‚ÄúThen the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‚ÄúHow can this man give us his flesh to eat?‚Äù
Jesus said to them, ‚ÄúI tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 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 real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.‚Äù
(John 6:52-57 NIV)
I think the bigger the crowd Jesus spoke to, the more cryptic his language.
I have a friend that works at a sort of camp/retreat center. He said that when they had the chance to expand and enlarge their ministry space, they decided not to because whether they had 150 people or 350 there, only about 3 people would ‚Äòget it‚Äô and be able to take part in the one-on-one ministry that they value.
I don‚Äôt think this is all that crazy as I look at the way Jesus taught. ‚ÄúI tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.‚Äù That‚Äôs crazy talk if you just listen like a monologue.
But Jesus wasn‚Äôt into monologues, he was into teaching.
Matt. 13:9 He who has ears, let him hear.‚Äù
Matt. 13:10 ¬? The disciples came to him and asked, ‚ÄúWhy do you speak to the people in parables?‚Äù
Matt. 13:11 ¬? He replied, ‚ÄúThe knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.
Matt. 13:12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
Matt. 13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables: ‚ÄúThough seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
Matt. 13:14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‚Äú‚ÄòYou will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
Matt. 13:15 For this people‚Äôs heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.‚Äô
When Jesus told a parable, it weeded out a lot of people. The people that were there to see a show would become frustrated. ‚ÄúThis guy talks nonsense! How can we eat his flesh? How is the kingdom of God like a mustard seed! That‚Äôs so tiny!‚Äù and then they would leave. After all of those people left, there would be a few that would say, ‚ÄúJesus, explain to me what you meant by that….‚Äù and they were the ones that would be His disciples.
In a lot of world cultures, age equals authority. If there is a man with 10 years experience in electricity, and an older man walks up and says ‚Äúput those two wires together‚Äù it would be a great dishonor to not do it. I have heard stories of men in ancient Persia that let their hands be scalded rather than tell their father he grabbed the teapot to wash their hands and not the pot of cool water.
It takes a lot to admit you don‚Äôt understand something. It takes even MORE to ask someone to explain it to you. You are at their mercy. You are putting them in a position of authority over you. When Jesus tells a parable, he is sifting. The people that are too proud to try to understand the Kingdom, the people that are too hardened to hear something new, get sifted out. The humble ones that aren‚Äôt afraid or too proud to ask come closer and learn more.
A lot of people think they know it all. They have life figured out and there isn‚Äôt much mystery or wonder in it. The pride of life keeps them from following Jesus even today. Western culture ESPECIALLY guides us against asking for explanations or help. In the workplace you can‚Äôt show any ignorance or weakness, for fear of getting a bad employee review or worse-getting fired and replaced.
There is a LOT more I want to say about this, but I‚Äôm out of time. I think if we explored this a little more, we‚Äôd see why the modern church has gotten into so much trouble with the pride of know-it-all-ism.
When the church is the know-it-all about creation and evolution and when life begins and why the earth is flat…we begin to take on the appearance of the world, not our riddle-telling Master. When we begin to talk in a way so that everyone understands, using cute stories, and pleasing chicken soup tales and poems, we actually stop teaching in the way Jesus taught.
My point in that is this. If our teaching is too easy, and off the point of what Jesus taught (Jesus didn‚Äôt address creationism, but taught about the PEOPLE in need that God created; Jesus didn‚Äôt address the horrible horrible act of leaving children out on the mountainside to die if they were unwanted, but told the disciples to let them come to Him and not hold them back)
If our teaching is too easy and off the point of what Jesus taught, we will have a lot of people with a head knowledge and even a belief of all of the tertiary things that Jesus may or may not have believed. They will fight for issues and ideas, but not know Jesus.
Matt. 7:21 ¬? ‚ÄúNot everyone who says to me, ‚ÄòLord, Lord,‚Äô will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Matt. 7:22 Many will say to me on that day, ‚ÄòLord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?‚Äô
Matt. 7:23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‚ÄòI never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!‚Äô
Matt. 7:24 ¬? ‚ÄúTherefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
Matt. 7:25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
These people KNEW about the Lord, and even knew how to work miracles in His Name, but did not know Him.
May we NOT make a bunch of disciples that know all about Jesus and all of our temporary movements for which we stand, indivisible and all-knowing.
I heard a story of a priest in south america that was a missionary. Unable to convert a tribe to catholicism, he snuck into their temple and hid a cross behind their golden idol. ‚ÄúNow,‚Äù he said, ‚ÄúNow they are bowing down to worship the savior.‚Äù I think that is exactly what we do today when we try to convince someone of a certain issue or get them to come to church without first bringing them to Jesus.
May we speak in riddles, display God‚Äôs power, and be surprised at the things that we need explained to us. May we join with the people that find Jesus‚Äô teaching confusing and want Him to explain it, and not waste our time changing Jesus’ message to reach people too proud to receive Him.