Tag Archives: John 6

Another Choice

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…Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. They themselves shall eat the food by which atonement is made…
Exodus 29:32-33 (NRSVCE)

Along my life journey, I have observed that we like things simple. In fact, we like things in twos, binary, either-or, black-or-white. Even when it comes to spiritual matters, human beings find it easiest to reduce things down to binary terms.

We teach children that they are either “good” or “naughty.” It’s one or the other. As David Sedaris once noted, if you’re naughty then Santa will fill your stocking with coal. If you’re good and live in America, Santa will pretty much give you whatever you want.

As an adult, I am supposed to mature in my understanding, but I’m not sure I do it all that well. The systems still largely cater to lumping me in one of two binary choices. I’m either a Republican or a Democrat. I’m either left or right, liberal or conservative. I’m either woke or a racist. I’m either selflessly trying to protect the world from COVID or I’m selfishly contributing to the perpetuation of the pandemic. I’m either FoxNews or CNN. I am privileged or oppressed.

Even in spiritual terms, I am good or evil, going to heaven or hell, saved or sinner.

For the ancient Hebrews we read about in today’s chapter, they spiritually saw things in a binary option, as well: clean or unclean. The ancient Hebrews perceived that they moved spiritually back and forth between clean and unclean based on what they ate, what they touched, or bodily fluids were recently excreted. If you were unclean, then you needed to cleanse yourself in order to be “clean” before God. It happened all the time.

In today’s chapter, God is cultivating another spiritual level altogether as the system of worship and sacrifice is prescribed through Moses: being “holy.” The text describes a strange, mysterious, and somewhat gross set of rituals that consecrated Aaron and his boys to make them “holy” priests who could stand before God to represent their people.

What fascinated me as I read about all of the rituals was the fact that Aaron and the priests were asked to sacrifice a bull and a ram and then eventually they would eat the meat of the animal whose blood was shed to atone (that is, to make right and correct what is wrong) for their sin.

Hold the phone.

Fast forward 1500 years or so. Jesus is in the middle of nowhere with thousands of people. They’re all hungry (yeah, kind of like Moses and the Hebrews). When Jesus asks the Twelve what they can spare from their lunch box, it’s nothing but a loaf of Wonder Bread and a couple of fish sticks. Jesus has them split it into baskets and then spread out and start serving the people. Miraculously, there was enough filet-o’-fish sandwiches for everyone plus leftovers (Sounds a lot like the Manna and quail God provided for the Hebrews).

That night, Jesus slips into a boat and goes to another region. The next day, the crowds hurried to rush around the shore and find Jesus before lunchtime. They were thinking in the simplest of binary terms. I’m hungry. Jesus is giving out food.

Then Jesus does something very, well, un-Jesus-like. He cuts them off. No more free meals:

When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.

“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”

To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”

Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”

They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.”

They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me…

“Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you.”

from John 6 (MSG)

In the quiet this morning I can’t help but once again see the parallel between the Exodus story, and the Jesus story. Exodus was the foreshadow provided to an infant nation. Jesus came to mature our understanding of what God’s Kingdom is all about in contrast to the simple satiation and indulgence of our earthbound appetites of the flesh. The Kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world, and it requires the eyes and ears of my heart to see and hear beyond the simplistic choices fed to me by this world.

As mentioned in the last couple of posts, Jesus’ death was the fulfillment of the word-picture God gave Moses and Hebrews in the sacrificial system. Aaron sacrificed a bull, was sprinkled with the blood, and then ate the sacrifice to make things right.

Jesus came to be the sacrifice.

“This is my body broken for you,” He said as he passed the bread and told His followers to eat.

“This is my blood shed for you,” He said as he passed the wine and told His followers to drink.

Just like Aaron and his boys, we spiritually consume the sacrifice.

The sacrifice consumes us.

Everything is made right.

Holy.

Jesus said to the crowds that day:

“Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.

“This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.”

Until that day, I keep pressin’ on, one-step-at-time, one-day-at-a-time trying to be an agent of God’s Kingdom on this earth. So begins another day in the journey.

Have a great day, my friend.

Want to Read More?

Simply click on the image above or click here to be taken to a page with a simple photo index to all posts from this series on Exodus.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

The Biggest Gig in Town! And, FREE FOOD!!

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
John 6:26 (NRSV)

I have watched the YouTube video above multiple times. I’m not alone. It’s at 25 million views and still going. The moment is compelling (especially for someone with hearing difficulties) and emotional at the most raw human level. A deaf person hears for the first time. I have yet to watch it without tears welling up in my own eyes.

Now I think about Jesus walking around the Sea of Galilee performing miracles. Take this YouTube video and multiply it. See moments like this over and over and over again in real time. The deaf could hear. Lame people got up and walked. Blind people could see for the first time. And, best of all, Jesus conjured up shore lunch of fish sandwiches for everyone!

Jesus was the best gig in town. Entertainment like no one had every seen along with great storytelling,  free food and free health care! No wonder the crowds were following Him in droves. He was riding a tidal wave of public opinion. He was the biggest game in town. He was bigger than Trump! More generous than Bernie!

And then, Jesus does the strangest thing. He walked away. He left quietly in the night. He got out of Dodge without telling anyone where he went.

The crowd was frantic the next morning. They went after Him. Searched for Him. Scattered around the country side until they found Him. They wanted more. Don’t we always want more? More entertainment! Bigger miracles! Bigger is always better. More is always better. Faster is always better:

Do something new, Jesus! We’ve seen you heal blind people. Yada, yada, yada. You do it all the time. Tears. Astonishment. ‘I can see!’ It’s getting old. Hey, I know! How about growing an eyeball in an empty socket!? That would be totally cool. Haven’t seen that, yet. Oh, and by the way: Can you conjure up something other than fish sandwiches for lunch? At least add some tartar sauce or something? Do you have a gluten free option? My wife has dietary issues.”

I find it fascinating that Jesus didn’t question the motives of the people. He saw them clearly and he, flat out, exposed what those self-centered motives were. Then…Jesus gets all weird:

“…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

So…no more miracles? I guess shore lunch is out of the question today, too? Crap. Let’s get out of here. Obviously, the guy is a crackpot. Miracles were cool, sure, but the guy is talking nuts like some cannibal. Oh well, at least I got one free meal out of the deal.

Along my journey I’ve come to realize that my motives for seeking Jesus will largely determine the outcome of Who I find.

 

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Chapter-a-Day John 6

You talk of sacrifice... He knew the meaning o...
You talk of sacrifice... He knew the meaning of sacrifice^ - NARA - 535236 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29 (NLT)

On what would I stake my

life?

Language can be a messy thing and there are times when the English translation of the original Greek manuscripts of Jesus’ story can’t quite communicate the depth of meaning in a word. We hear the word “believe” and we think “how easy is that? I believe in a lot of things. Believing in Jesus is a no-brainer. He did great things and had great teachings. I absolutely believe.”

As Jesus sat in the teaching place on the shores of Galilee and talked about the painful death He would soon experience, the “believing” He was asking of His followers was more than the casual mental affirmation we think of today. If that had been true then the entire throng of people would have hoisted Him on their shoulders and carried Him off to Jerusalem to make Him their King. But, when the crowd in today’s chapter heard Jesus ask them to believe, they walked away.

It was one thing to follow Jesus’ traveling show, watch miracles, and eat free fish sandwiches on the beach. Free food and entertainment will get you huge crowds. When Jesus got serious, however, started talking about serious life and death commitment and asked the crowd to stake their lives on Him the crowds thinned out. Even Jesus’ closest twelve disciples questioned their commitment.

When Jesus asks me to believe He’s asking me to cleave to Him, to rely on Him, to place my life in His hands, and bet my life on the notion that He is exactly who He says He is: God made flesh who came to earth to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and who was raised back to life.

It’s easy to mentally agree that this is true, but will I stake my life on it?