Harsh Words – August 26, 2012 – John 6: 60 – 69

We’ve come to the end of chapter 6 of the Gospel of John.  A lot has happened in this chapter.  It begins with the story of the feeding of the 5,000.  People are amazed by Jesus’ miracle of turning 5 barley loaves and 2 fish into a meal for 5,000.  The crowd after having seen such a great work decided that Jesus was the great prophet who had come to the world to bring God’s message of salvation.  Jesus and his disciples had to rush off for fear of the crowd.  But, the crowd pursued them.

Jesus stopped at the synagogue to teach the crowd.  First, he says, “I am the Bread of Life.”  Then, he says, “I am the bread that came down from Heaven.”  The crowd began to argue among themselves asking, “How can this be?  He is Mary’s and Joseph’s boy from Nazareth.”  So, Jesus goes on, “If you want to gain eternal life, you must eat my flesh and drink my blood.”

Eating flesh and drinking blood.  The people just wanted the Kingdom of Heaven.  They didn’t want guts and gore.  Jesus had gathered a great following after he fed the 5,000.  He could have said a few nice things about Heaven and had the biggest following in town, exceeding even the synagogue, and been the most popular guy in town.[1] 

Instead, he gives the crowd harsh words.  It’s so hard some of his followers turn away.  The great crowd of people started to dwindle as his difficult teaching went on.  His rough speech weeded out those followers who may not have truly believed and were maybe just following the crowd.  The crowd had found that it was easy to follow the guy with the loaves and fish, but the flesh and blood was too much.  Only the faithful few were left. 

Theologian Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm writes, “The more we realize that faith calls us to consume the body and blood of Christ, to embrace his death and resurrection and to emulate his manner of living and dying for others, the more difficult the journey of faith becomes.”[2]

We know the hard work of discipleship.  Think about all the work it takes to be a church.  What do we do?  Changing the sermon title on the marquis to serving as a deacon.

That’s a lot of time and energy.  We want to congratulate ourselves and be complacent with what we’re doing.  We find it difficult to think that Jesus is calling us to do more. 

Writer C. Thomas Hilton suggests, “The challenge to those of us who already consider ourselves disciples is that Jesus keeps stretching our faith. Jesus keeps saying, ‘You have come this far, come a little farther. You have committed this much, commit a little more. You love these people, now open your arms to th[o]se people. You have compassion for the one hurting person in front of you, now broaden that compassion to all hurting people in God’s world.’”[3]

The Disciples decided to continue to follow Jesus and not turn away at the difficult teaching.  We too have made a commitment to be Disciples knowing hard work of discipleship.  They did it and we do it because we believe Jesus is the Holy One of God.

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