Although religious people try, Jesus is not domesticated. He freaks us out. He says and does things which are not predictable or easy. Well, at least that is what the New Testament records. So how about it in life? Being weirded out by Jesus is part of being a Christian.
John 6 is a fascinating example. Big crowds followed Jesus. The disciples, fairly sensibly, voice concern about how everyone is going to be fed so far away from food. Jesus then does a miracle with a boys lunch and everyone is amazed.
So then the disciples get in a boat, but Jesus waits, then walks on the water looking like a ghost or something (disciples freaked out) and then suddenly they are ashore.
Some of the well-fed crowd come seeking Jesus, and he draws out that they are looking for the sake of their bellies, not for the signs. A debate goes on around Moses’ feeding accounts and the issue is moved to the question of impermanence vs. that which is eternal (very Buddhist concern, btw).
Jesus makes it clear that he is the Son of Man, the point of the hints, the end of the arrows. Then it gets really weird. His flesh and blood are real food and you need to eat to be all interconnected and part of the final new life real life after all is said and done. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” John 6:63
Heaven initiated change is a huge theme through John. Very ‘sovereignty’ focused. Then people are befuddled so much they give up. Jesus is not concerned because:
64 (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
But he asks them anyway: You bailing on me too?
Peter says: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
So what am I to do with all of that?? Debate transubstantiation with a committed Roman Catholic? Could do better. I should do what the text prompts and be freaked out. Everyone but Jesus is freaked out in this story. To not be freaked out is to not be taking things seriously. This is where the story pushes everyone in the story; should it not do the same to me? It does. Then, of course, I tidy it up and teach it to other people as if it all makes perfect sense, and as if it’s all about symbolic grape juice and wafers once a quarter (more or less).
But I’m weirded out at:
- the whole water walking episode: that’s wild!
- the problem of being appetite-driven like the pursuers
- the provocative way in which Jesus describes himself as edible
- the seeming clarity that the variable is faith/trust, but that is from above, not within
- that people are grossed out and leave and that is not a problem for Jesus (cause he knows how it is all gonna play out, because it is all from the Father anyway)
- that Peter doesn’t hide that he is weirded out but still loyal
- that Jesus chose and yet one is a devil (what all does that mean beyond betrayal, and how does it actually work?)
So, unlike the crowd, I’m ok. I’m freaked out, but my foundation is in the fact that Jesus, for whatever wildness and weirdness, is as good as it gets and that is more than good enough. But, that is because the Father gave me this faith, and Jesus chose me (unless I’m a devil, right?).
I Am the Bread of Life
22 On the next day (after feeding the big crowd miraculously) the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (small talk) 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. (seeking Jesus for the signs or for filling the belly) 27 Do not work for the food that perishes (annicca), but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (taking responsibility or control?) 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (trust) 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (playing Jesus for the bread miracle) 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” (Jesus explains sign of Moses, but the crowds want free bread)
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (Jesus spells it out; he is God’s provision for ultimate needs)
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (bothered that they aren’t getting bread, or that Jesus was bragging or that they were being asked to do too much for the bread???) 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. (temporary blessing) 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[c] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus[d] said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
The Words of Eternal Life
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.