Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
We are the end of our time in Chapter 6 of John’s gospel. It started out so well. Jesus fed 5,000 people, gained a huge following. He was almost made king against his will.
And yet in this passage, he has gone too far. The talk of eating his flesh and drinking his blood was his first mistake. The law against consuming blood was part of the ingrained taboos in this culture. Blood was life. When an animal is killed, the blood must be drained, because blood is life and life belongs to God. Saying such things about consuming his flesh and blood created a visceral reaction.
What is so upsetting to you that simply talking about it makes you queasy? For some folks, its vomit. For others, its roaches, or snakes. There is no thinking going on; you just react.
Jesus as an observant Jew should have known better. So why did he do it? Why did he talk about himself in this way? If we go back to the beginning of the chapter, what do we see? The huge crowd who was fed by five loaves and two fish followed Jesus. They wanted him to be their idea of a Messiah. “Give us bread to eat, become our king, and free us from the Romans.” They even tried to force him to become their king.
As they followed Jesus and listened to his teaching, the people began to realize Jesus wasn’t going to be the Messiah they wanted. Jesus makes clear that he comes from the Father, and that only through him can they have life. Not just life—the people who ate the manna in the desert still died—but true life that comes from being in relationship with God in today’s reading. Jesus’s words have been too much for the people.
And many of his disciples turn around and go home. This is not what they were expecting, not what they want. Jesus’s teaching is just too hard to understand. Then Jesus turns to the Twelve and says, “Do you also want to go away?”
What about us? Do we too find Jesus’s words too hard to take? Is Jesus the Messiah we want? No power, no easy life, no get-rich-quick.
I wonder how long it took Peter to answer Jesus’s question. We don’t know if he hesitated, or looked at the others for help. Finally Peter says, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
So do we believe and know Jesus is the Holy One of God? For me, some days are better than others. Some days I want to follow Jesus and share God’s love with all people. But just like Peter, who will deny Jesus, Judas who will betray Jesus, and the others who run away in the garden, I too have times when this teaching is too much. I am too tired. The world seems to be falling apart.
That’s when I remember another thing Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” Amen