THE STARTLING, THE SOVEREIGN AND THE SURE
Jesus (John 6:58 - 65), could make startling statements. Here, He refers to the manna-fed people in the wilderness in the Exodus days, but in His day on earth, it was His own flesh like bread from heaven which would not only feed some who actually took it, but they would from it, live forever. In John 6:51, it even uses a tense indicating that if this event should happen, an eating, eternal life would result.
Now at this level of human need, many might believe it an excellent and all encompassing ethical framework, a demonstration of power and of wisdom, but when it came to 'eating', then this was getting extreme.
These had little idea of what it was all about. They had not even grasped that Christ came as a sacrifice for the sin of a fallen race, in a plight spiritually, like the increasing debts of many too careless nations now; but it was spiritual debt, and a spiritual payment in its point, though for it, it was a sacrifice of flesh in its method. Man is IN flesh and sins, and so IN flesh, Christ paid. He paid in the coin appropriate.
In the biblical account of this matter, there was some commotion, it seems. Some people began to waver. Could this be the right path ? Christ, always perceptive, asked, "Does this offend you ?" So far from rescinding this, He advanced. "What if you should see the Son of man where He was before ?" Indeed, He composed the matter: in two ways. First He explained the principle behind what He had said. The words He had just spoken were of a spiritual meaning. It had nothing to do with actually trying to make a physical meal out of Him; that would be too ludicrous. He stressed this in a massively potent declaration.
The point was not lacking in obviousness. There would not be enough, and it would be cannibalism, for example. The domain of Hsi words was spiritual, its graphic impact translated to that realm. It was an awakener for those only drowsy, and not dead asleep.
IF He were seen as a sacrifice, then it would be straightforward. Did they not EAT part of the yearly animal sacrifice at the Passover feast, the sin-bearing sacrifice, killed for the sin, to depict it and its result and penalty! Had they not done so for well over a millenium! was it not most familiar!
In parallel to this, easily to get across the whole point in terms to which they were accustomed, He therefore spoke of eating Him, though the fact HE was in human form meant that it would mean what fitted, namely receive His offering to the heart and innermost parts of life, as the very basis of pardon, the peace offering, and realise that in this was safety, and nourishment for the otherwise exposed soul.
Here was the guarantee, the finale and cover for all the animal depictions of cover that went before , over the centuries. Eat not animal but take that as the basis of spiritual nourishment and life, and you would live forever (Isaiah 53; 66:3); for it would not be one of many animal offerings, but one, vast overall cover for ever, entry to eternal life without priest or prelude.
In the most vivid terms, He declared of the meaning: "It is the Spirit which gives life. The flesh profits not at all." His words were spirit and they were life, not some kind of eating recommendation for the stomach, the mouth. He commented:, declaring this, that "there are some of you who do not believe," having known the end from the first, as becomes Him who came voluntarily from His place in heaven.
Because however some did not take it, grasp it or want it, in any case so receive Him, clinging to pictures of His divine offering and unwilling to take their basis and ultimate meaning, so this illustrated another principle.
Thus Christ, as seen in John 6, made the second application of truth to the point. This made it apparent that the opening of the eyes on the obvious was, though a simple action, one that could be sabotaged by unbelief, or as if the eyelids were tarred down. EVEN THIS simple act, could not be assumed, Some would dump it without apparent thought, perhaps as if in a facial tic, the eyes squeezed shut. Sin has many dimensions, and some is relevant even to this.
"Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." That was the observation of the nature of the case, as always, in harmony with all that His Father had said and done (cf. John 8:29): "I always do those things that please Him."
I was once speaking to a multi-millionaire who declared, "I have never heard that!" This came when I had said, Only God can convert you. Toying with God does not make God a toy. Some never seem to realise that!
Here then from the lips of Jesus was a startling statement, but it was true. Staggering like an arrow to the heart, yet it was deep in wit and wisdom, standing up to every potential criticism. In fact, it was heartland to the entirety of the approach for man to his God!
HE, God Himself, is sovereign in selecting you (or not), and it is HIS which the Gospel is: He invented it, applied it, paid for it in Christ, and grants its grace. Truly He wants to save all (Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2), but not at the expense of fouling love into force. Past all error, it is therefore HE who ensures it reaches the reachable, teaches the teachable and does not misfire, or omit any where place may be found (as in Matthew 22:1-14). As that parable shows, EVEN IF someone reached the heavenly reception and banquet, without the cover of the received Gospel, he would be thrown out as an impostor.
You have the same principle in the parable about the paymaster in the case of the farm labourers, hired at different times in the day, but each receiving the day's cited wage. Some complained, If they got a whole day's wage for a few hours work, why do we not get more, who endured the whole heat of the day, labouring away ?
You agreed to the day wage, the answer came, and you got it. If I choose to use my own funds to pay the same to part-day workers, is it not for me to do what I will with what is my own ? Do you have to have an evil eye because I am good ? Such was the parable as in Matthew 20:1-16.
Now some political leaders make a great fuss about their programs, purposes and precepts, startling and thrilling audiences till they get into power, and then damage or as far as in them lies, damn their nations, as Hitler was proceeding to do, and Stalin and many another. But on reflection, one finds the casuistry, irrationality and deception in their ways. Many do this too late, and as in both the USSR and Germany, millions perish on earth as a result. But Jesus Christ was as startling as any, as staggering in His statements, yet on reflection one finds it is all a carefully composed whole, consistent, insistent, meeting emergency for the human race without mere force, not only fascinating, intriguing but workable, and even necessary. Lack love will never do it; the human heart is too wicked, corrupt, assertive, cunning, deceptive and deceived, weak, willowy, fearful, whatever. There is no goodness in man, the simple too readily deceived, or baited, the wise too fouled with pride and prejudice.
There is no use pretending: man as a race is a combination of angels and devils. ALL are sinners (Isaiah 59:1-2, Romans 6:23), and some have their sins covered with whiteout, whited sepulchres, Christ called them, or buried, tombs under foot, Christ called some. Man needs a basis of reconciliation with the God he dares to bypass, ignore or confront. If he does not take it, sin will take him, and his world will become ungovernable. It is ALL (of God's offering), or NOTHING (left but a judged residue).
There is then, with the startling, the penetrating, even the piercing quality of Christ's words, the impactive, the withering, the blessing, the tender and the triumphant, the never doubting featuare, never shifting, never weakening or wandering character of His discourse AND ACTIONS, by the power of which multitudes came internationally to His side: another element. It is the ground for realising that WITH the basic soundness of His call and challenge, there is a soaring strength, a commanding truth. It adds up. It merges, one point with another. It outdistances human wisdom with its panache, and meets the deepest yearnings for peace and probity, power and principle, morals and grace, kindness and consideration in the human heart.
Yet it does not do it by mere indulgence, such as the deeply indebted nations today have often done. Instead, He PAYS, indeed has paid (Hebrews 9:12) for the cost of man's manufacture of sin, and its consequences (parallel to the bombing of Europe in World War II), and freely granting pardon to those who receive His divine initiative and cover, grants not mere temporary survival, a questionable thing! but eternal life.
Oh the wisdom and the peace, the delicacy and the buoyancy, the magnificence and the love that is His. It is only when you return, that you are redeemed, returning with a humble and a contrite heart, receiving payment for peace. It is in the making of man that his depth is so great, his will so strong and his appreciation potentially so vast, of the depths of life, of its meaning, and his sourness. This is so strong when he is not simply deluded, at false and fake solutions to the troubles of the heart as of the nations. Indeed, it is with the Maker ONLY that the solution to man's vagrancies is found. You have to square with God from square one, not fiddle with fantasies. Back to the Creator, Redeemer, Saviour, to the presented Son of Man, incarnate. Stress will no more create the solution than worry about golden staph. It may find an answer, but man cannot; the matter is not in the blood, but in the heart.
That must be healed, not trusting to its own inventions, but going back to the divine inventions (the Gospel) and intentions (a humble and a contrite heart, receptive and not deceiving - John 1:12 and Isaiah 66:1-2).