If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen (6:60-71)

whereshalligo

“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

On the back of Jesus’ ‘bread of life/eat my flesh, drink my blood’ statements some of his followers were having difficulty with what had been said. For you and me, reading this text 2000 years later away from the context of first century ancient middle eastern religious norms, that difficulty might be a literal difficulty in understanding. But that is not the case here. The conversation in the previous verses took place in the synagogue. jesus was talking with people who would have been well able to understand exactly what he was saying. No this was not hard in the sense that reading the works of Chaucer or doing calculus can be hard, this teaching was hard because it was demanding and it was taking them out of their comfort zones. Religious people (yes – that includes you and me) are generally very similar in this regard in that we have comfort zones of established belief and teaching that we have become happy with in our lives. When someone comes along and begins to say or teach something different; something which might stretch us or our established religion in a new direction we have a tendency to be extremely uncomfortable with it. It is difficult teaching. For example when mainline churches began to ordain women to ministry it was (and somehow remains to be) considered difficult teaching – so difficult that some folks left churches. It was hard teaching pulling them in a direction they felt they could not go in.

Remember Jesus is saying that he is the one chosen and sent of God. Jesus is saying that he is the Word made flesh. The folks listening to him were ready for another Moses, they were even ready for a kingly leader who might lead them in a political charge, but a carpenter’s son from Nazareth as the Messiah of God? That was a stretch too far for some of them. Jesus tries again to explain to them what is going on. The leader they are looking for – an earthly, worldly, political, kingly leader – is not the leader that’s coming because this work of God is a work of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh gives nothing. As he will say in a few chapters time, Jesus has come from God to bring life in all its fullness. The words that he has been speaking are words full of the Spirit and life.

Jesus’ words were too much for some. They walked away and no longer followed him choosing instead to go back to the comfort zones of their familiar old story. Having witnessed Jesus’ signs, and having heard his teaching some people walked away deciding that it was just too much for them. In response to this Jesus turned to his other disciples and asked them if they wanted to walk away too. It was Peter who spoke up on their behalf (as he so often did) and said:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the holy one of God.”

I think that these are some of the most powerful words that any of the disciples speak in the entirety of the gospels. They are a declaration of understanding and complete commitment. In uttering these words, Peter is saying that he and the other disciples get it. They know that Jesus is who he says he is. They have intellectually assented – agreed that Jesus is the Messiah, AND they are saying that they are ‘all in’ because believing that Jesus is the Messiah leaves them no other option but to be all in – “Where else can we go?

I hope that, if nothing else, these opening 6 chapters of John’s gospel have made you think again about who Jesus is and just what it means for him to be the Word made flesh. Perhaps some of the significance of Jesus’ identity has been lost on us as we have become used to the story we grew up hearing, and have allowed it to become nothing more than a familiar fable that teaches a good moral. Perhaps the good news of the Word becoming flesh has lost some of it’s potency in our lives. If that is the case then we need to stop here for a moment.

Stop.

Stop for a moment, close your eyes and focus your thoughts on Jesus.
Think intentionally about all that we have been learning about in these opening 6 chapters:

Jesus is not merely a carpenter’s son.
Jesus is not just another good moral teacher.
Jesus is not a preacher telling the same old story.

Jesus is the Word of God
Jesus is the light in the darkness.
Jesus is the Chosen One of God
Jesus is the Messiah sent by God to reconcile all things to God.

Jesus is here to announce and enact the rule of God over all the earth.
Jesus is here to announce again and enact the very heart of God for God’s people – that we would walk in new life.

New life.

Jesus is calling all people, including you and me, to follow him in this world; to join Him in being light in the darkness; to live distinctively and differently, modeling the kingdom of God.

If you and I have lost that vision of Jesus; if we have become stale and allowed Jesus to become just another character in a moral story that we like, then we need to stop and ask Jesus to do a work in us so that we can join in with Peter and say:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the holy one of God.”

Either the teaching and demands of Jesus are too much for us and we walk away, or the teaching and demands of Jesus are the only place that we can come to, and we must surrender to him as the Word made flesh and go ‘all in.’

There is no in between.

Which way will we go?

Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever (6:37-59)

be-born-again-bread

To me, there are two types of people in the world. Firstly there are those people in the world who possess the ability to simply answer a request with a yes or with a no and nothing else. Secondly there are those people in the world who do not possess the ability to simply answer a request with a yes or with a no; those who feel that a yes or a no must be backed up with a full explanation for the reasoning behind the yes or the no. This passage is an example of Jesus fully explaining himself and the things he has just said.

Having just stated that he is the bread of life and that whoever believes in him will never hunger or thirst, Jesus seems compelled to tease it out a little further because these people he is speaking to keep hearing and seeing who he is and what he does and still they do not believe. They do not believe that he has been sent by God. They do not believe that he is God’s chosen one. They do not believe that he is the Messiah sent from heaven.

But he is.

He has come down from heaven to do the will of God, and the will of God is that all people accept what God is up to – fulfilling all that has already been promised to them and to their ancestors by sending the Son to move among them; to show them the way to everlasting life.

As Jesus explains this the Jews, who are full of doubt and suspicion about what he is saying, begin to grumble and moan: “How can he even be the bread sent down from heaven? Is he not Joseph’s son? We know the family – this guy has not been sent from God.”

Jesus is quick to stop them in their tracks. He tells them that no one can come to him unless the Father draws them because, as the Prophets say, ‘they will be taught by God!’ If God has been at work within them, if people have heard God in their lives and made room for God in their hearts then they will know that Jesus is not deceiving them.

Jesus is the one who has seen the Father. Jesus is the one who knows the Father intimately. Remember the beginning of this gospel – it says in the opening verse that Jesus, the Word of God, was there in the very beginning with God. Jesus knows God and knows what God’s mission is because Jesus, as John has stated from the beginning, is God. The mysterious and unfathomable nature of that statement does not in any way take away from its truth. Jesus is the very image of the invisible God, the only one to have seen God and therefore Jesus is uniquely qualified to say the things that he is saying.

Jesus is the bread of heaven sent down to nourish and save the soul of humankind, and the ones who believe this will have eternal life.

Having said this, Jesus then starts to change up the language a little as he moves the imagery from that of bread to that of flesh, namely his flesh. He says that the bread of life is his flesh which he will give for the world. In dropping this in here, John is creating another signpost for what is to come later in his gospel. The Jews are again confused and ask how it is that Jesus will give them his flesh to eat, to which Jesus simply responds by telling them that if they do not eat of his flesh and drink of his blood then they will have no life in them. In the same way that Jesus says he is in the Father and the Father is in him, so to are these Jews (and every one else) invited to experience a similar intimacy by receiving all that Jesus is giving (his whole self): “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them.

All this talk of blood and flesh can, of course, be off putting for any reader, but please, take a minute to hear the invitation of Jesus in what he is saying here because it is simply an extension of what he has been saying all the way though John’s gospel so far:

He is the Son of God.
He is the one Chosen and sent by God.
He is the Word of God made flesh.
He is the light which will persistently shines in the darkness.

I know…I know I keep saying that again and again in these reflections, but it is impossible to read this gospel and not keep coming back to these statements over and over again. Jesus is all of the above and Jesus has been sent by God to fulfill the mission of God in the world. He is the bread of life sent from God and he is able to nourish and sustain all who come and partake.

For millennia people have struggled to understand the significance of this and even more so to receive it for themselves.

Maybe you are one of them?

If you are struggling to receive Christ at his word; if you are struggling to make sense of what he says then please hear this:

Your job is not to understand it fully.
Your job is simply to take Christ at his word, receive the invitation he has made to each of us, and invite him to remain in us.
Your job is to allow all the fulness of God to dwell richly within you and experience the newness of life that only God bring.

Will you take Christ at his word today?

Don’t be afraid… (6:16-25)

Breadoflife

If you think that feeding 5000+ people at the same time with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to work with is crazy and hard to fathom then i have bad news for you. The crazy hard to fathom continues into the next section of John’s gospel because this is the part when Jesus walks on water.

John tells us that after the big picnic on the mountainside, evening came and the disciples made their way back from the mountain to the lake where they got into their boat and began to make their way back across the lake to Capernaum. The distance that they would have had to row was around 7/8 miles. John is specific about telling his readers that Jesus had not yet joined the disciples. This particular event was also recorded by Matthew and Mark, both of whom recorded it at the same point in time – right after the feeding of the 5000.

Let me draw your attention back to the distance that these guys had to row that night. A distance of 7-8 miles is no short distance to have to row. It was also night time so these guys were rowing in complete darkness, and there was a storm blowing. Even before any weirdness sets in to this story, it is already a grim situation by most people’s standards. At around the half way point of their journey they see Jesus approaching them, walking on the water. I had never it of this until today, but for Jesus to be within view of the boat means that he is also half way across the lake. This means that not only is Jesus walking on the water in the present moment of this story, but he presumably has been walking on the water for three or four miles by the time he has come into view. Either that is the case or Jesus has somehow teleported from the edge of the lake to the middle of the lake. However it went down that night the reported facts of the event i.e., that Jesus was walking towards the boat on the top of the water, are certainly enough to freak out even those who knew Jesus best. Even though some commentators have attempted to explain this event within the realms of human possibility (e.g. William Barclay), there is just no way to make sense of it in any kind of rational way. The disciples are justifiably afraid – there is a man walking on the top of the water – and Jesus said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid. Then the disciples were willing to allow him into the boat and immediately they were on the edge of the lake at the point to which they were headed.

N.T. Wright believes that John has placed this story here to continue revealing Jesus as the Chosen one of God, who has come to be the fulfillment of the law and the very completion of the story of God’s relationship with Israel. It is Wright’s understanding that this is what John 6 is all about. At the beginning of John 6 the loaves and fish used to feed the hungry crowd in a miraculous way harkens back to the story of the Exodus and God’s provision of manna from heaven for the hungry, journeying people. Ans then this passage, where Jesus walks on water and rescues his disciples from their predicament, harkens back to another very defining moment in the Exodus story – the parting of the Red Sea. In a sense, John is connecting the dots of the big picture of God’s salvation for humanity. He is connecting the old, dominant narrative, passed down through the generations, to the narrative of the new work of God which is now taking place in Christ. John is saying again that this man Jesus is the very Word of God, the Chosen One, the Messiah for which these people have been waiting – and he (Jesus) is intimately connected to the Exodus/Passover narrative which has bound these people together across the generations.

In this passage John is continuing to reveal who Jesus is, and he is setting it all in the context of the old story so that the people he is writing for will have a clear understanding that jesus is the one they have been waiting for. But also in this passage is the very simple, but very profound truth that when the wind howls, when the waves roll, and the friends of Jesus literally feel ‘all at sea,’ Jesus joins his friends and simply says: Do not be afraid!

Are there storms raging in your life right now? I assume so – there are storms raging in my life too. With that being the case, perhaps you will permit me to remind you that in these times; in these storms, our friend Jesus is right here with us and is still saying to all his friends (you and me): Do not be afraid.

Perhaps it is time to welcome Jesus into the boat, huh?

Don’t be afraid… (6:16-25)

If you think that feeding 5000+ people at the same time with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to work with is crazy and hard to fathom then i have bad news for you. The crazy hard to fathom continues into the next section of John’s gospel because this is the part when Jesus walks on water.

John tells us that after the big picnic on the mountainside, evening came and the disciples made their way back from the mountain to the lake where they got into their boat and began to make their way back across the lake to Capernaum. The distance that they would have had to row was around 7/8 miles. John is specific about telling his readers that Jesus had not yet joined the disciples. This particular event was also recorded by Matthew and Mark, both of whom recorded it at the same point in time – right after the feeding of the 5000.

Let me draw your attention back to the distance that these guys had to row that night. A distance of 7-8 miles is no short distance to have to row. It was also night time so these guys were rowing in complete darkness, and there was a storm blowing. Even before any weirdness sets in to this story, it is already a grim situation by most people’s standards. At around the half way point of their journey they see Jesus approaching them, walking on the water. I had never it of this until today, but for Jesus to be within view of the boat means that he is also half way across the lake. This means that not only is Jesus walking on the water in the present moment of this story, but he presumably has been walking on the water for three or four miles by the time he has come into view. Either that is the case or Jesus has somehow teleported from the edge of the lake to the middle of the lake. However it went down that night the reported facts of the event i.e., that Jesus was walking towards the boat on the top of the water, are certainly enough to freak out even those who knew Jesus best. Even though some commentators have attempted to explain this event within the realms of human possibility (e.g. William Barclay), there is just no way to make sense of it in any kind of rational way. The disciples are justifiably afraid – there is a man walking on the top of the water – and Jesus said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid. Then the disciples were willing to allow him into the boat and immediately they were on the edge of the lake at the point to which they were headed.

N.T. Wright believes that John has placed this story here to continue revealing Jesus as the Chosen one of God, who has come to be the fulfillment of the law and the very completion of the story of God’s relationship with Israel. It is Wright’s understanding that this is what John 6 is all about. At the beginning of John 6 the loaves and fish used to feed the hungry crowd in a miraculous way harkens back to the story of the Exodus and God’s provision of manna from heaven for the hungry, journeying people. Ans then this passage, where Jesus walks on water and rescues his disciples from their predicament, harkens back to another very defining moment in the Exodus story – the parting of the Red Sea. In a sense, John is connecting the dots of the big picture of God’s salvation for humanity. He is connecting the old, dominant narrative, passed down through the generations, to the narrative of the new work of God which is now taking place in Christ. John is saying again that this man Jesus is the very Word of God, the Chosen One, the Messiah for which these people have been waiting – and he (Jesus) is intimately connected to the Exodus/Passover narrative which has bound these people together across the generations.

In this passage John is continuing to reveal who Jesus is, and he is setting it all in the context of the old story so that the people he is writing for will have a clear understanding that jesus is the one they have been waiting for. But also in this passage is the very simple, but very profound truth that when the wind howls, when the waves roll, and the friends of Jesus literally feel ‘all at sea,’ Jesus joins his friends and simply says: Do not be afraid!

Are there storms raging in your life right now? I assume so – there are storms raging in my life too. With that being the case, perhaps you will permit me to remind you that in these times; in these storms, our friend Jesus is right here with us and is still saying to all his friends (you and me): Do not be afraid.

Perhaps it is time to welcome Jesus into the boat, huh?