Some people say things just to be inflammatory. Might be a talk show with a guest celebrating Colin Kaepernick. Could be a news program making statements supporting President Trump. Hosts, producers, even the audience kind of hope they’ll say something that will have people talking the next day. “Can’t believe they said that. Did you hear what this person said? How could they? It was so
The 24-hour news cycle and entertainment industry might thrive on people throwing slightly offensive things out there to create buzz and interest. But that was never Jesus’ style. Now Jesus said some things that sounded offensive. He said things that inflamed people. But he never said them just to get a rise, just to be offensive. He spoke truth. Truth is always offensive to those who don’t believe.
So when Jesus said what he did in the gospel, people who heard it and those who hear it today cry that’s offensive. How could he say that? It just isn’t right. That’s so hard to understand. Before we fall into those same thoughts we need to confront what seems on the surface shocking and maybe offensive. We need to understand, if it’s coming from Jesus it’s truth. The truth will always be offensive to unbelief. We approach these words to understand them and not find them offensive. We approach to do what Jesus invites us to do …
Consume Christ for life
He himself is the food
We receive him and live
What set the Jews off that they argued sharply among themselves was another hard teaching from Jesus. They could only ask, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Food was certainly on their minds, having been fed among a crowd of more than 5000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish. That kind of miracle started a wave of food-related requests. Keep the food coming. Keep the miracles coming and they would never have to worry again about hunger. Also on their minds was Messiah. An earthly powerful Messiah who would be their leader, provide whatever food they needed, and overthrow their enemies. But this talk of them eating flesh, that was gross at worst and impossible at best. The very idea the words brought to mind was offensive to them. Jesus was asking the impossible and they wouldn’t do it.
At first listen it may have startled us, too. “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” That’s graphic language. Let’s just admit it. It sounds like cannibalism. That’s offensive like few other things are. No wonder people gave up following Jesus. How could we follow someone who says gross things like that? And it’s not just those words. It’s other things the Bible teaches. Things our reason can’t understand, that become offensive. Like we’re supposed to believe that there will be some people who end up in never ending fire in hell? All for making the wrong choice it seems. For following a different path in life. When the Bible speaks in such hard language, such exclusionary language, where its either God’s way or no way, that’s hard to take. He’s the only way to heaven? That leaves out huge swaths of people. There should be another way to be saved. Like God could just start it and let people finish themselves. That’s less offensive, sounds reasonable.
Of course, this whole dialogue is more than about food. It’s about spiritual life. The Jews focused on the flesh and what that meant. They missed completely who was speaking. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. This bread is my flesh…whoever eats my flesh … my flesh is real food.” Jesus emphasized himself as the food. Christ is the one who speaks. He’s calling for people to eat his flesh and drink his blood. That would be distressing if Christ were only a man. But he’s more than true man. With all the divine attributes of God, Jesus is more than the flesh of an animal we consume for energy and day to day living. Jesus is true God and the reality of what needs to be consumed to have life. Life beyond this earthly existence. Jesus is himself the food granting us eternal life.
Martin Luther said, “These words of Christ, my, my, my flesh, should be imprinted into man’s hearts with large and bold letters.” He never wanted people to forget who is the food. Jesus is the spiritual food you take into yourself. God gives you something in Jesus you can’t get anywhere else. Jesus is soul food. Eating and drinking Christ, the gift of God to you, speaks to who this gift is. You consume Christ into yourself. Jesus is talking about believing in him. Believe the flesh that hung on the cross carried your load of sins. Every moment you were offended by something in the Bible and took it away. Took your doubts about Jesus being the only way and swept them away in a rush of love poured out for you. Believe that the blood Jesus poured out on that cross was the sacrifice you needed. Your forgiveness in Christ brings you back into a relationship with God again. It is Christ you eat and drink by faith. The one in whom the entire Godhead dwells, that’s who you believe in. That’s who you consume for eternal life.
A lot of people can talk about Jesus. Plenty more have heard of him. Some cling to Jesus when things are going well. But to remain in him, to abide in him, make their dwelling in him, to confess him with heart and lips when it really counts, that no one can do alone.
Jesus shows he is the gift. He is who we believe in. But that gift is to be received. And when its received we live.
When we stop consuming Christ it quickly happens we run the risk of losing life. The ways it happens are simple. The world is in the process of losing Christ all the time. Plenty of people hear about hell and one way to be saved and limitations and that’s it. They want good times, good feelings, and that’s enough. Time with the Word of God is less and less a priority. We can start to care less and less about how we live, what we say, how we think. If there are good times to be felt, why stop ourselves? We stop asking questions about religious things. Or we might find other places for answers. We stop surrounding ourselves with people who will tell us when we’re falling into sin or losing our connection to Christ. That hole gets filled by others. Specific leaders become our heroes. Sports become our obsession. Our kids get all our love. No place for God to fit, nothing left for him. But those things don’t give life in heaven.
Jesus makes his promises clear. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” The gift of God in Christ needs to be received by you. And it is, every time you consume Christ. You remain connected to him. Nurture that faith in Christ. Come to him, embrace him and the sacrificial death he died for you. Embrace him and know he already has embraced you. He took up the task of Savior. To be your Savior he faced off against everything that would pull at your priorities. Through them all, he kept his eyes on the work. He fulfilled his role. He won life by rising from the dead. He gives that life to you.
Keep eating and drinking Christ, that is keep believing in Jesus. Remain in his Word. The more time you spend, the more you will remain in Christ. It’s to Jesus that you’ll take those who approach you with questions. It’s to God’s love in Christ that you’ll seek to go when working through problems. Take in what God has to give. Receive from him food for eternal life through Christ. Jesus stands behind the promises so you know as you consume him by faith you live. You live now and you will live forever.
Don’t let the seemingly offensive statements of Jesus turn you off. He makes his point. To eat and drink of him is most important. That’s not physical eating but spiritual. Eat his flesh. Drink his blood. Believe in him. Christ was given as the gift to save you. Believe and you will be well nourished spiritually. In Christ, you’ll have forgiveness, peace, and life right now. You consume Christ, believe in him, and you will have life for eternity in heaven.