“Because of the Father”
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 John 6:51-58
Solomon asked for wisdom. He got it. A gift from the Father…God.
The Jewish leaders argued among themselves because they didn’t believe…or couldn’t understand…the one who had been sent…as a gift…by the very same Father.
Not understanding the gifts from the Father happens…in unexpected places. Today’s gospel lesson from John is one of them. The language and ideas may seem quite strange. But to those who heard it first it spoke to familiar ideas and activities.
The words and ideas that John attributed to Jesus would have been quite normal and familiar to anyone who understood the rituals of sacrifice. The animal that was sacrificed was seldom burned entirely…even though the whole animal was offered to the god. Part of the flesh was given to the priests and part to the worshiper who made a feast for himself and his friends within the temple area. They all believed that the god was with them as part of the feast.
Also…once the flesh was offered to the god, it was believed that the god had entered into the flesh. Therefore when the worshiper ate the flesh he also ate the god. When they left the feast the people went out believing they were god-filled. We may think it was wrong…idolatry…but the people left believing they had a new vitality because their god was in them.
The people of that day would know about the experience of union with the gods. They understood the language that John used.
Let us remember what John was doing when he wrote this gospel. He was not giving…or trying to give…the actual words of Jesus. John had been thinking for seventy years about what Jesus had said. Led by the Holy Spirit…John wrote his gospel to show the inner significance of Jesus’ words. It is not a simple recording of words…but the essential meaning of the words that John wrote…guided by the Holy Spirit…the words and thoughts a gift of the Father.
John wrote that Jesus talked about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Jesus’ flesh was his total humanity. In his first letter John said that every person who denies that Jesus has come in the flesh is the antichrist. John insisted that Jesus was the mind and heart of God become a person who walked the earth…and lived as normal people lived. This means that in Jesus we see God taking human life upon him…facing our human situations…struggling with our human problems…battling with our human temptations…working out our human relationships.
It’s just as if Jesus said, “Feed your heart, feed your mind, and feed your soul on the thought of my manhood. When you are discouraged and in despair, when you are beaten to your knees and disgusted with life and living…remember I took that life of yours and the struggles of yours on me.” When we do we will see that our life is filled with glory because it is touched with God…it is of the Father. To eat Christ’s body is to feed on the thought of his person-hood until we are strengthened and cleansed and purified by him.
Jesus said we must drink his blood. In Jewish thought the blood stands for life. What Jesus was saying is that we must take his life into the very center of our being…and that his life is the life which belongs to God. When Jesus said we must drink his blood he meant that we must take his life into the very core of our hearts.
Think of it this way. There in a bookcase is a book which you have never read. Maybe it’s something by Shakespeare…one of the world’s classics. As long as it sits on the shelf…remains unread…it is apart from you…it is unknown. But…one day you take it down from the shelf and read it. It thrills and fascinates you….moves you. The story sticks with you…the great lines and characters remain in your memory…now you can take that out of yourself…think about it and feed your heart and mind on it. Once that book was outside you…now it is inside you and you can feed upon it. It is that way with any great experience in life. It is apart from us until we take it in… experience it…make it internal. Then…instead of being apart from us…it is a part of us.
It is the same with Jesus. As long as he remains a figure in a book…someone who performed miracles and taught a couple thousand years ago…someone we worship…he is apart from us. When he enters into us we can feed on the life…the strength…the vitality he gives us. He becomes a part of us. Jesus said that we must drink his blood. He said, “You must stop thinking of me as the subject for theological debate. You must take me into you. You must come into me. Then you will have real life.”
Maybe…like me…you’ve seen the movie “Rush.” It’s the story of the two men who were competing for the 1976 Formula One auto racing world championship. In that movie the producers were able to create video that was very realistic…just like the viewer was in the seat driving the automobile…just like the viewer was looking outside the auto to see the wheels of his opponent coming within a fraction of an inch of his car’s wheels…just like the viewer was inside the vehicle as it crashed and rolled down the side of the race track. That movie’s video put the lives of the drivers inside me.
Jesus wants to do the same.
When the view from your driver’s seat is rushing past you at 200 miles an hour…or seems like the chaos of a pit stop…Jesus wants to be in you…seeing it too…a part of you.
When those who might cause you harm are within a hair of success…when their tires are about to rub against yours…Jesus wants to be a part of you…taking you through the right kind of evasive action.
When you are crashing and burning…and you see the ground coming up to meet you…the sky coming down upon you…and a ball of flame surrounding you…Jesus wants to be in you to take you safely away from that crash and burn.
When Jesus told us to eat his flesh and drink his blood…he was telling us to feed our hearts and souls and minds on his humanity…and to revitalize our lives until we are filled with the life of God…a daily life where Jesus is no longer apart from us…Jesus is a part of us.
As you leave the sanctuary today…do not leave that hunger for Jesus’ flesh and blood and humanity…in the pew…take it with you…show Jesus your hunger in your words and deeds…tell Jesus of your hunger in prayers and conversation with him.
Because of the love of the Father…the gift of the Father…your hunger will be fulfilled.