Jesus spoke words that are still spirit and life today, but they also offend people today as they did then.
I want us to understand the power that munching on Jesus has to help us have staying power.
We will discuss munching on Jesus and how his words which are spirit and life also cause offense.
Munching on Jesus
In John 6:56-69 the word for eating Jesus can also be translated as munching, crunching or gnawing on Jesus. Perhaps now we understand why it was so offensive to many of the early disciples and they left. Yet Jesus said that those who do gnaw on him remain in him, and twelve disciples did. Do we remain stuck in a doctrine of men and when it proves wrong we lose faith? Do we remain stuck in a fellowship of people who when they move on or die so does our faithfulness to God? Do we remain stuck in a particular style of worship music and if it changes then we decide to quit the church? Theories, camaraderie and music are not a complete meal. They are good for a while, but the real food is in munching on Jesus.
Words that offend
Does Jesus offend us? The same words that are spirit and are life (John 6:56-69) offended many of his own disciples 2,000 years ago. Do they offend us today? Those followers of Jesus were offended because he downplayed their own religious traditions regarding manna. What offense would cause us to leave the church? When people leave they often point a finger at other people, but that also points at Jesus. We are really saying, “How could Jesus show grace to those people in that church?” Jesus’ mercy offends us because he allows fools to preach and sinners to lead. Church life is a constant winnowing process. The chaff is driven away and the wheat stays. What about us? Will we leave because the words of life offend, which demand grace and mercy towards others, or will we stay?
Words that are spirit
In John 6:56-69 Jesus said, “the words that I speak to you, they are spirit”. What does it mean that words are spirit? It means that his words were spiritual. His words were not just to be received in heavenly terms, as opposed to worldly, but they were spirit. The natural mind cannot understand the things of God, so words that are spirit can only be received in spirit. We who did not live at that time and never met him in the flesh can nevertheless receive his words today, because they are still spirit and therefore not limited to time and place. Without the words of Jesus, baptism, communion, Bible study and prayer become empty rituals. It is not the physical trappings of our tradition that bless us today, but the words of Jesus Christ which are spirit.
Words that are life
In John 6:56-69 Jesus said, “the words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life.” How can words be life? We may remember a childhood myth: sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. The truth is that words can hurt or heal. Words can kill or give life. Words are powerful. The words that Jesus spoke to his disciples then, he speaks to us today. If we listen to the words of Jesus, they give us life eternal. The words of the Old Testament are profitable, but that was a ministry of death (2 Corinthians 3:6-8), preparing for the ministry of the spirit. The spirit gives life. A preacher’s words do not give life either, unless they incorporate the words that do give life, the words of Jesus.
Words of eternal life
What is a real good reason to keep attending church? Could it be that there we find the words of eternal life (John 6:56-69)? It doesn’t matter what denomination we attend, if we see past all the customs, politics and other human activities, most churches do teach the words of Jesus, the words of eternal life. Are we proud to be the stewards of such words? The word pride in today’s English can be either the good trait of pleasure and joy, such as a parent who is proud of a child. It can also be the wrong kind of pride, arrogance and vainglory. Denominational pride can be both good and evil too. The most important thing that we possess, of which we can be rightly proud, is that in Jesus Christ we have the words of eternal life.
Murmuring and grumbling are common to our experience. We have all done it and are all just as guilty as the disciples who left Jesus in John 6:56-69. We murmur about positions in the church, the kitchen, the music, the preacher, the upkeep, local organization, the conference and the bishop. Yet, despite our continual complaining, some few are remarkably silent. Could it be that they have a secret? What could be the secret to not grumbling? How can we be a part of those who do not murmur and seem to be absent when gossip is on the menu? Perhaps these verses give a clue. Perhaps we should learn the lesson my grandmother and mother taught me, we can’t talk with our mouths full. Perhaps those who continually feast on Jesus are satisfied and have no desire to complain.
To whom shall we go
In John 6:56-69 when Jesus asked the disciples if they would leave him, they replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Yet, so often we want people to come to our church, rather than Jesus Christ. I believe with all my heart that the more we promote ourselves, our denominational "distinctives" and our man-made system, the less blessed we will become. The more we promote Jesus Christ as the answer, the more he will bless us and our denomination. Did not Jesus say, "I will build my church"? Why do we try everything but Jesus? I would love to be able to say that our denominational distinctive is that we promote Jesus Christ more than anyone else does. Then, I believe that the blessings from heaven would be poured out in abundance.
Jesus words are the lifeblood of Christianity. They are still spirit and life today, but they also offend people today as they did then. There is power in munching on Jesus, staying power.