Blog 12: The authority of Jesus’ teaching

John 6:35-71John 7:1-52

SNL Sunday 9 December 2012 7.00pm

Remember this is written as if it is by John, but it is entirely mine – hopefully faithful to what he intended.

The conversation after the feeding of the 5,000 and the time he walked on the water[1] turned into the most bizarre we encountered. It started out alright. He pointed out that he was the true bread of life – he himself the Manna of the new age. Indeed we were thrilled with the way it started ‘Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty[2] … and anyone who comes to me I will never drive them away[3] …and all that the Father gives me, I will not lose anyone of them, but will raise them up on the last day.’[4]

These were the words the people needed to hear – they were so oppressed by the scribes and Pharisees – they talked them down as Sabbath breakers and law-breakers. They made life difficult – he was welcoming them. But when the authorities[5] complained, he began almost to taunt them – and perplex us! He started teaching that we had to eat – no, he said chew on or munch[6] his flesh – and if that were not enough he said we needed to drink his blood – Jews, good Jews, drink blood![7] We were almost sick on the spot and the crowd went pale at the thought. Looking back now we can think of the Lord’s Supper – but we and everyone else had never heard of it or known anything about it when this conversation happened – and he wasn’t talking about it anyway[8]. I know now he was telling us we had to be part of him as if we were ingesting him. That close!

But that day we lost most of the people who went round with us – not just the ones looking for a free feed – but some who had been with us a long time.

We saw the look on his face as he watched them leave – and he turned and said ‘Are you guys going too?’ We looked at the floor to our shame, not knowing what to say for we too were shocked and stunned, till Peter (thank you Peter – you could be gloriously wrong but that day you were gloriously right) said what we were thinking but could not put in words. ‘Where would we go? Who else could we find? You have the words of eternal life and we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God!”[9] And when we thought about that’s exactly what we did think and believe.

There’s so much more to say, but I’ll content myself with one more – after Jesus got rid of his brothers who were keen to start organizing his political campaign – Jesus had only one campaign organizer, his Father! After they were safely off at the feast of Tabernacles he arrived on the last day[10] – the biggest one when the crowds were at their height – he pops up at the side of the main temple area, just as the High Priest begins to pour out the huge jug of water on the altar to symbolize the beginning of the River of Life that Ezekiel[11] pictured flowing from the Altar and out under the temple and down the valley getting wider and deeper as it goes. In the solemn silence as the priest lifts the jug, up jumps Jesus ands shouts: If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and I will cause rivers of living water to spring from his belly.

There was a gasp – never before had a festival been upstaged this way – and he slipped away leaving a hot debate behind – is he or isn’t he the Messiah?

We now know that he was speaking about the Holy Spirit because we have experienced what he meant as I hope have you. But we also know now that the discussion in the council afterwards was the first time Nicodemus spoke up for him. That night visit[12] had done its work – and we would have cause later to be glad of him.

You could never say that life with Jesus was dull – and it has never been so since either!

 


[1] John 6:35-71

[2] verse 35

[3] verse 37

[4] verses 39-40 paraphrased.

[5] John frequently says ‘The Jews’ as in verses 41 and 52 when he means the Jewish authorities as opposed to the people.

[6] In verse 54 he changes from esthio, the normal word for eat often used metaphorically, to trogo, which is to munch or chew on and is not used metaphorically.

[7] Remember that before a Jew would eat any meat it had to be killed in a way that all the blood was drained from it. It was offensive and repugnant for a Jew to eat anything with blood in it – let alone drink blood straight.

[8] Some commentators would say this chapter was inserted by John as a Eucharistic commentary and is not by Jesus. I, and most commentators, do not accept this – Jesus set out to shock them and to impress the total dependence they must have on Him even for food and drink. If it had been written as a Eucharistic sermon it would not have been written in this way.

[9] This is John’s equivalent passage to Caesarea Philippi in the other three gospels where Peter (again) says ‘You are the Christ’. It marks a shift in the disciples’ understanding and commitment to Jesus.

[10] 7:37-39.

[11] See Ezekiel 47 – the image is taken up in Revelation 22 and is also the inspiration for the art and carpet in Fisherwick’s prayer chapel.

[12] See chapter 3.