If you ask people to reflect on Jesus’ ministry and tell you some of the most meaningful teachings to them you would probably get joyous reflections on the “Sermon on the Mount” or encouragements to prayer or a favourite parable. But in the Day 1 Evening Session at Oxygen Christian Leaders Conference Don Carson sought to remind us that for all of Jesus’ much loved and treasured teachings, from start to finish His teaching was saturated with images of His death & resurrection. This can challenge our view of Jesus meek and mild and possibly none more challenging than the passage that Carson took us to tonight.
“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.” (John 6:53) The image of people being called to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus is gruesome to say the least and it probably leaves us saying to ourselves, “Surely there must be a deeper meaning here that makes this teaching more… palatable” (do you see what I did there). But the reality is that while it is true that Jesus does not want us to physically feast on His flesh the deeper meaning is perhaps even more confronting.
Carson called us to consider that which we eat more than simply the packet we open or the thing we heat up in the microwave. But to recognise that everything we eat has given its life so that we might sustain ours. On a hamburger the cow died, the lettuce died, the tomato died, the wheat died to make the bread… everything on the burger died so that we might live. Agricultural societies knew this far better than us, so Jesus’ first audience would not have missed the significance. When Jesus is saying “Unless you eat of my flesh…” He is clearly saying that unless He dies we will… Jesus is saying that He will die so that we might live.
And this is shocking because it means that we don’t get to control God. Carson pointed out that the crowd on that day merely wanted Jesus because of the massive material benefit He had provided them through the feeding of the 5000. They wanted a Jesus who would continue give them physical blessing but Jesus’ desire was to give them far more than that. Unfortunately many in the crowd that day didn't
And if we look deep enough into our own lives we might just see that we come to Jesus for everything other than the flesh and blood He offers. We want Jesus to make us healthy, happy and successful. We want a Jesus who can add comfort to our lives so we come to Him expecting Him to serve us in the way we want Him to. But Carson reminded us that Jesus declaring that He is “the bread of life” isn't some cutesy little clichéd jingle about who Jesus is… but rather it declares that Jesus is going to give His life in our place… Like the staple food in our diet He will die so that we might live.
This smashes our pride because unless it is this meal we seek from Jesus… unless we recognise our need for this life-giving sustenance… we will forever be hungry. Yes Jesus spoke some incredibly gruesome words in John 6:53 but they are some of the most glorious words in all of Scripture… They declare that Jesus is so spectacular, so sacrificially loving, so merciful that He would allow Himself to become our bread… that He would die so that we might live.