Who does he think he is? The very same people who were demanding food at the feeding of the 5,000 now angrily denounce Jesus’ claims: “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Just imagine what you would think if your rector claimed to be the Archangel Gabriel and promised you eternal life. The senior warden would be on a cell phone to the bishop. There’s no way to downplay the extraordinary nature of Jesus’ claim. The doctrine of the eternal divinity and utter humanity of Jesus was not dreamed up centuries after the Incarnation. The Gospel of John appears within 80 years after Jesus, at a time when the other gospels circulated.
“Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” This is a shattering claim. No wonder the people who knew him responded with indignation and disbelief. C.S Lewis remarked: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level of a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. … Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”
If Jesus is merely a great moral teacher, or even some form of natural healer, he’s not worth following, let alone dying for. Make no mistake: in making the claims he made for himself, Jesus increased the hostility of the religious leaders and the incredulity of the people. He seems to court their fury and the death that would ensue.
In an age of individual choice, it is important to hold on to the concept that we have been chosen by God to be baptized, to be Christians, to be part of a parish and to serve Jesus. Such a realization, such a vocation, drives us to our knees in humility and thanksgiving. It impels us to hold out our hands in gratitude to be fed by the Living Bread, Jesus the Lord. Onto our palms, into our mouths, into our living being, this Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary, Son of God and of Man, deigns to possess us, and as we receive Holy Communion as a fellowship, Jesus claims and enlivens his Church.
We are called to hear the claims Jesus made for himself, to evaluate them, and then to make a decision, or to remake our baptismal decision. We make such a decision whenever we are asked why we are a Christian. It’s a decision we cannot avoid.
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Look It Up
Read John 6:35, 41-51 and pray about it.
Think About It
How do the claims Jesus made for himself shape your life?