Some abandoned Jesus because of His hard teaching on eating His body and drinking His blood
By Bob Hunt
The Book of Joshua tells the story of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. Toward the end of the book, Joshua gathers the elders of Israel. He has led them through the conquest of Canaan after Moses led them to the eastern bank of the Jordan. Moses was not to lead them across the river. That was left to Joshua. Now, after all that God had done for them and the fulfillment of so many promises, there were still some who clung to the gods of their fathers or were tempted to worship the gods of the new land they occupied. Joshua gives them a stark choice: serve these false gods or serve the God who is God. They insist that they will serve the Lord.
In the Gospel According to John, Jesus reveals Himself as the Bread of Life sent down from heaven. “Truly, truly, I say to you,” Jesus told them, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
This was too much for some of His disciples. How could Jesus give them His flesh to eat and His blood to drink? The Law given to Moses forbade consuming the blood of animals. Now, Jesus demands that they drink His blood? Many walked away. But just as it was not for Moses to lead the Hebrews into the Promised Land, so it is not for the Law of Moses to redeem us. It was for Joshua to lead the Hebrews into the Promised Land, and it is for the new Joshua to redeem us (Yeshua is the Hebrew name that translates into both “Joshua” and “Jesus” and means “God saves”).
Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks, plaintively, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter replies, “Master, to whom shall we go?” Those disciples who left returned to their former lives. Simon Peter and the Twelve knew that was not possible for them. They had seen too much, learned too much, experienced too much of Jesus to not realize that there was not merely a prophet like Moses here, but one greater than Moses. “We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Decide today whom you will serve. Our world has little interest and not even much tolerance for those who have committed themselves to following Jesus. According to some, if you are a Christian, you are among those who oppress others, or you are the moral equivalent of the Taliban. Of course, we here in the United States have it easy compared with our confreres in the Middle East, in China and, now, in Afghanistan. But persecution is not the only threat to Christians. An even greater threat, especially for Christians in the West who live in relative peace and tolerance, is the temptation to conform our faith to political, social, or cultural movements, or simply to set aside the faith in favor of the more traditional temptations of fame, fortune, or pleasure. One might say that Christians in the Middle East are at greater risk of losing their lives, while Christians in the West are at greater risk of losing their souls.
The decision to follow Jesus must have more consequence than simply where one spends an hour on Sunday mornings or to whom one writes a check on Giving Tuesday. Those who abandoned Jesus because of His hard teaching on eating His body and drinking His blood went back to their former lives. For one who knows that there is no one else to go to, there is no going back. It is all or nothing. There is no halfway. One does not compromise with or skimp on the Holy One of God. For every believer there is the challenge to transform one’s life to better reflect the Gospel rather than the priorities of this world. That’s not easy. It led each of the apostles, except John, to martyrdom, and it led John to exile. Each of the apostles was prepared to give his life for the faith. It begs the question: What am I prepared to do? In fact, What am I doing because I am a Christian? Would my life be any different if I did not claim to be a follower of Jesus?
Decide today whom you will serve.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville and is a candidate for the permanent diaconate.