A Pushy Savior?

Jesus said to them,  “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”  John 6:53.

I’ve read this chapter nearly thirty times and every time it shouts out to me that Jesus was almost goading these Jews with His  words.  The language He uses is so graphic and seemingly against the Law that those listening cannot help themselves, they have to stand up to this madman.  From the very beginning of the Law, as early as Genesis (Noah’s story), humans have been forbidden to drink blood—even of animals—for the life is in the blood.  At the same time eating human flesh was also considered an abomination in the Law.  Yet here was Jesus proclaiming a new kind of salvation through what appeared to be cannibalism.

I’m sure it wasn’t lost on the Jews that it would be impossible for everyone in Israel, let alone the whole world, to get even a small bite of Jesus’ flesh or even a sip of His blood.  Partly they were confused by the metaphor standing in front of them and partly they were looking for a reason to disagree with Him.  The use of metaphor wasn’t uncommon in their era, they weren’t unfamiliar with nuance, so what was their problem?

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves,  “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

An argument takes sides of the issue and debates them, which means some were seeing the metaphorical aspects of Jesus’ words while others were being literal, all were struggling to grasp the idea.  The world didn’t have the doctrine of transubstantiation just yet, though many religions did have teachings somewhat similar, so the idea of bread turning into the actual body or wine into the actual blood of Jesus hadn’t gained a footing as yet.  To the Jews Jesus was simply a fascinating figure, one who challenged the status quo of the day with new slants on current explanations of Scripture and God.  To them He was nothing more than a good rabbi and one whom God was using to do miracles—nothing more than Elisha, Moses or others had been.  A good teacher and prophet but not the Son of God.

There is purpose in what Jesus is doing here, first on a debate level, then on a theological level, lastly He’s using this situation to weed out the false followers from the true (I get this from a verse further on in the passage).  The twelve must have been just as confused as the common people and teachers of the law, but they had just witnessed Jesus walk on water that morning and it was still quite fresh in their minds, so they would be giving Him the benefit of the doubt.

Up to this point in the discussion Jesus doesn’t take the pressure off even a little bit but pounds the point home about their unbelief and faithless heritage.  Oddly enough, John only let’s us into who the crowd was almost toward the end of the discussion by giving the location as a synagogue.  Whenever the Bible mentions a specific place, there’s a point being made by the writer as to its importance in the story line.  This being the case, a synagogue would have been a prime location for such a discussion for the learned rabbis and devout Jews would have been gathered there, as well as the common people.  This sheds some light on who “the Jews” are in John’s writing. 

I could reiterate Jesus’ words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but I don’t think it’s necessary really.  We get the point now that His death and resurrection are past so we can look back to symbol of life through the Son as a fulfilled truth.  Hindsight is always 20/20, as the saying goes, the blur of truth in the moment, however, is never quite as clear.  Before we criticize the Jews for their hard headed refusal to accept what Jesus said, we must look at our own stubborn nature with the Bible as well.

The trouble with human nature isn’t that we are sinful, it’s that we are blindly too prideful to admit we can’t see spiritual truth.  Take the words of Jesus above as an example of what we barely understand even today.  He’s not talking about transubstantiation here nor some mystical rite which will save us, rather it’s more pointing to our need to invite Him into our very being.  Jesus is speaking of our hearts not our physical bodies.  If He is the essence of life in everything that lives, moves or has being, then rejecting Him as such is sheer death, as is accepting Him is life in the fullest sense.

Jesus warned us many will say,  “Lord, Lord,” without really meaning it.  Do you and I grasp what it means to call Jesus “Lord?”  Not too long ago anyone called “Lord” was owner of all we had, commander and chief of the district they ruled and the law of the land, which means their decrees were final.  Even the people were considered property to these “lords,” so that they ruled the very existence of their servants.

When we say Jesus is Lord, our modern filter gets in the way of what it means for Him to rule over us too often, for we think of Him as some benevolent, innocuous god-ling out to give presents to all the good girls and boys.  Nothing could be further from the truth of His command or what NT meant when it called Him “Lord.”  Paul dispels any misunderstandings when he declared himself to be a slave to Christ.  A slave had no say in his or her own life even so far as to whom they would marry or what would happen to their children.  They were completely under the command of their master and as such submitted to their will at all times.

Jesus’ teachings from a Biblical POV are not to be taken as suggestions for they describe the very nature of not only Himself but those who would follow after Him.  To those who believe and have faith in the Christ His teachings are the life’s blood of their existence for they connect us with Him.  He isn’t just another good teacher with great proverbs or interesting things to say but a turning point in the way we think about life itself.

This is what the Bible means when it calls Jesus “Lord” and Master.

So, what do you mean when you say it?


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2 Responses to “A Pushy Savior?”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    Standing on the back end of the story we see it much more differently than had we standing the midst of its unfolding. I often wonder where I would be? It’s a great time to check your religious meter vs your discovery meter.

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Yeah, I think about it as I read that I would have been more like Peter, dedicated but swayed by popular opinion. Or John, dedicated but a hothead.

    It’s easy to criticize those who don’t know the answers when the answer is given to each question, it’s quite another thing to figure it out fresh with just a little light to lead the way.

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