by Christopher Harbin

Hard to Grasp
Christopher B. Harbin
John 6:56-69

Not everything Jesus said was easily understood. Not everything he said is easily understood today. I've heard many people proclaiming that the Bible is always clear, but what we find is that many of us interpret texts and passages rather differently. For some that means the Bible must not be reliable at all. For others, it means everyone else is wrong. For others, it means we need to take a closer look at the text and actually read the Bible in context, struggling with issues that may not mesh with our received traditions. I have friends who like myself have spent their lives reading, studying, and interpreting the Bible and we often disagree with one another on various points. Whatever else we might believe, however, when we turn to John 6, we find that Jesus' audience was at best confused as to the meaning of his words. They talked about the words being hard, and in the main, they meant they could not make sense out of them.

We read Jesus' words in today's passage in light of our participation in the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. Whether as a sacrament, an ordinance, or a religious rite, we look back on Jesus' words from our own experiences to make sense of his teaching. The disciples and synagogue participants in Capernaum who were listening to him had no such basis from which to interpret his words and therefore make sense out of them. All they could understand was that he was speaking of his physical flesh and the blood flowing through his heart. They were not cannibals, but it sounded to them like he meant to turn them into cannibals in order to gain a life that would last the ages. That made no sense to them and was a cause of deep revulsion, but they seemingly did not pause for a second to consider that Jesus was actually advocating cannibalism. They simply determined they could make no sense out of his words.

To be honest, the surface value of Jesus' words would have sounded mu ...

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