Ryan Burgett, May 11, 2015
Many years ago, a young Jewish man from Galilee began shaking things up. He referred to himself regularly as the “son of man” but at times also implied he was the son of God. Many people though he was the man they had been waiting for. Prophecies long ago had told of a man from God who would restore God’s kingdom on the earth. The Jewish people knew exactly what that meant. In their minds, that meant that a messiah would come and rescue Israel from their oppressors and then set up a perfect Jewish kingdom that would last forever.
But the messiah they got was not the messiah they expected. While they expected him to begin gathering weapons and training soldiers, He instead traveled from town to town teaching, healing, and showing up their religious leaders.
Once, he miraculously fed a crowd of thousands with only a few loaves and fishes (John 6.5-13). The people were astounded! If they could have a messiah that not only ended the Roman occupation, but could also miraculously provide food, there would be no stopping them! The people made up their minds that no more time could be wasted, they must make him their king!
By now, the man, Jesus, was avoiding the crowds, choosing instead to spend his time off in the wilderness. But even then the crowds hunted him down. But this time, the crowds were coming for more than to hear his teaching or see a miracle. They were going to force him into his destiny as their king (Jhn 6.15). They raced around the lake of Galilee to find where he had gone (Jhn 6.25).
Jesus, though, was not ignorant of their plans. He knew what they wanted of him, and even more He knew what his purpose really was. Regardless of how many times he had taught love over violence (Luk 6.27) and forgiveness over revenge (Mat 5.38-45;Mat. 18-21-22), the message had rarely made it through their thick skins. He was not there to fight (Jhn 3.17), he was there to model a different and better way of living.
The situation was tense when they found him, but before the crowd could do anything, Jesus shocked them with these words:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in them.” (Jhn 6.53-56)
This caught them by surprise and completely disarmed them. They entered that situation set on making him their king, and now they were hearing him say that needed to drink his blood and eat his body? They could not recall anything in their prophecies about Israel becoming a kingdom of cannibals! Why would he say such a thing?
The sad fact is that most of his followers did not listen past the first line of that teaching, and it is recorded that “many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more.” (Jhn 6.66)
This was no mistake, though, on Jesus’ part. He was giving them a glimpse into his own heart and his own motives. They wanted a powerful king who would save them from the Romans. He wanted to save their souls. They wanted Him to live in a palace, but He wanted to live in their hearts. They wanted him to take up weapons and spill the blood of humans, but he wanted to give his own life for them.
Jesus said, “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in them.” He lived, died, and rose again to show us a better way of living. No more eye for an eye or tooth for a tooth. And he calls us as he called those Jewish people so long ago to do the same. He wants us to partake of his flesh and his blood, so we can continue his ministry in the world.
Jesus is alive and well on the earth today through the bodies of those of us who follow him. The life he offers us is his life, and it’s a life lived for others. Unlike the violent kingdoms of the world, we are part of a peaceful kingdom where rather than shed the blood of others, we give our lives for the sake of others, even if it means allowing our own blood to be shed.
Jesus gave his life for us, in order to free us from guilt, from shame, and from the old way of living. And today he invites us to join him in his resurrection as he works through us to redeem the entire world and everyone in it.