John 6:24-35 Two kinds of hunger.
Every person hungers for that which their body requires for sustenance. Our survival instinct alerts us to the need to satisfy this hunger. Obviously, it is not a once-off hunger. As our bodies use up the energy we have stored, we hunger for more.
But we use the term hunger to speak of more abstract human needs and desires as well. For example, we can hunger for companionship or for meaning in life.
Jesus identifies himself as the bread of life. Those who receive him discover a profound satisfaction. It is not the absence of desire. Neither is it the fulfillment of any desire. It is the freedom to experience the fulfillment of every desire that follows in the manner of Jesus’ self-giving love.
When we follow Jesus in the desire to give ourselves, nothing and no one can thwart the fulfillment of that desire. We are always free to serve in the most appropriate manner according to our capacities. To the extent that this is what we desire… we can be eternally fulfilled!
How do you know when your desire is following in the manner of Jesus’ self-giving love?
John 6:35, 41-51 Two ways to see Jesus.
There is one sense in which not living contemporaneously with Jesus’ earthly life is advantageous. We are less inclined to be persuaded by the notion that Jesus is just one of us.
Many in Jesus’ community were rightly scandalized by his outrageous claims about his identity. The choice of naming himself with the metaphor of bread of life made it all the more challenging. Cannibalism was anathema in Jewish culture.
In keeping with the pluralism of our day, many Christians have gone to great lengths to synthesize Jesus’ claims with those of other religions. Yet, if we are to believe the gospel accounts, Jesus (who himself lived in a pluralist context) made the synthesizing project all but impossible.
A more fruitful task would be to clarify the nature of Jesus’ uniqueness. Not the uniqueness of his title or identity. But the uniqueness of what Jesus offers and what it matters. What has Jesus’ intervention in the story of human progress and development offered that no one else has?
How do you hear and understand Jesus’ absolute claims in the context of our current pluralism?
John 6:51-58 Two different approaches to life.
The first approach is the evolved or default way of operating in the world. It is the way that is marked by the priority of survival. It is the automatic preference we all have to do what ever it takes to remain among the living for as long as possible.
But the survival approach is inevitably short lived. It is a mugs game that everyone ultimately fails at. We have no life in ourselves. The data is in…We simply do not survive perpetually.
Jesus offers his way as an alternative. It is an alternative as shocking as the eat my flesh metaphor Jesus used was to his original audience. Eat my flesh means abide in me. Live my way. Not the way of temporal survival but the way of eternal self-giving.
The way of Jesus is the way of those things that are eternal… love, grace, compassion, forgiveness, justice and mercy. It is not the way of selfish gains and short-term ends. It is the way of the things that stand forever.
When you hear Jesus’ invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood, what do you hear Jesus inviting you to do?
John 6:56-69 Two responses to Jesus.
Many are willing to see Jesus as a good man with some helpful moral and ethical teachings who performed remarkable healings in his day. But the challenge of Jesus is that he subverts many of the things we assume as true.
Many are happy to go with Jesus while he seems to be delivering the things we already desire. But when it comes to challenging how and what we desire, it can be a bridge too far.
Here, Jesus asserts his divine lineage without softening any of its scandalous impact. Jesus is not simply a good man. He represents something altogether other, something utterly counter-instinctual. If you accept Jesus, you are opting to be counted among the NOT-normal. You are choosing to believe in someone and something well beyond normal.
In what ways has following Jesus made you NOT-normal?
Rev. David Gore, Mustard Seed Ultimo Uniting Church and Uniting Chaplain at UTS