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Sunday Message: Meeting God who became human just like us

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Thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost – August 19, 2018

1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20 and John 6:51-58

There is a popular song that the Irish singer and songwriter Bono sings, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” The first three verses go like this: 

I have climbed the highest mountains

I have run through the fields

Only to be with you

Only to be with you

 

I have run I have crawled

I have scaled these city walls

These city walls

Only to be with you

 

But I still haven’t found

What I’m looking for

But I still haven’t found

What I’m looking for

This song’s refrain speaks so much to the human condition. This has been how humans have experienced life for centuries, and still continue to. We so often “still haven’t found what we’re looking for.” We seem to never really have quite enough. We keep looking for more.

Jesus, the Son of God knew that too, and didn’t God send his only Son to meet us in this exact condition of “not having found what we’re looking for”?

Or is this just a lot of silly nonsense? Is this really the way God would relate to humankind? Don’t many people object that the Bible has very little – if anything at all – to do with real life? Perhaps there are even people in our church pews who also feel that way.

But hang on a second. Don’t lose patience. Before you start thinking that I’m saying the same as the bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is the answer” before the question has even been asked. All this while the question is missing. Jesus is the answer to what? What are people trying to get across when they claim that Jesus is the answer?

There are fundamental questions that people do ask, and there are such nagging needs that people wrestle with. 

Just to name a few: I need some food to eat. I need to check the latest updates on my phone. I need just one more smoke. I need another drink. I need another cup of coffee (that’s me!). I need someone that admires me. I need love. I need acceptance. I need more money. I need political power. I need, I need, I need…!

It might sound silly to think that Jesus came in answer to these needs. However, coming to think of it, how often don’t we experience that our hearts are empty?

There is a concept that has been circulating for a long time, not really proven to be Biblical as such…nevertheless here it goes, “There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of every human being. Nothing properly fills it, until God self comes and fills it.”

For what it’s worth, whether this quote is true or not, we do see a yearning in the souls of human beings. Because God loves and cares for us as human beings, God found a way to fill in this emptiness. A gap had to be bridged. To bridge this gap, at one point in history God became a human being just like us. This is where Jesus says something to the crowd in John’s gospel. Jesus tells his disciples to abide in Him and that He will abide in them.

Abide in Him and Him abiding in us? What does this mean? To put it very plainly, it is about a godly or divine presence in our lives. The relationship is so close that it is hard to describe. Certainly our lives should have meaning, and this is what God’s intention is for us. 

John finds a unique way of making such an abstract thing understandable to the crowd that is questioning Him. He talks about it in very straight and down-to-earth ways. So direct that we don’t even recognise it. He talks about eating and drinking his body and blood when what we really need is something even more understandable and meaningful. “How can this man give us his flesh?” the crowd in Jesus’ time rightly ask. Or, in other words, “Stop talking nonsense, Jesus. We need something a little better than your empty, abstract, metaphorical promises.”

To this angry demand, Jesus responds by insisting like a argumentative child on the point He has already made. “I am telling you the truth,” He says, both to the crowd gathered around Him in Capernaum and those gathered in our congregations. “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…. For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink.”

And then, suddenly, upon hearing these words we realise – the crowd both then and now – we realise that He’s serious. He’s not being metaphorical or speaking abstractly; He really means it. This one, Jesus, would give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink.

For three weeks, now, we have looked at this sixth chapter of the gospel according to John and have connected it to our faith and, particularly, to the sacraments and the way they create and nourish our faith. But now, here, in the fourth week, we finally encounter the heart of it all. In these verses we begin to recognise just what is at stake for Jesus, just how much we are worth to Him. In these verses, He offers to us his very own flesh and blood, the flesh which will be stretched out on the cross for our sake, the blood which will flow freely from his hands, feet, and side, also for our sake.

For three weeks we have read, studied, and struggled to understand what Jesus means by speaking of the bread of life and the food from heaven. Here, now, in this fourth week He makes Himself far too plain. In this passage, Jesus gets all too gritty, in his imagery in order to confront us with the claim and promise of God who became human just like us, so that we may one day be like God.

It is because in Jesus, the Word made flesh, and in the sacraments, the Word given physical, visible form once again, we meet the God who will be satisfied with nothing less than our whole selves. This is why Jesus speaks of giving us his flesh and blood. You see, “flesh and blood” is a Hebrew idiom which refers to the whole person, hearts, minds, spirit, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, concerns, everything. In Jesus, you see, the whole of God meets us to love, redeem, and sustain the whole of who we are, good, bad, and ugly.

God comes for our whole selves. In one sense, this sums up all of John’s testimony about Christ. Throughout the Fourth Gospel we have encountered some of the most familiar images describing the relationship of Jesus and those who believe in Him: Jesus is the shepherd and we are the sheep; He is the vine and we are the branches; He abides in God and we abide in Him. Those people who receive Jesus, the whole Jesus, for them his life clings to their bones and courses through their veins. He can no more be taken from the believer’s life than last Tuesday’s breakfast can be plucked from one’s body.

This is the promise which God makes to us in the Sacraments: to be one with us and for us forever, to stick with us and even in us no matter what. 

It is for these insatiable needs of ours that Jesus came, all while we so often still haven’t found what we’re looking for. Jesus understands us. Jesus wants us to grow close to Him, to have a personal relationship with Him—He is God who became human just like us. May we become content in our Lord Jesus. 

 

Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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