What Teaching of Jesus Drove The Most People Away? #EatMyFleshDrinkMyBlood #76
Hello friends, and welcome in to the show. I hope you are staying safe out there! This Sunday, yesterday, was the first time in over 25 years of ministry that I have been part of a church that cancelled the Sunday gathering for anything that wasn’t storm – snow/tornadoes/hurricane related. It was heart-wrenching to do so. I think it was the right choice, but it bothers me in a deep place, and I guess that’s the thing about leading in a crisis – sometimes there is no GOOD choice. May the Lord give us all wisdom as we navigate through this time! I read a quote today from a school superintendent who said, ” “In the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much, but it will be QUITE apparent if we under reacted or did too little.”
If you are interested, we live-streamed our worship and prayer time, and I preached – from the Living room of our house, with family present – on “Pandemic wisdom.” You can watch the video here: CLICK HERE. Note that we had a little bit of lighting and sound difficulties, but it was our first time broadcasting worship, word and prayer from our house. I think we’ll learn from it and improve, Lord willing. Stay safe out there, brothers and sisters and radiate the love and comfort of grace through His Word and His Gospel! Today’s passages are Exodus 27, Proverbs 3, John 6 and Galatians 2. Our focus passage is in John 6, and it is honestly one of the most controversial passages in the entire Bible. For one, Jesus addresses head on a topic that I have seen many Christians and some churches split over: predestination. Perhaps more jarringly, John 6 contains this remarkable and jarring verse:
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in yourselves. 54 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, 55 because my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.John 6:53-56
Honestly, if I had been one of Jesus’ disciples and heard Him say this, I might have pulled Him aside and did what Peter did when Jesus announced His plans to be crucified. I’d have tried to dissuade Him from speaking on such a topic. I suppose I would have received the same as Peter did, but the fact remains that this particular teaching of Jesus is worded in such a way that we are stunned to read it, and wonder what in the world Jesus could be referring to. Let’s read John 6 together, and then come back and discuss it.
Where does Food come from? Kids today would say Walmart, or Safeway, or Publix. People one hundred years ago would say that food came from plants and animals…from the fields and hunting the forests. Vastly different today. Similarly, if I were to ask you- what is the staple food of our region? What food do all of us live on? That would be an odd question, because we live on such a wide variety of food. Billions, however, around the world would answer that question with “rice” or “rice and fish” Similarly, in first century Israel, the people ate bread and fish as their staple food. Morning, noon and evening. That was their food. Bread was their sustenance. That was their food. Keep that in mind today as we listed to Jesus teach us through His word.
One more question: Why do you work? Well, I guess to make money, right? Why do you make money? To buy stuff, and pay bills on the stuff that you already bought. Here’s the thing – in the first century….something like 85 percent of laborers wages went to FOOD. So if you asked them then why do you work, they would look at you and say, “why, i work to eat!” These things we need to understand in order to get John 6.
I’ma go all Bible code on you for a moment: The word bread appears 250 times in the entire Bible. There are 1189 chapters in the Bible, hence the word appears, on average, 1 in every 4.8 chapters. In John 6, however, the word bread appears an astounding 19 times – at a frequency OVER 95 times greater than what is to be expected. This is one way we can arrive at the theme of a passage. 🙂
The topic of predestination is, as mentioned earlier, one of the most controversial theological topics there is. It might just be #1. I have seen 3 families leave one church – 11 years ago, or so – because two people that were not teaching brought up the topic of predestination at a Wednesday night Bible study, and signalled that they agreed with it. So, I don’t intend to ignite a controversy amongst listeners, but lets at least brush by this issue, in preparation for a deeper dive coming up soon:
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me,…39 I should lose nothing of all that he has given me…44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (more than just about His disciples) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”John 6
This is an incredible summary of how biblical predestination works: the John 6:68-70 dialog. There will be some in the sovereignty camp who focus exclusively on Jesus’ words – “Have I not chosen you, the twelve?” OTOH, there will be some in the freewill camp that focus on Peter’s words – “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed.” Both are true…Followers of Jesus have made real, unforced genuine decisions to believe in Him, as Peter has said. Likewise, as Jesus has noted – He chose them, not vice-versa. (John 15:16), and nobody can come to Jesus unless they are drawn first by the Father. BOTH are true. I believe Jesus’ words are above Peter’s words, just as I believe that the sovereignty of God over -arcs man’s freewill…but both are real and true.
When it comes to salvation, I believe that the greatest power/force is not choice, but God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty does not at all nullify free will or choice, but it does dwarf those things. If you have strong opinions about this issue, then you are welcome to them…just be sure that your grandest focus is on Jesus, the Gospel, the greatest commandments and the Great Commission.
And now, to the even more stark words of Jesus in this passage: “Eat my flesh and drink my blood” is a powerful way of speaking, and I believe Jesus did so here intentionally. But that sort of speech isn’t one hundred percent foreign to our way of speaking. We speak of “devouring a book” or “drinking up a lecture”, or “chewing over an idea” or “ruminating (chewing the cud) over a decision.”
Is Jesus talking about communion here? I think the non-simple answer here is that Jesus is not completely talking about communion here…but there is a very real connection. Go to the Last Supper – note how Jesus held up the bread and said that it was His body broken for them, and the juice was His blood spilled for them. Rather than John 6 looking forward to communion, and ultimately indicating that people would really eat Jesus’ flesh in communion…I believe that The Last Supper passage looks back at John 6, where Jesus is reminding His disciples that they are called to a daily bread type following of Him. And that His body and blood, broken and shed on the cross, were DAILY life to them as believers. The Gospel that saved them would be the Gospel that sustained them DAILY – just as bread and juice sustained their biological life. They could no more live without the daily intake of Jesus’ broken body and blood (through faithful believing in the good news/abiding in Jesus) than they could live without daily food.
In an Agrarian society – a farm society, they understood something that we don’t. In order for life to be sustained, one has to consume dead things. Life is sustained by the death of something else. When Jesus fed the thousands – they ate dead wheat, dead fish. When we go to Chik Fil A – we are eating dead chicken, dead wheat, dead pickles. Things that had to die in order to sustain us. Jesus is saying to us and to His true followers that the ONLY way for Him to give us eternal life is for Him to DIE and us to DAILY consume Him. Apart from daily abiding in Jesus (John 15) then we are able to do nothing. Just like you are weak apart from daily liquid and caloric intake. Apart from Jesus – we will die. We have a one time view of the Gospel – we believe it ONCE (deciding to follow Jesus) and then we are good to go. This is absolutely FOREIGN to Jesus’ teaching. Instead, He calls us to follow Him daily taking up our cross. He calls us to daily bread. You want to see how this works? Try eating one meal a month. Or in a lifetime. It doesn’t work that way and neither does faith. (Credit to Dr. D.A. Carson here for some of the verbiage – from his book, “For the Love of God.”)
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirstJohn 6:25-35
When the people found Jesus He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” What does that mean? It means that they were looking for more food. Another miracle…but they didn’t understand what that miracle SIGNified or signified. In this particular case, the people were seeking Jesus at a surface level – for another miracle…more food. They didn’t realize He was giving them a SIGN that He was the Living Bread – that He was to be their sustenance and their life. After He told them that, He told them not to WORK for the food that perishes (in other words, not to have a WORK based approach to God)
But it zoomed over their head. How did they respond to that? They asked, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” They are religionists. They have the typical mindset of religion, which is a viewpoint of God that if we scratch His back, then He will scratch ours. In other words, what can we do for God to get Him to do what we want/need. Its paganism, quid pro quo – tit for tat. And it is the dominant religious view in America. WHAT DO WE DO to PLEASE GOD (so that He can please us?)
Jesus, probably shaking His head, said – The work that God requires is to BELIEVE ON ME. Sheesh! The arrogance and fanaticism of this guy! If you were reading this book as an atheist or non-believer, you would read this as the stark saying that it is. “Are you kidding me? The thing that makes God happy is to believe in THIS GUY? Who the heck is He?” And the Jews understand what Jesus is saying here, and they demand that He prove that He is worthy of that kind of faith. One day of feeding the thousands isn’t enough to prove it. Maybe bread for them for years might be…They demand that Jesus keep providing for them TEMPORAL blessings. Bread that would have fed their bodies for years, but done NOTHING to stave off death! In the present, looking back hundreds of years – what good would that temporary bread have done them? If that is all that Jesus did for them…then they would be long dead and hellbound with stomachs full of miracle bread. Big whoop.
Even today hundreds of millions of “Christians” think this way. We have a child in the hospital…what can we do to make God hear our prayers and heal our child? We have a big exam to take – how can we make God happy with us so that we can pass our exam? How can we get God to give us what we need? There is a pandemic of coronavirus spreading and killing people…how can we get God to hear our prayers of protection and healing?! That is the view of God that most “Christians” in America STILL HAVE.
But here’s the thing with God – He is perfectly happy in and of Himself. He is not lonely (Trinity = perfect relationship) He is perfectly content. PERFECTLY. What does that mean? It means He needs nothing!!! Have you ever tried to shop for the person that has everything? Its’ hard – even though nobody truly has everything. BUT -God does. He has everything. We have nothing that can persuade Him. Its like trying to bargain with Warren Buffet with a penny. God needs nothing. He has never needed anything. That means that there is no bargaining with God. No tit for tat – no “I’ll do this if you do that.” He has no needs. None.
So, knowing God is fully content, and possesses everything – how can we please Him? And here is the radical, freeing answer…Have faith in Jesus – Follow Jesus with your life. That is mind blowing and revolutionary – even to some of you listeners to this podcast. Your job is not to please God with what you do – but who you believe in. Who you believe in and the faith that is in Jesus is the very thing that will actually empower and enable you to do all of the deeds that God calls you to do, but yet doesn’t need you to do. Faith without deeds is dead says James, but we show our Faith (which comes first) by what we do – which is an outflow of faith in Jesus.
We must stop trying to EARN our way into God’s graces. You’ll never, ever, ever do it. It will wear you out and make you bitter and hateful. You KNOW people like that. burnt out on church and burnt out on God. Bitter. Angry. Sad. Forlorn. Always feeling rejected. In so many cases – they tried to buy their way into heaven by doing good deeds, by going to church, reading the Bible and everything they did fell short, because they didn’t have enough good deeds to buy their way into God’s graces. The only thing that doesn’t fall short is having the kind of faith in Jesus that produces fruit and actions. The very thing they never tried.
And now – what of you? Are you tired of working for bread that is here today and gone tomorrow? Are you weary of trying to please God and always wondering where you stand to Him. I have a direct word from Jesus to you. COME TO ME ALL YOU WHO ARE WEARY AND HEAVY BURDENED, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. Believe.