Jesus wasn’t a man chasing the status quo. He sought God’s righteousness. And some of the things He said didn’t sit very well with the fallen people around Him.
One crystal clear example of this is the second half of John 6, where Jesus makes a bold statement. He says to the people that they must drink of His blood and eat of his flesh in order to receive life.
Now the Jews were a people who saw cannibalism as a sin. And that’s certainly what it sounded like Jesus was teaching them. But they should have known that He meant something else. He left no question on whether He followed the Father’s will.
I don’t know what I would have thought had I lived back then and heard this for the first time. I’m guessing it would have been hard. But we see that his closest disciples at least understood that Jesus was the one they needed to cling to. They knew Jesus would direct them in the path of God.
I like the way Rich Mullins talked about this in an article he wrote for Release Magazine back in ’96. Here’s what he said…
The Communion of Saints
by Rich Mullins
Release Magazine September/October 1996
In one of those especially poignant passages that so frequently and powerfully mark the gospels and charge them with the character of Christ, we encounter Jesus and His twelve in a moment of deep sorrow followed by a great flash of glory. (And does glory ever come except on the heels of sorrow?)
Jesus has just alienated many of His disciples by telling them that they must “eat (His) body” and “drink (His) blood.” This directive must have been even more startling to its original audience than to us. They did not hear it through the filter of some 1900 of systematizing theology contrived to intellectualize and cushion us against the blow of His outrageous command. They it head on and felt the full force of it and they were repulsed.
Here, Jesus, who was habitually pushing the margin of reason into the realms of faith, crossed the line. Here, He ventured too deeply into the uncharted territory of the kingdom of God, articulated too clearly the good, yet disturbing news of that kingdom, and called for an obedience too radically opposite the reasonable sensibilities of many disciples at that time. He called them to follow too far outside their well-defined comfort lines…and they ran away in disgust or stood paralyzed in terror as Jesus walked on – walked on into the blinding light of the liberating truth He had just spoken.
The twelve stayed with Him – maybe reluctantly, maybe for reasons that they didn’t know. But when Jesus asked that heartbreaking question, “Will you also leave Me?” it is Peter – the impetuous apostle – who gives us the secret to the hidden heart of discipleship:
“Where else can we go? You have the words of life!”
Peter may very well have been as perplexed over the point of Jesus’ teaching as those who abandoned Him, but he was not confused about the person Jesus. Peter might have misunderstood His methods and mission, but he was certain that Jesus was Messiah. He may have been in the dark about where he was going, but he knew that in Jesus there was light. He may have been scared nearly to death by the demands of discipleship, but he knew that in Jesus there was life. Just before this confession of his dependency on and the sufficiency of Jesus, he had sunk in the storm of intimidating waves and been rescued by the hand of a Master who knew his weakness and the shallowness of his faith (Matthew 14:22- 31).
There is much that we are intimidated by in our walk: doctrines that run counter to our cultures and egos, tasks that seem nearly insurmountable, the weakness of our wills and the seeming severity of God’s. We can get lost in the endless debates over the mechanics of Christianity and sink in the despondency of our powerlessness to grasp the mystery of grace, but in the midst of that, we must do what the writer to the Hebrews advised and what Peter did, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.” It is He who calls us and He who enables. His body is our bread; His blood our drink. He has the words of life.