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Monday, November 08, 2004

Doth this offend you?

I am always amazed by Jesus. Last night I reread John 6 for the first time since my catechism. Christ frustrates my wisdom so easily.

25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? 26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

Here we are, the disciples of Christ, theologians of glory to the bitter end. We ask Christ for some work to do, and he tells us "Believe on him whom he hath sent."

"Ah, okay. Well then, give us heavenly food that we might know you're the one -- convince us with a miraculous display!"

"But you've seen that food before, your forefathers ate it and died. My Father wants to give you the true bread. Bread that gives life to the world."

"Sounds good! When do we eat?"

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? 43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Of course, this doesn't sit too well.

52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

Jesus isn't going to water it down for us.

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

Even now, as one who whole-heartedly confesses the true presence of Christ's body and blood in communion, something inside me is shocked by his words. Meat indeed? Blood indeed? Really? I sound like one of the disciples.

60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

I want so badly to see the look on Jesus' face when he gives his quick reply:

61... "Doth this offend you?"

He won't recant. No matter how much the truth repulses the sensibilities of his disciples, he will not water it down. And so many of them walk away.

We want so badly for Christ to come along and taste, smell, look and feel like everything we've always wanted. Perhaps our generation is not guilty of asking for a magnificent prince to smash an oppresive empire (unless you're an American Democrat) like the Jews did, but we still want a Jesus other than this one.

In his Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis notes a similar effect when reading scriptures describing heaven, and makes an excellent observation:

Heaven is, by definition, outside our experience. The scriptural picture of heaven is therefore just as symbolical as the picture which our desire, unaided, invents for itself; heaven is not really full of jewellry any more than it is really the beauty of Nature, or a fine piece of music. The difference is that the scriptural imagery has authority. It comes to us from writers who were closer to God than we, and it has stood the test of Christian experience down the centuries. The natural appeal of this authoritative imagery is to me, at first, very small. At first sight it chills, rather than awakes my desire. And that is just what I ought to expect. If Christianity could tell me no more of the far-off land than my own temperament led me to surmise already, then Christianity would be no higher than myself.

Our senses have been so affected by the fall that we cannot rely on them to tell us when a thing is good. As Lewis goes on to explain:

If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling or repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know.

The Creator of the Universe, God Himself, comes riding into town on an ass. If we had never read that specific bit of scripture describing the triumphal entry ourselves, and some liberal artist were to paint Jesus so humbled, we might even call the artist a blasphemer.

1 Cor. 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

This is the way the kingdom comes. God Himself would have it no other way.