Sunday sermon 22 July – “Hard sayings”

SUNDAY 9.00am

Readings: John 6:48-60; 66-69

One of the most taxing times of my life was when I was in my 3rd year of university – in a four year course. I was overloaded with too many subjects. One of them was a final year paper in homiletics.What’s that? You may ask. Homily ring a bell? One definition is “that branch of rhetoric that treats of the composition and delivery of sermons or homilies”. Great theologians like Barth were unimpressed with relating preaching to common rhetoric, of course. Preaching is a biblical proclamation that is quite different. It’s not just speech making.

To show you what I mean about the stress involved, the final exam involved choosing a bible text from the Old or New Testament, and developing a sermon outline and motivating it. The exam paper was about 25 pages thick. It included the readings you had to choose from – in Hebrew or Greek. Your choice – you could choose any one of the unseen passages and then translate it before you did your sermon thing. Totally unnerving.

Thankfully I found this passage from John 6 and was able to answer the question after doing the translation:

Joh 6:66  From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Joh 6:67  “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Joh 6:68  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Joh 6:69  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

It was one of the many hard sayings of Jesus that caused disciples to turn away. Which saying in the passage is the hard saying?  Good question.

This is such a complex passage – we are tempted to look for the easy way out here.

We can latch onto the “flesh” of the son of man and the “blood” and take the easy road – the wide road – and equate that with?  Communion of course. So often people jump to that conclusion.

I want to suggest to you that it is not primarily communion that Jesus was talking about at all. For a couple of reasons:

Flesh

The word “flesh” is not used by Jesus or Paul in relation to communion – always “body”. They are very different.

Moses

The comparison with Moses’ manna is crucial.  Listen again:


Joh 6:48  I am the bread of life.

Joh 6:49  Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.

Joh 6:50  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.

Joh 6:51  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Jesus is not essentially talking about a supper – holy communion – that he had not yet established or commanded. He may be alluding to it.

He is talking about LIFE – a key word in John’s gospel.

“I am the bread of life” could be translated in Asian cultures “I am the rice of life”

It’s a staple food – on which people depend – just as manna was something they needed in the desert to survive.

The difference is that the manna only kept them going day by day. Like the Lord’s prayer where we pray for “daily bread” meaning “food enough for the day”.

Go back to John 1 – which you would have read this week in the Essential Jesus Challenge. Listen again:

Joh 1:4  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

Joh 1:5  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Joh 1:11  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Joh 1:12  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

Joh 1:13  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Joh 1:14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Receiving Christ is more than an intellectual thing.

It is about taking him into your life in the fullest sense.

He is the Word who BECAME FLESH. There’s the next clue.

He is the bread.

He is the flesh – a human being who is God and whom we take to heart and receive.

Listen again to John 6: 56 and 57:

Joh 6:56  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.

Joh 6:57  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.

So what do we do about this?

It was such a challenging statement  – one of the HARD SAYINGS of Jesus – that we read that people stopped following Jesus. Listen again:

Joh 6:66  From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Joh 6:67  “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Joh 6:68  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Joh 6:69  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Hurray for Peter. Do you think he understood what Jesus meant when he said that his followers were to CONSUME him? Unlikely. But he would have known that sticking with Jesus was still the best way.

Listen again to this challenging line:

“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. (v 53).

Or these:

Joh 6:55  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.

Joh 6:56  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.

The word “remain” is also translated as “abide” or “live”.

Life comes from eating the flesh and drinking the blood of this Jesus.

That’s risky. It’s not literal – although many have applied it to communion in an indirect sense.

I think it’s relational – it’s the extension of the idea of receiving Jesus into your heart, your mind, and your very being at the deepest level.

When we take Jesus and all he offers and is into our very core, we have eternal life, we will be raised up on the last day, and we will enter into a new place of living.

It puts salvation into a new perspective really.

It’s not just saved from Sin – but being united with the Son and through Him being caught up into the reality of God.

Verse 57 stretches us in this direction

Joh 6:57  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.

We too live because of the Son.

A hard saying should not cause us to run away – we should run towards Him.

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on July 25, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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