Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God. (Jn. 6:68-69 NLT)
Jesus stands in the middle of the road and looks at those who find his words offensive. They are the same people he fed, healed and comforted earlier; they are the same people who followed him round and watched his miracles. They leave in twos or threes, or hundreds.
His words are too hard to understand for his disciples. His words have become like the sword mentioned in the Letter to Hebrews (4:12-13) which is alive and powerful, cutting between soul and spirit, exposing all thoughts and desires. What has been cut, cannot hold together, unless it be healed.
Jesus ir the Word of God, the sword of God, who exposes everything – the heart, the mind, the body. This ir the heavy word not to be heard or understood, or lived without faith.
Where does faith come from? It comes from the Father who sends his Spirit to knock on the human heart, to stir, to move one to seek the higher truth, to return to the Creator. The Letter to Hebrews (11:1) explains it thus: Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see (NLT). It is like getting on a plane and going somewhere one has seen on the map only. Such travelling makes one have confidence in the pilot, engineers, cartographers. Faith belongs to the heart exposed to God, it unites us to him.
For the faith to begin, one needs confidence and assurance. Confidence is built by action, assurance is the activity of the mind, extrapolating the invisible from the visible. Assurance comes from experience – Jesus builds it by feeding, healing, caring for the people around him. He cares for the whole person – so that they are not hungry, so that they have food for thought, so that they have some higher truth to strive for. ‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Mt 6:33)’
The disciples really get the practical part of the teaching this time. They do find the next step rather hard: to rise from the human to the divine, from the finite to the infinite. They find it hard to admit and accept that he, whom they follow is the real God, ready to give all of himself to his followers. That the visible Jesus is the image of the invisible God, even more, that the visible Jesus is one with the invisible God they have worshipped for hundreds of years, the God who leaves no worshipper unchanged.
‘anyone who feeds on me will live because of me (Jn 6:57)’ These words sound particularly brutal in the culture of dieting. No, not the vegans, or vegetarians, or carnivores, or Neanderthals, or humanitarians will live forever. Those who feed (who eat of) Jesus, those will live forever, they will have a new life. These are brutal and heavy words, hard to understand. These words are as brutal as the death of Jesus on the cross. They have no beauty.
But this is exactly where assurance and confidence are fused into faith. If you receive the bread and the fish, and drink of the good wine Jesus has made from water, you receive the master-class in assurance and confidence – it is from the hand of God that all good things proceed. Then why not accept, from the same hand, God himself: his life in your life, his power in your weakness, his love in your emptiness? But to receive that, you must admit and accept the weight of his death and the brutal honesty of his sacrifice.
Jesus offers healing to those his offensive words have wounded. He offers himself, broken as the bread on the altar. He stands on that road and watches, and asks everyone who has pronounced the creed – be it at baptism or confirmation, or Sunday service, or at prayer at home – are my words too hard to understand, is my love too hot for you, so that you’d want to run away and denounce me?
All eternity depends on your answer.
We experience him in the Sacrament of the Altar. We live him in the congregation of the believers, in simple things, in fellowship, in ministry, in cleaning the church. We share him in our mundanity – at work or home, with what we do and what we refuse to do. Having fed on him, we have the power to be like him. Because we believe and we know that he is the key of our life.
preached on 23/08/2015, in Trinity Lutheran church, Riga