Are you thinking of quitting?

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

by Charles Qualls

What is the strangest thing anyone has ever asked you to eat or drink? This is not an endorsement, but in the days since his death we’ve watched some episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s culinary tourism shows again. A trained executive chef, he traveled to obscure parts of the world. At times, he tried things I just don’t think I could manage to get in my mouth. 

My wife has a more adventurous palate than I do. What I mean is that sometimes we can sit down in a restaurant and open the menu, and I’ll know what she’s going to order before I know what I will. She is drawn toward the weirdest thing they’re serving sometimes. 

Jesus said in John 6: 56-69, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” He was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. The place just about came apart. 

I have to appreciate that some in v60 began to voice their resistance to this new teaching, I suppose.  What bothers me is that they evidently did it in a way that our system here at Franklin Baptist Church very firmly says we won’t. 

They started murmuring among themselves. “This is a difficult teaching.” Little biting remarks here, cutting their eyes there. Talking about it in the parking lot and making secret phone calls about Him behind his back would’ve started up next, but Jesus sensed what was happening. 

“Does this offend you?” he asked.

You know, the teachings of Jesus do offend people. Try standing where I do every week. Or teaching a Wednesday night Bible study for very long. You’ll find out quickly that some Christ-professing, Bible trivia-playing Believers will fall out with Jesus sooner or later. 

One inconvenient truth here. A challenging sense of call there. A value from God that pushes up against their own latent bias here, that runs counter to their ingrained prejudice there. Say something that comes straight from the mouth of Christ, but runs against their own partisan political party, they’ll come after you.   

Of course, they think their argument is with you, since you’re the one doing the teaching.

I think that’s why it’s so entertaining to see Jesus have to handle one of these little kerfuffles among his own disciples. 

That’s right. These folks who walked off to the smoking area grumbling about Jesus were his own disciples. Now, not exactly the Twelve.

We are reminded here that Jesus had a much larger following who were understood to be disciples. It’s just that we seem to refer to “the Twelve” interchangeably as “the disciples” a lot of the time.

I think for those of us raised inside the Christian faith, words Jesus’ here don’t faze us much. On a historic and collective level, we’ve had 2,000 years to tune our ears to them.

Most of us hear them as symbolic, if we hear them at all, so ubiquitous have they become for us. Especially in churches like ours, which celebrates communion on a monthly basis. 

The cup of Christ. The bread of life. The body of Christ. Bread, blood. Wine … these are not new concepts for us. 

To folks outside our faith, indeed to those who were gathered within the sound of Jesus’ voice, this language could be a little more foreign. The symbolism had a sharper edge to it.  For those who heard it here in John 6, this was a crisis. 

If you’ve ever heard me say that the real Jesus is a tough sell, mark this story down. Mass crowd appeal in the face of our Lord is tough to conjure up. Because he’ll ask you to believe things that don’t add up. He’ll ask you to be things that might be risky at times. He’ll ask you to do things that aren’t comfortable always.

Have you ever considered that if your experience with Jesus has always been comfortable … that if your sense of calling in the name of Christ has never nudged you toward discomfort…if you haven’t found our Lord’s gospel to be just a touch off-putting, then I’ve got to wonder if you’ve fully experienced the true essence of Jesus.

If they had listened on, instead of trying so hard to take Jesus literally, they wouldn’t have quit on him mid-sentence.

To consume the Christ means to take him seriously. To take on his convictions and to live as he did. If he abides in you and you abide in him, there is life! Here and now. Later, too. 

I wonder what all we think we understand about Jesus that we really don’t?

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.