Pentecost +16

We’re still talking about bread and food this week, just like last week. And just like last week, we’re not really talking about bread and food as much as we’re talking about who Jesus is. And though the world has lived with this Jesus for two-thousand years, even though the western world is called Christendom, even though we sit here right now, who Jesus is can be a bit disconcerting. It’s really no wonder that people, even those called disciples in today’s Gospel, it’s no wonder they turned their backs to Jesus. Does this, do I, does who I am offend you? Jesus asked them. And the answer was yes.

Yes, Jesus had become offensive. Just a few days before Jesus wasn’t all that offensive to these same disciples, the crowds that followed Him still surrounded Him in adoration. You see, just a few days before Jesus had fed thousands of people with a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish, He had for months been healing the sick and driving out demons, turning water into wine, teaching the unschooled, shepherding the lost. Jesus had inspired wonder in all, faith in many, offense in a few. No one is offensive when they are seen as a human ATM, a go-to guy when the chips are down and the going gets tough. So you’re poor or sick or outcast or possessed, well, we’ve got a Jesus for that. It all seemed to be going so well, until Jesus went and opened His mouth and told everyone who He was.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you,” Jesus said. “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him… This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus had turned a corner there, He said to the crowds of disciples who were following Him, hoping for more of that free bread and fish, He said, essentially, “You want food? Well, here I am.” Not surprisingly, many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?,” meaning “Whaaat? What kind of unhinged craziness is this?” Sensing a disturbance in the force, Jesus said to the disciples, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?”

What then, exactly? What would you make of seeing Jesus ascend into Heaven, what would it do to your life? What would it make of all the times you have been offended by what Jesus has said and done? The greatest scandal in history is also the most offensive, it’s called the Scandal of the Particular. The scandal of the particular says that God, He who hung the stars and created that great leviathan just for the sport of it, actually cares about particular things, particular peoples, particular individuals. That the Jews are people chosen of God is scandalous now and was scandalous then. That God favored David made few happy except David, and even he might have wished from time to time that God wasn’t so particular. And then there’s the biggee: Jesus. Jesus is as particular and as scandalous as it gets. “I am the resurrection and the life.” “No one comes to the Father except through me.” “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” Does this offend you? Does it offend your sensibilities to think that Jesus is the power and love of God, does it offend you to think that there is no other way, none, no other religion or spirituality or work or anything, that there is no other way to be saved from eternal death than by Jesus? Does it offend you to think that unless you eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of Christ, that unless you receive the elements of the Blessed Sacrament, consecrated by a priest in Apostolic Succession, that unless you receive Holy Communion, you have no life in you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before?

What then? Would you, like the disciples that abandoned Jesus in today’s lesson from St. John, would you take off? Would you never come back to church, would you walk away quick and dirty to find another path, another “spirituality?” Will you walk away now, none of us having ever seen Jesus ascend, or will you, like Peter and the rest of the Twelve, will you stay? Will you like Peter, when you are offended and amazed, say to Jesus “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Will you say to Jesus, “I have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” will you stay knowing that the world around you is offended by who Jesus is?

For two-thousand years those of us who have heard these words of Jesus, those of us who have seen with our eyes and with our hearts who Jesus is, those of us who have heard and seen the scandal and stayed, we have fed on His Body and Blood, and we have life, true life, within us. Those who have heard and will not listen, those who have seen and shut their eyes, those who have seen and heard the scandal and left, they do not have life within them. That is scandalous, that is offensive, and that is true. So if you love your neighbor as yourself, if you love your family and friends enough to want them to have life, true life, tell them that you have found the words of eternal life, tell them about this Jesus whom you have come to believe is the Son of the living God. Their lives depend on it.

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