We are called to live and bear witness to truth with abandon!
1 Cor. 10:16: Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
It’s the 2nd Sunday of Advent, when we light the Bethlehem candle. Bethlehem means house of bread – so we need to talk about bread! But first we need to talk about the Beatles.
In London March 1966, John Lennon said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. I quote: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.”
After he said this, hordes of Christian Beatles fans burnt their Beatles records. The Beatles would never tour in America after this PR kerfluffle. Oh, people still loved the Beatles – but they lost a lot of followers that day.
By contrast, in Capernaum, AD 30 or so, Jesus tells the crowd, “I am the Bread of Life…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life.” After he said this, hordes of Jesus fans burnt their Jesus records. That may have been the last time Jesus toured Capernaum! He lost a lot of followers that day.
Well, let’s not split hairs here. There’s none to split really. Jesus was right and John Lennon was wrong. The backlash against the Beatles in the 60’s proved Jesus is more popular than the Beatles. Christianity doesn’t shrink, it doesn’t vanish — so far the prophecy of Isaiah is always proving true in history, “of the increase of his government there shall be no end.” On top of that, rock and roll “went first” — there hasn’t been a top 5 rock song in over 10 years.
Ok, so — Jesus was right, John Lennon was wrong. But the effect was the same. Can’t please everybody!
So here’s the problem with what Jesus said to the crowds in Capernaum. He had just fed five thousand people and literally walked on water. He was riding so high in public opinion, he had to hide from them because they wanted to take him by force and make him King. That’s some serious “increase of His Kingdom” if you ask me.
And what did Jesus have to say to all that? “Eat me.”
Eat me. Listen, friends. One, that’s rude. But two — my job is to equip the saints so that you can be prepared in season and out of season to preach the gospel. I cannot recommend highly enough that any hopeful preacher avoid the following Gospel elevator pitch: “You haven’t heard of Jesus? He’s great. He’s bread and you have to eat him to get eternal life.
“…By the way you have to drink his blood too.”
Yea. Don’t think you’re going to score a new convert for Christ with that. It was the same in the 1st century. When they heard this in Capernaum, they said, “This teaching is too difficult. We can’t accept this.”
Jesus doesn’t let up. “Does this offend you?” It sure did. John 6:66 says that because of this teaching, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went him with.” It was a very difficult teaching. A real head scratcher, hair-raising even. Only the 12 Apostles stuck around.
Jesus says to them, “Y’all want to leave too?” Simon Peter, the chief of the apostles, said, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
The words of eternal life. This response is important. This response is very, very wise. You know what (my favorite rock star) John Lennon (God bless him) said about the apostles? They were “thick and ordinary.” No, that is not the case at all. Peter’s response to Jesus shows that he understood this very, very difficult teaching of Jesus.
It breaks down like this:
Jesus says, “I am the Bread from Heaven.”
What is the Bread from Heaven?
Well, it’s a Bible thing that he’s comparing himself to. It’s the bread that came down from heaven in Exodus while the Israelites wandered the desert. They ate it, and it saved them from starving to death. That’s the bread of heaven. “It’s that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Hold up Jesus, so are you saying you came down from heaven?
“I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”
What’s the will of he who sent you?
“That all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life.”
Right. Right. The whole “believe in me” thing. Gotcha…But…but…you said you’re bread. From Heaven! But you’re Jesus. From Nazareth. How are you bread from heaven that gives life to the world?
“The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
You can hear the ralphing in the audience. “How can this dude give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus doesn’t explain yet – he just digs in deeper. “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you…My flesh is true food and my flesh is true drink.”
That didn’t help his case. That’s when they get pissed. This is where Jesus shows his cards:
“It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless — [but] the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Jesus just unlocked the riddle. Here’s what he’s saying, follow me here: Jesus’ flesh is the bread of life; you have to eat it in order to gain life; but the flesh itself is useless; it’s the spirit thereof that gives life. And it’s his words that are the spirit and the life.
He’s saying: you have to believe my words. The words of Jesus Christ, a Nazareth man of flesh and blood. The only image and Son of the Father. You can’t see the invisible Father unless you see the Son in flesh in blood. Hence these words: “This indeed is the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life.”
Pause. Jesus said you have to see the Son; believe his words. Why exactly? Well, let me ask you something. Who here believes that Jesus is telling the truth? (Everyone?)
Then here’s my next question: is it the truth because Jesus is telling it, or is Jesus telling it because it is the truth?
He’s telling it because it’s the truth, straight from God Our Father, our Creator. But only the Son knew that truth intimately. That’s why believing the Son is so important. “No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
And who is the Son? The Apostle John, who recorded this whole story we’ve just talked about, he saw the Son, and believed in him, according to the Father’s will. John spent three and a half years with Jesus. And the first thing John wants to tell us about him in his Gospel is that the Son is the Logos. This Greek word Logos is the root word of logic; it means reason, wisdom; it means order, harmony; it means meaning.
“In the Beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God; and the Logos was God.” This is saying that in the very beginning, before creation, it was just the Creator and his Logos, His Wisdom; and the Creator was His Wisdom.
“All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life…” John is saying that all things came into being through wisdom, through logic. And not just inanimate creation, but life — life itself is harmonious, ordered, logical, meaningful — and came into being through wisdom, ordered and reasonable.
“…and the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth.” John is telling us that the Logos became flesh. And though the Logos in the flesh testified that “the flesh is useless”, nonetheless the Logos of the Father couldn’t be seen by anyone without becoming flesh. And John says that what they saw in him was the glory of the Father – and the glory of the Father is grace and truth.
Truth. This is why I asked you: is something true because Jesus says it, or is he saying it because it’s true? He’s saying it because it’s true first. This is very, very profound, this is very very important.
Jesus brings a fundamental challenge to our world: there is an order, a logic, a harmony and reason, to creation — and it comes from the Creator. The Creator is not just a Creator who created and then walked away; neither is He a Despot King who rules by whim in chaos; the Creator is wise and the Creator is wisdom – and that means His creation has an order, has a purpose, — has a truth to be discerned, lived by, harmonized with, and shared.
And that’s what Jesus did. “For this reason I was born and have come into the world,” he said, “to testify to the truth.”
This truth, this Logos, is what orders Creation; it is the wisdom and logic of the Creator that governs His Kingdom – and of the increase of this Kingdom there will be no end.
So when someone like John Lennon comes along and says, Christianity is going to shrink or vanish, it’s going out of style, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Christian religion might change shape and form – but the Christian revelation is truth, and truth never changes. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He came to reveal eternal truths that shape the world we live in, and not the other way around.
These eternal truths are not beyond anyone’s grasp. They are intelligible; they are logical; they may be discerned, lived by, harmonized with, and shared.
It is no accident that Jesus gave one of his most difficult teachings, calling himself bread, after the miracle of the loaves and fishes and after walking on water. Bread walking on water. Weird image.
But in the 11th chapter of Ecclesiastes, this exact image occurs, and no doubt Jesus hoped his students would pick this up: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. Divide your portion among seven, or even eight, for you do not know what disaster may befall the land.”
This is a proverb about sharing with abandon, about investing your life and time — and getting greater returns than expected – just like the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Take it from our Lord Jesus: his difficult teaching is that the life of the bread that comes from heaven is truth. And he shows the way of harmony with the truth – offering the bread of his flesh for the life of the world, with abandon. That’s how he “cast his bread upon the waters.”
And so we also cast our bread upon the waters – sharing the eternal truths of God’s Kingdom wherever we go and in all things we do — with abandon. The lesson from Jesus’ difficult teaching is not to get caught up on forms, caught up on flesh – the flesh is useless, but the spirit gives life. Follow the Spirit, and you’ll live in truth. Don’t worry what it looks like. You might offend people. You might lose followers, like Jesus did. But you will gain everything — harmony, peace, and life eternal — in God’s truth.