Thought for the week - 22 August
Gospel reading John 6: 56-69
Well, here we are, back to grumbling again! Didn’t take long did it! This time Jesus’s disciples are troubled because they find the teaching of Jesus just too hard; so hard that many of them fall away.
Even the closest disciples say that the sayings of Jesus are just too much.
So, What is it that the disciples find so hard? Let’s look at the Gospel and see. Jesus says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.” In another place, Jesus makes this even clearer “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you have no life in you.” (John 6.53)
Well, we don’t find that too difficult, do we? We receive the Body & Blood of Jesus each time we receive Holy Communion, we are fed on him we say. What’s so hard about that?
Well, to understand we must look at the context. John knows how important this is because he tells us the context: Jesus is speaking in the synagogue – in the Jewish place of worship. This reminds us that all of Jesus’ disciples were Jews – Jesus was a Jew himself!
We must remember that for Jews the eating or drinking of blood was completely banned. We can find that ban in the Jewish part of the Bible, in the book of Leviticus
(If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut that person off from the people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement. Therefore, I have said to the people of Israel: No person among you shall eat blood, nor shall any alien who resides among you eat blood. And anyone of the people of Israel, or of the aliens who reside among them, who hunts down an animal or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For the life of every creature—its blood is its life; therefore, I have said to the people of Israel: You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.)
You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.
Do you notice that when God lays down this law there is no ‘wiggle room’ whatsoever?
You don’t eat blood. End of discussion.
There was no circumstance where that law can be broken or swept aside. To ignore this law means that you are cut off from God forever.
So now we understand. To do what Jesus says means breaking the law of centuries it seems. Remember, the Holy Communion ‘hadn’t been invented’ yet! Our perspective could not be their perspective.
This whole ‘Blood thing’ was to be an on-going problem for the followers of Jesus. First it challenged all with a Jewish background. It was also a challenge to non-Jews. Some were to come to believe that Jesus was talking about cannibalism. In fact, some scholars believe that it was this rumour, put about by Jews that the Romans picked up on and which caused much of the persecution of the early Church.
Well, we can understand this now, from our historical and theological perspective. Jesus referred to his life, the new life he offered, and to what we now understand as the Eucharist, Holy Communion.
But the point here is well made. In this story, John is focusing on the fact that to be disciples they must trust Jesus. Even when he is saying things almost impossible to accept, the disciples must trust Jesus and do what he asks.
Well, we know that feeling don’t we. We often find parts of our faith in Jesus and his teaching hard to accept. We live among people, in a society that find Christian teaching harder to accept than we do ourselves. We know that some people, like the Jews in the gospel passage leave the Church or cannot join, or like the disciples find it too hard and turn back, and no longer go about with Jesus.
We find all sorts of Jesus’s teachings hard: teachings a bout marriage and relationships, teachings about discipline of all kinds, teachings about honesty and standing up for the truth, teachings that challenge the society in which we live.
Also, we find that the way God does NOT work challenging.
“Why does God allow my loved one to suffer” is one question amongst many that cause us to doubt, sometimes even to walk away.
Remember it is Simon Peter who says “Lord to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” That same Peter who walks away as he three times denies Jesus at his arrest.
No matter how many times we walk away, like Peter we shall be accepted back by Jesus with open arms.
We must make the choice. We must ask whether we are going to stay or walk away – we must decide for ourselves where or rather with whom can be found the words of eternal life. Only in the Blood of Jesus is eternal life. Only through the Blood of Jesus can we hope to see our loved ones who have gone before . Only through the Blood of Jesus can this broken world be mended, recreated.
“Lord to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”