts of Jesus’ teachings here today trouble me the most? How can I allow the Holy Spirit to come in and work with my troubled heart and offended mind, so that Jesus’ point of view can be worked fully into me and my life and ministry?
So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?
Between now and the end of 2015, we will be sharing with you a blog series we first developed in 2013. We call it Follow The Leader: Re-defining Successful Leadership from the Gospel of John. In order to keep all 46 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Follow The Leader home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
Click here to go onto the next blog in the series.