Monday, August 27, 2012

Jesus is not the creme brulee

Based on John 6:51-58

We have heard before about Jesus being the bread of life and he repeats it in these passages making it a pretty important concept…Jesus is the bread of life, not a special treat like birthday cake or crème brulee, but bread…simple, every day bread.  Jesus is as necessary to our lives as every day bread.  Our reliance on Jesus for sustenance is not limited to special occasions of faith or celebration, but it is an every day, ongoing, ordinary reliance on the provision of God in Jesus.

And Jesus is saying it again—I am the bread of life.  He reminds us that his bread is not the same as the bread we often seek in our lives—the things which satisfy only temporarily but are visible and tangible to us…food, toys, comfort, position, status, etc.  Jesus reminds us that that kind of food and that kind of provision is temporary and if we eat it and are satisfied by it, we will still die.  Like the manna in the desert, it is sustenance and provision but it is fleeting and temporary—remember in the desert the people couldn’t collect more manna than they could eat that day and if they tried, it would turn rotten before morning-- and eating manna will not bring us into eternal life and communion with Christ.

Then Jesus really starts messing with the crowd by telling them that they have to eat his flesh and drink his blood.  Understand that in first century Judaism, as it does today, this would have sounded completely unfathomable.  Blood is considered unclean and touching it is forbidden, drinking it would be beyond comprehension.  The thought of eating human flesh is, even to us, a repulsive notion.  Yet Jesus uses these very strange and very shocking images to get the attention of his hearers. 

Not only must we stop seeking after the world’s bread and rely on the bread that is Jesus Christ, we must ingest him!  How weird is that??  Can you imagine what people would have been saying amongst themselves after this speech?  We’re supposed to be cannibals now? Are you kidding me?  As if following this crazy person isn’t dangerous enough, now we are supposed to completely dive over the edge?

Yes.  That is exactly what Jesus is saying.  Now we are supposed to completely dive over the edge.  We are supposed to rely on whatever he provides for us, even when we don’t understand, even when it seems ridiculous and goes against everything we think we know…we are to rely on Christ as our bread…he is all we need and he is all that will satisfy.

In verse 60, the disciples comment on what Jesus has just told them” 
“This is hard teaching, who can accept it?”  No doubt!  Who can imagine this? Who can understand what it means to eat the flesh of the messiah?  This is insanity!

Of course, Jesus knows they would be offended by what he is telling them.  He is telling them these things in order TO offend them.  The message of Jesus Christ is offensive to those who are not called by God!  It is offensive to be told that what you seek in the world is meaningless…that everything you are working for is pointless and temporary…that you will still be dead, in the end, no matter how hard you work or how much stuff you accumulate.  Unless you have relied on the bread that is Christ, it is all for nothing.

That message is offensive.  It goes against everything we want to believe about ourselves.  We want to believe that God will bless our endeavors and plans for our own lives, but that is not the message of Jesus Christ.  We want to believe that having faith in God means that our lives will make sense, they will be easier, and more comfortable…but that is not the message of Jesus Christ.

The message of Jesus Christ is a difficult, offensive, challenging message:  follow me.  Follow me into dangerous places, to where you will be frustrated and confused at times, to places where there is hatred and hostility.  Follow me without any of the security you will have to leave behind…without any praise, accolades, prizes, or treats.  Follow me into the unknown, where I make all the decisions and many of them you won’t like. Follow me to do the work of restoring a fallen world and reconciling it to God.

And, Jesus promises very little…except that he will be with us the whole time, and he will provide for us everything we need…and he will offer us escape from temptations that seem to overwhelm us…and he will give us opportunities to praise God and bring honor and glory to His name.  That’s the message of Jesus Christ. 

Many of us say we want to follow Christ…and we say he is with us all the time and he rescues us from temptations and gives us what we need….but what would happen if we really believed it?

What would it look like to live as though Christ REALLY is the bread of life?  To rely on God’s provision instead of seeking provision which looks more comfortable to us?  What might it be like to work for the glory of God and not recognition or pay raises or health insurance?  What if Christ really was what sustains each of us through our days and the rest we could leave behind?  How might our lives and the life of our community be different?

We sometimes talk about allowing Jesus into our hearts which are our most intimate homes…into each of the different rooms and, ultimately, into our messiest, darkest rooms where he longs to clean them and make them into his home.  Those are the rooms filled with regrets, lies that were told, wrongs that were done, unforgiveness…why do we keep those rooms as they are? Wouldn’t you think we’d want to clean them out right away and throw that stuff out so we can get on with living lives that are free from those things?

Like the “food” of the world (recognition, pride, greed, material possessions) those things are also a sort of food…junk food, if you will.  We hold on to regrets and unforgiveness because they feed our fears and, at some level, living in fear is comfortable for many of us.   When we have anger and hostilities, or complaints and regrets to hold onto and nibble on now and then we maintain the illusion of some sort of meaning to our lives, some sort of control over the situation.  But it’s just that, an illusion.  Just like Cheetos are an illusion of food, they are not food.  I still like them, and I still eat them now and then because they taste good and make me feel good, but, in the end, I’ve done nothing to nourish my body by eating them.

Jesus speaks in metaphors most of the time.  This time his metaphor is bread…sustenance…basic essential for life.  Jesus is the bread of life.  He tells us this pretty plainly and he tells us over and over.  Maybe we should pay attention.