The United States use to be known as the “Land of the free and the home of the brave.” Today, we rarely if ever hear that phrase, but there’s hardly a day that goes by that we don’t hear and read stories of those who are offended. It seems like everyone is offended, put off, upset, feeling wounded, or irritated by what someone else has said or done. The offensive words and actions of others span the gamut of human relationships.
Negative comments or actions towards others are offensive. I read an article this past week about the “7 isms” of discrimination. The “7 isms,” identified by the author, are sexism, racism, ageism, ableism, heterosexism, classism, and faith as an “ism.” Put in more understandable terms these “isms” describe the rights of women, ethnic minorities, the aged, those with disabilities, those who are other than heterosexual, the economically disadvantaged, and the religious. The author seemed to believe that if we could just eradicate all of the “7 isms” that we would experience peace and utopia would arrive at last. I believe, that if we wanted to, we could improve the list, add to the list, those who have been left out, but face discrimination as well.
The most glaring omission that came to my mind, because of current events taking place in the Middle East, was “nationalism.” I’m sure you’ve probably seen reports during the past few weeks of demonstrations taking place all over the world against the nation of Israel and the Jews. In Paris they marched, torched businesses, and chanted, “Death to the Jews” and “Gas the Jews!” Protests and chants of anti-Semitism took place in Germany as well. Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany said, “Never in our lives did we believe it possible that anti-Semitism of the most primitive kind would be heard on the streets of Germany.” Protests filled with anti-Semitic chants have been taking place all over the world, including right here in America.
I could go on and on detailing and describing the offensive ways of humanity. The endless ways that we defame, degrade, and devalue one another. The ways we treat and mistreat one another is horrible, but there is something even more offensive to us. We want control, absolute control, of our lives. We don’t want anyone, even God Himself, telling us how we should live or challenging our definition of “truth.” You know our definition of truth don’t you? Our definition of truth is whatever we believe about what we want to believe in relation to how we want to live our lives. For someone to come along and say something different, to challenge our definition of truth, and to say, with unequivocal certainty, that we are wrong…that is the most offensive betrayal of all in the eyes of humanity. This is what stirred the anger and animosity towards Jesus in His day and it is still stirring to this day. Let’s take a look at our Scripture found in John 6:51-59 and see what we can learn.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” 52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 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. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. (John 6:51-59 NIV)
Those who were in the synagogue at Capernaum that day knew that Jesus wasn’t talking about literally eating His flesh in some cannibalistic kind of way, but their minds were already so made up about Jesus that they didn’t want to understand what He meant by His words. We’ve witnessed a growing animosity towards Jesus, by the Jewish leaders, as we’ve been studying John. The animosity will continue to grow and grow through each of the chapters that we will study in the weeks to come.
John 11 shows us that the Jewish people were divided about Jesus. After the raising of Lazarus from the dead, John tells us,
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. (John 11:45 NIV)
Many of the Jewish people who listened to Jesus teach and watched Him perform miracles were convinced that He was the Messiah. On the other hand, there were many Jews, primarily the Jewish religious leaders who witnessed the exact same teachings and miracles and became furious. Right after we read, “many of the Jews” believed in Jesus, we read that some went to tell the Pharisees. In John 11:47-48 we read,
47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” (John 11:47-48 NIV)
Do you recognize what was at the heart of the Jewish leaders’ animosity towards Jesus? He was cutting in on their deal. They concluded that if they let Jesus go on with what He had been doing all of the people would believe in Him and they would lose their following. They believed that those in power, the Romans, would come and take away everything that was meaningful to them. Just five verses later we read, “So from that day on they plotted to take his life.” (John 11:53 NIV)
Jesus interrupted their lives, their livelihood, and the deceptive lies they had convinced themselves were true. He intends to do the same in your life and mine as well. The Jewish leaders, and most of us, see Jesus as a threat to our comfort and what we want in life, when in reality our self-defined and designed “truth” is the greatest threat to our lives. I’m not referring to unbelievers. We who are the followers of Jesus define our own truth and determine our own destiny as much as anyone. Like the Pharisees we have our comfort zone and we don’t want Jesus messing with it.
I got an email last week from someone I had never met before, but who wanted to go to lunch. I’m always up for a new adventure, but I had no idea what was waiting for me on Wednesday when we met. My new friend has more degrees than a thermometer. He earned his JD, Rph, Ph.D, and MBA and was teaching as a professor at the OU Health Science Center. His wife is highly educated and was enjoying a very successful career as well when Jesus interrupted their lives. He sat and shared with me the ministries he and his wife have been working with for the past two years. At one point he said, “I don’t want to dominate our conversation.” I said, “You have no idea what an encouragement you are to me.” I wanted to hear more about what the Lord was doing in his life. He told me what a scary thing it was to walk away from such a comfortable lifestyle, but his passion for how the Lord is using him now far outweighs any of the “things” he and his wife enjoyed in their former life.
I wanted to share my new friend’s story because it is a great example of what I’m talking about how Jesus interrupts our lives and yet we choose to cling to our definition of truth and “God’s will.” I would venture to say that most of us, if we found ourselves in the situation as my friend and sensed God calling us to walk away from it and do something radically different would say, “God couldn’t be calling me to walk away from everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve!” Furthermore, if we sensed God calling us to a something different and went to our friends, most of us would hear, “I think you need to call ‘time out.’ Surely there’s a way that you can be involved in what you feel passionate about, but continue with the career you’ve worked so hard to achieve.” We, like the Pharisees, don’t want Jesus messing with our lives, our dreams, what we want to do with our life.
Let’s get back to our Scripture and try to understand what Jesus was driving at in His message at the synagogue in Capernaum. Jesus said,
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51 NIV)
Immediately following His words, we find the Jewish leaders fighting among themselves about what Jesus had just said. Instead of backing off or saying, “Hey guys let me explain to you what I mean,” Jesus spoke up again in an even more offensive way when He said, in John 6:53-54.
53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:53-54 NIV)
If they were arguing and fighting about what Jesus said in verse 51, then their heads were about to explode when Jesus restated what He had said earlier in even stronger terms. They would have been so upset because the Law strictly forbid anyone from eating or drinking blood, or even eating meat that hadn’t been drained of blood. In Leviticus 17:10-14 we read,
10 “‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.” 13 “‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, 14 because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.” (Leviticus 17:10-14 NIV)
As I mentioned to you at the beginning of our study, nobody who was present in Capernaum thought Jesus was talking about literally eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but what did He mean? First of all, we have to go back to John 6:40 because it is very similar to verse 54. Take a look at verse 40. Jesus said,
40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:40 NIV)
Jesus said, “…everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” In verse 54, Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” What in the world was Jesus talking about? Some have said that Jesus was referring to Communion, the eating and drinking of the bread and the juice, representative of the broken body and shed blood of Christ, but that can’t be right because Communion doesn’t save us, or give us eternal life. St. Augustine interpreted verse 54 from the standpoint of verse 40 and said, “Believe and you have eaten.” John MacArthur says that the metaphors of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood are used to stress the necessity of accepting Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf. The writers of the New Testament oftentimes linked “blood” with Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus Himself did this when He shared the Passover with His disciples. Jesus took the cup and redefined it so that His disciples would know without question that He was the Passover Lamb, the Lamb whose blood would be shed for the sins of those who were alienated from God because of their sin. In Matthew 26:28, Jesus said,
28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28 NIV)
The cup that Jesus raised was filled with wine, but Jesus said it was representative of His blood which would be “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The Apostle Paul spoke and wrote often about the significance of the shed blood of Jesus. In Romans 5:9, he wrote,
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Romans 5:9 NIV)
For many of you who are new to church or unfamiliar with the Bible, then all of this talk of blood probably catches you off guard. There are many people who have been in church all of their life and are familiar with the Bible, but they would rather just keep this talk of blood “hush hush.” “Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? Something like the love and mercy of God.” Sure we can, but to talk about the love, grace, and mercy of God we have to talk about the cross. It was on the cross where God most fully demonstrated His love for you and me by redeeming us by the shed blood, the sacrifice of His Son. Peter wrote,
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)
“Looking to Jesus,” “Eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood” is equivalent to identifying with His sacrifice, acknowledging that His death was for you and me. He is the Lamb of God who has taken away our sins. He is the long awaited Messiah, our only Savior. He is the true food from heaven. In John 6:55-56, Jesus said,
55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. (John 6:55-56 NIV)
Jesus is the lasting manna, the real food sent to us from God to satisfy the deepest cravings of our soul. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” This is such a powerful statement for you and me. It is a statement that can absolutely change our lives…if we will understand it, meditate on it, and internalize it so that we walk it out each day of our life.
If we will remain constantly aware of the power of Jesus’ sacrifice, not just for eternal life, but for our daily life, then we will “remain in Jesus.” The great Bible teacher, F.F. Bruce, wrote,
For believing in Christ and keeping His commandments are two things which cannot be separated; there is no true faith without obedience, no true obedience without faith. (Bruce, F. F. The Gospel of John. pg. 160)
It is one thing to say that we believe in Jesus, but it is an all together different reality to live in Jesus, to follow His will instead of indulging our wants, and to surrender our lives wholly to Him. Jesus said those who identify with His sacrifice on our behalf, not give intellectual ascent, but recognize that they are saved by His sacrifice alone, they will remain in Him. The Greek word John uses for “remain,” “????” (meno) means, “to remain, abide, to continue to be present, to be held or kept.” Let me show you another place where this word is used in the New Testament. In John 15:4-5, Jesus said,
4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NIV)
We are being held by the Savior and we are to hold onto the Savior. What a powerful picture for you and me to understand. He is holding us, strengthening us, enabling us, and empowering us. Yet, He says, “Remain in me, hold onto Me.” The direct result is that we will “bear much fruit.” Apart from Jesus we will bear no fruit. Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”
When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life, He comes to take up residence in us, to abide in us. For Jesus to live in us, we must die to ourselves. Paul put it this way in Galatians 2:20.
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)
Jesus will not co-chair the committee of our hearts. We must die to ourselves. That’s why the Pharisees and the Jewish religious leaders were so furious, furious to the point of plotting to kill Jesus. In our day, we’ve taken a different course of action. We either ignore Jesus, put Him off by saying, “I know I need Jesus, but there’s some things I just don’t want to give us right now,” or we pay Jesus lip service by proclaiming our love and devotion, but he knows our hearts. He knows our hearts as well as He knew the hearts of those who gathered for worship every Sabbath in Isaiah’s day. Of those, He said,
13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. (Isaiah 29:13 NIV)
I want to urge you before we leave here this morning to allow the Lord to examine your heart. I want to urge you to stop making the list in your head of all of the wonderful things you’ve done this past week to prove that you are a good person and allow the Lord to examine your heart. Have you surrendered your life to Jesus as Lord and Master, the One who is not only your Savior, but the One who calls the shots in your daily life? Do you sense the Lord working in your life in a new direction, calling you to a greater devotion, to get involved in serving Him by serving others, but you are resisting? Why wait another day? Surrender this morning and watch Him go to work filling you will a fullness you’ve never known before.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
August 10, 2014