I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . . I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you (John 6:51,53).
If there were any doubt that everything Jesus said could not be taken literal–that His words held deeper, spiritual meaning–this scripture sparks hope in me for all of Jesus’ words that just aren’t coming to pass before my eyes in this realm.
Words like, “You may ask anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14).
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit with a dear older gentleman who loves to debate Christians.
I hate debates. I might try to counter an argument, but when I know my opponent’s mind and heart are closed, I simply listen. And that’s what I did with this new friend. Let’s call him Herb.
The main fight he likes to pick with Christians is that the Bible says things that just can’t happen or don’t happen. His arsenal includes the story of Joshua commanding the sun to stay still so that the Israelite army could win the battle.
It’s an awesome story. But Herb’s claim is true: “The sun doesn’t move! The earth moves around the sun!”
I tried to explain, “Oh, Herb, that’s just the way Joshua saw it. It’s how the writers of the Bible understood it. The sun stood still in the sky for them.”
“But that isn’t what happened! The Bible cannot be trusted!” he quipped.
Honestly, I can’t remember all of his arguments, but one sticks out in my mind which was John 14:14, the scripture above about prayer. He recalled the death of a beloved Christian man who had an entire congregation and community praying for his healing. But the healing didn’t come on this side of heaven.
If any of you get that one figured out please let me know. I understand Herb’s dilemma about this. I’ve often wondered if John 14:14 was mistranslated or misinterpreted or if through out time, throughout the generations, the power of prayer has diminished in this dark world.
I’ve wondered, but I never stay there. I can’t.
And so, I found this weeks Bite of Bread scripture, John 6:35 , very comforting in a weird sort of way. You must read all of John 6 to really get the full picture, but I’ll summarize it in case time is of the essence:
Before Jesus calls Himself the “Bread of Life” He feeds over five thousand people with one young boys lunch. But the people aren’t convinced that He is the Messiah. They want more bread. More miracles.
As they demanded more of Jesus, Jesus demanded more of them. He began to sort out the moochers from the true followers who would desperately search for Truth despite strange and challenging teachings.
“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. . . . For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. . . .” (John 6:53,55).
Those who didn’t know Jesus shook their heads and left. But those who knew Him- His Twelve who had spent every waking moment with this Rabbi stayed. I think they stayed because they knew how Jesus taught. They knew He taught in parables and hidden meanings. They knew His words meant so much more than face value.
They knew. But perhaps the word “real” also gave those closest to Him a clue.
The Greek word from the translated text is Alethes. This word does mean “honest, true, and upright,” but it also means “legally sufficient and recognized, valid, legitimate, certified, and credible.” (Key Word NIV, 1582).
The body and blood of Jesus is the only legally sufficient food that sustains us for eternity. Not works. Not good deeds. Not following every law. Only Jesus.
When followers began to desert Jesus He asked the Twelve if they wanted to leave too, but Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68,69).
The ones who tried to prove Jesus wrong or crazy were the ones who couldn’t trust Him and left without understanding. But those who knew there was no other way to go, who were compelled to believe even when they didn’t understand or couldn’t take His words literally, those were the ones who were given the answer.
I wonder how many of the disciples’ hearts skipped a beat remembering this strange teaching as Jesus held up the matzo bread at their last Passover meal and claimed, “This is my body, take and eat.” And did their hearts drop to their stomachs as He held up the Cup of Redemption and instructed, “This is my blood of the new covenant. Take and drink.” On that dark night, He continued to unravel the mystery of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
He is faithful. Keep following even when scriptures don’t seem to add up–when they don’t seem true. He will show us in time.
Please pray for my friend Herb that one day he will know Jesus and one day he’ll not need to debate or prove scripture wrong because he will have nowhere else to go but to the one who gave His life for him.
Who can I pray for in your life? Those prayers give us purpose beyond today.