The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 6:56-69

IF YOU EVER GET TO GO TO ISRAEL, ONE OF THE THINGS YOU WON’T SEE IS THE FAMILIAR JUICY STEAK FOR DINNER. IF BY CHANCE YOU SEE STEAK ON THE MENU, ORDER SOMETHING ELSE. IF YOU ORDER THE STEAK, IT WILL BE COOKED TO RESEMBLE THE SOLE OF YOUR SHOE. YOU COULD GET A BEEF BURGER AT MCDAVID’S, BUT YOU WILL THINK YOU ARE EATING A CHARCOAL BRIQUETTE. ISRAEL STILL HAS THIS THING ABOUT BLOOD; TO THE EXTENT THAT THE PEOPLE WHO CLEAN UP AFTER AN ACCIDENT OR TERROR ATTACK ARE ALL ORTHODOX RABBIS. THEY DON’T JUST HOSE DOWN THE STREET, BUT METICULOUSLY SWAB UP EVEN THE SMALLEST BIT OF BLOOD AND FLESH; AND DO SO WITH REVERENCE. ACCORDING TO HOLY WRIT, THE LIFE IS IN THE BLOOD.

OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS, WE HAVE BEEN HEARING THE DISCOURSE OF JESUS ON HIS BEING THE BREAD OF LIFE THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN. WE HAVE SEEN HOW HE HAD BEEN SHOCKING FIRST THE CROWDS, THEN THE JEWISH LEADERS, WITH HIS TELLING THEM THAT THEY MUST EAT HIS FLESH AND DRINK HIS BLOOD. OVER THE COURSE OF HIS DISCOURSE, HE HAS BEEN ESCALATING THE LEVEL OF CONFLICT, AND, IN TODAY’S GOSPEL, JESUS RAISES THE LEVEL OF CONFRONTATION TO THE ULTIMATE. AS HE SAT ON THE SEAT OF MOSES IN THE SYNAGOGUE AT CAPERNAUM, FROM WHICH THE MEANING OF THE LAW OF GOD WAS EXPOUNDED, HE SAID, “JUST AS THE LIVING FATHER SENT ME, AND I LIVE BECAUSE OF THE FATHER, SO WHOEVER EATS ME WILL LIVE BECAUSE OF ME.”

IT WAS NOT JUST WHAT HE SAID, BUT WHERE HE SAID IT, THAT MADE WHAT HE SAID SO OFFENSIVE TO MANY, WHO FOUND IT TOO DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT. IN RESPONSE TO THEIR MURMURS OF OFFENSE, HE SAID, BASICALLY, “YOU AIN’T SEEN ANYTHING YET – WHAT IF YOU WERE TO SEE THE SON OF MAN ASCENDING TO WHERE HE WAS BEFORE?” IF THEY WERE OFFENDED BY THIS ESSENTIAL TEACHING, ONE CAN UNDERSTAND HOW OFFENDED THEY WILL BE IN WHAT GOD WILL DO IN THE PASSION, CRUCIFIXION, RESURRECTION, AND ASCENSION OF JESUS. HE THEN REAFFIRMED THAT NO ONE CAN COME TO HIM UNLESS BROUGHT TO HIM BY THE GRACE OF GOD THE FATHER.

THE GOSPEL IS AN OFFENSE TO THE WORLD, BECAUSE IT OFFENDS AGAINST OUR SENSE OF HOW THINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO WORK. AFTER ALL, WE ARE INTELLIGENT PEOPLE WHO CAN MAKE DECISIONS FOR OUR SELVES, AND FIGURE OUT THINGS FOR OUR SELVES. TO BE TOLD THAT WE HAVE NO ABILITY TO EVEN CHOOSE TO FOLLOW JESUS BASED ON OUR STRENGTH OF REASON IS AN INSULT, AND TO LISTEN TO ALL THIS TALK OF EATING HIS FLESH AND DRINKING HIS BLOOD IS, NOT ONLY DISGUSTING, BUT AN OFFENCE TO OUR INTELLIGENCE. HIS TEACHING WAS SO DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND THAT MANY TURNED AWAY AND STOPPED FOLLOWING HIM; JUST AS HE KNEW WOULD HAPPEN, AND WAS WHY HE PUSHED THEM TO THIS POINT.

MANY OF THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS WERE AND ARE DIFFICULT. THEY CALL FOR A DIRECT ACTION ON OUR PART THAT IS AGAINST OUR SELF INTEREST AND CONTRARY TO THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS. FEED THE HUNGRY, CLOTHE THE NAKED, HEAL THE SICK, VISIT THOSE IN PRISON, GIVE TO ANYONE WHO ASKS OF YOU, AND IF SOMEONE DEMANDS YOU CARRY THEIR BURDEN FOR ONE MILE, CARRY IT FOR TWO. IF YOUR NEIGHBOR HAS NO COAT AND YOU HAVE TWO, GIVE HIM ONE OF YOURS. LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, AND LOVE YOU NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF. THE MOST DIFFICULT, OF COURSE, IS THAT WE MUST EAT HIS FLESH AND DRINK HIS BLOOD TO TRULY LIVE. IF YOU WANT EASE AND COMFORT, THEN FOLLOWING THIS JESUS IS NOT FOR YOU, BECAUSE YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT HE IS TEACHING.

WITH BELIEF, WITH TRUE TRUST IN JESUS AS THE LIVING BREAD FROM HEAVEN, COMES THE UNDERSTANDING OF HIS TEACHINGS THROUGH THE GUIDANCE OF GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT. SOLELY BY OUR FAITH, THROUGH GOD’S GRACE, CAN WE COME TO HIM, AND ONCE WE PUT OUR TRUST IN HIM, WE CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT HE TEACHES US, AND WE CAN DO THAT WHICH SEEMS SO DIFFICULT. IT REQUIRES A NEW WAY OF LIVING, OF LIVING AS CHRIST FOR THE WORLD, AND THAT LIFE COMES TO US IN CHRIST, AND IS POSSIBLE ONLY WITH CHRIST IN US; AND THE FOOD HE PROVIDES TO NOURISH AND SUSTAIN US IN THIS NEW LIFE IS HIS OWN BODY AND BLOOD.

LAST WEEK STEVE TALKED ABOUT HOW THE EARLY CHRISTIANS WERE LABELED AS CANNIBALS BECAUSE OF THE EUCHARIST. MANY PROTESTANT DENOMINATIONS REJECTED THE MYSTERY OF THE EUCHARIST BECAUSE IT WAS TOO DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND, AND THE LORD’S SUPPER BECAME A CEREMONY OF REMEMBRANCE. WITH SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDINGS, IT IS ONLY THE ORTHODOX, ROMAN CATHOLIC, EPISCOPALIAN, AND LUTHERAN CHURCHES, AND THEIR AFFILIATES, WHICH MAINTAIN THE BELIEF IN THE TRUE PRESENCE OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST IN THE BREAD AND WINE. THIS TRUE TEACHING OF THE CHRIST STILL GIVES OFFENSE TO THOSE WHO MEASURE ALL THINGS BY THE HUMAN REASON; OR THEY SIMPLY DISMISS IT AS SUPERSTITION. WHEN FDR, WHO WAS AN EPISCOPALIAN, WAS FIRST RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, HE WAS ATTACKED BY A NEWSPAPER EDITORIAL AND MOCKED AS THE REPORTER ASKED IF WE REALLY WANT SOMEONE AS PRESIDENT WHO BELIEVED THAT HE ATE AND DRANK THE FLESH AND BLOOD OF HIS GOD EVERY SUNDAY MORNING.

WHILE I WOULD NOT ATTACK THE NON – EUCHARISTIC CHURCHES FOR UNBELIEF, I WOULD SAY THAT THEY HAVE ELIMINATED THE CENTRAL MYSTERY OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH; THAT IN THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE RISEN CHRIST IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE FOR THE CHURCH AND FOR THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS.

AFTER MANY HAD LEFT, AND TURNED BACK FROM FOLLOWING JESUS, HE TURNED TO HIS TWELVE DISCIPLES AND ASKED, “DO YOU ALSO WISH TO GO AWAY?” WHILE THEY DID NOT YET UNDERSTAND, AND HAD NO CONCEPTION OF THE EUCHARIST TO COME, AND WHILE THEY FOUND HIS TEACHING VERY HARD, THEY HAD ENOUGH TRUST IN JESUS TO STAY WITH HIM. SIMON PETER SAID, “LORD, TO WHOM CAN WE GO? YOU HAVE THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE. WE HAVE COME TO BELIEVE AND KNOW THAT YOU ARE THE HOLY ONE OF GOD.” TRUST IN JESUS COMES FROM THE FATHER, AND TRUST IN JESUS LEADS TO UNDERSTANDING HIS TEACHINGS, EVEN ABOUT EATING HIS FLESH AND DRINKING HIS BLOOD, AND TRUST IN JESUS LEADS TO THE LIFE IN CHRIST, AND THE LIFE IN CHRIST IS THE LIFE ETERNAL, WHICH BEGINS NOW AND IS FOREVER IN GOD. THIS IS THE GLORIOUS MYSTERY OF FAITH.
AMEN

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