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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 6:56–69

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (NRSV)

Let’s talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Jesus liked to use metaphors. I mean, not to be letting the cat out of the bag, but when Jesus was talking about big ideas he’d use metaphor, which (if you had tunnel vision) could make you feel like his teaching was as clear as mud.

But don’t shoot the messenger. He was simply trying to show them the ropes before they got cold feet, and sometimes he had to take a different tack. He knew which way the wind was blowing, and he didn’t want to be a Cassandra because that would break their hearts and they’d get cold feet. He knew that soon they would come to a fork in the road and have to cross the Rubicon before everything went pear-shaped, which was a real possibility, because there were some bad apples in the group—including one that would become a real hatchet man.

“This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”

No one who needs to be spoon-fed.

Spoiler alert: Jesus said a lot of things that he never meant to be taken literally. We’re pretty clear that the exhortation to eat his flesh and drink his blood is not an invitation to cannibalism. It’s an invitation to take part in the day-to-day struggle that he put himself through—not to be an observer, not to be a commentator, but to invest yourself in the way he invested himself. That struggle is not just a physical one but a spiritual one, and if your spiritual commitment is not present first, your work is going to go for nothing. Spirit gives life; the flesh is useless. God calls us to service for the sake of service, not as part of some metaphysical transaction, not for your own gain, but for the gain of the whole world.

It’s a tough nut to crack, but when it comes to doing God’s work, there is no silver bullet.

Lord, sometimes we want your teaching to be easy. We want to have it all laid out for us, so that it doesn’t cost us anything. Give us the wisdom to search for the deeper meaning and the courage to embrace the difficulties in understanding. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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