“THE BREAD OF LIFE”
Pentecost 13 2021 Year B Jn 6:56-69
There is the story told of the Lone Ranger and Tonto who found themselves surrounded by five hundred war painted Indian warriors screaming and baying for blood and scalps.
Crouched behind a boulder the Lone Ranger shouted in the melee – “Tonto my faithful Indian friend, we have been together through many a battle and many a conflict – but here we are my loyal friend – together we fight, together we fall- together we have lived and together we will die!
Tonto smearing on his war paint, turned to the Lone Ranger and said, “Who you talking to paleface!”
Today’s Gospel features the last of the readings from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.
Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them”. The “Bread of Life” discourse ends with a strong reaction from Jesus’ followers.
It is a divided response, because many of the hearers, including even some of the disciples think that what Jesus has said is quite “intolerable”. And at this point some of his followers choose to leave him and to turn away.
We are told that many of his disciples, many of his followers, after listening to this discourse said: “This word is too hard! Who is able to listen to it?“
The Greek word for hard is “skleros” (Σκληρός).
What it means in this context is that the words which Jesus said were not difficult to understand; but hard to accept.
It is a truth that re-emerges in every age.
It is not for lack of understanding which becomes the stumbling block for discipleship.
Rather it is the weight of the challenge of Christ’s moral demand upon his followers which is hard to stomach.
To be a follower of Jesus demands an act of surrender to Christ, and an acceptance of him as the ultimate authority.
It is the stuff of the Christian Creed which becomes a stumbling block– the idea that Jesus is Lord; that he is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father.
This is the stuff which became the stumbling block for many of the followers of Jesus – this was the stuff which was just too hard “skeleros” to accept – too hard to stomach.
The “Living Bible,” not all that respected for its biblical accuracy or faithfulness to the original text translates verse 60 in this way, “Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”
Make no mistake here. The disciples and the followers of Jesus – “totally, totally, understood” what Jesus had said.
St John, the gospel writer, records in verse 61 “Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?
The Greek word which we translate as “offense” or “stumble” is “skandalizei” (σκανδαλίζει).
Jesus was saying, “Are my teachings offensive to you?”
“Are my teachings a stumbling block to you?”
“Are my teachings scandalous to you?”
We are told that many of the followers of Jesus fell away and would no longer follow him.
Not because they didn’t understand what he was saying to them but because they knew only too well what he was asking of them and they were not up to the challenge.
In the gospel reading for today we have an account of the followers of Jesus having to make a decision.
There was defection, desertion, abandonment among them.
For a variety of reasons, many of his followers turned away and walked with him no more.
It sort of begs the question doesn’t it?
What would it take for you to walk away from Jesus?
What would it take for you to turn your back on him?
After 40+ years of being in ministry I can tell you that it doesn’t take much to offend us!
After 40+ years of being in ministry I can tell you that we humans are a fickle bunch. Tonto is our middle name!
The Covid Lockdowm prevented us from implementing our month of Stewardship. We are merely seeking to remind the “Household of Faith” that we have a budget to meet – like any other household or community – we have bills to pay.
After 40+ years of being in ministry I can tell you that it doesn’t take too much to offend us!
So it is our prayer that you won’t be too offended over these next few weeks as we are reminded of what it means to participate in the mission of Christ and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. AMEN