Unless you eat ... you have no life in you.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

For centuries religious people have taken things meant to be spiritual and made them something physical. When Jesus speaks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood he is speaking a profound spiritual truth and not some twisted theological mumbo jumbo. Sadly many miss the point entirely. It was just a few verses back that Jesus spoke of how his food was doing the will of the Father. His declarations here are a mere continuance of that thought. We are challenged here to quench our appetites in similar manner.

When he talks of abiding Jesus speaks deeply to us of our need to find our very life and nourishment in doing his will. In the very same way that he abided in the Father we should abide in the Son. It is an issue of life. Do we get our life from our fleshly pursuits or do we experience life by walking in His Spirit? We cannot have it both ways. Our minds and our hearts must be set on feeding on the bread that came down from heaven. For this is the bread that will produce life today and will nourish us unto eternal life.

I need the Bread of Heaven Lord. I delight to do your will. Come Holy Spirit and fill me anew.

If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

I do not know how Jesus could make his message any clearer - whoever believes.. if anyone eats.. they will live forever. The gospel message is such a clear and concise proclamation of good news but somehow religious people have made it so hard. I have made it so hard.

Jesus wants us to be like believing children and we turn his message inside out and make believing some sort of work that we take credit for. He has given us all this magnificent ability to simply respond with a simple yes to the Holy Spirit and we have contorted it into theological nonsense. Man has exchanged the good news for something not so good.

Yet the message is there if we can get past our religious biases. Jesus is the bread that has come down from heaven to give us the news that God loves us with an everlasting love. His very own flesh was given in sacrifice so that we would have hope of a better resurrection - and not only that but a better life while we yet live.. and that is good news!

Hallelujah! Praise you Lord that your message is so simple. Help me to have childlike faith.

Do not grumble among yourselves.

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

How could the Jews have known that Joseph was just the adopted father of our Lord? In truth, the story of the virgin birth is a pretty wild story. I am sure that many who actually had heard the story did not believe it - many do not believe it even today. Yet in this passage Jesus affirms his miraculous entry into human form when he calls God his Father and says that he has come down from heaven. Astounding words for sure but spoken by one who has seen the Father and knows Him, and His heart, intimately.

Jesus speaks directly to the Jews when they grumble - he does not back down but responds speaking to them about how the Father draws believers to them. In his ministry Jesus often used the phrase "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" - he speaks similar words to us today. Throughout history this truth has been true - there are people who close their ears, their eyes and their hearts to God's message and God's Messiah. Yet the contrary is also true.. many have responded with faith.. many will be raised on that last day!

You have the words of life Lord Jesus. Help me to hear those words today.

This is the will of my Father ...

But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Thrice in this passage Jesus speaks of the will of the Father. First he says that his whole mission on earth is to do that will. He then speaks of holding on to all that the Father has given him. Lastly he speaks to us of our part in looking to Jesus and believing in him. What strikes me in this is how intentionally aggressive God's will is. It speaks to me of the way that God's kingdom works on planet earth. He actively initiates his will and requires us to actively, not passively, respond. It is why Jesus tells us to pray for his will to be done.

These three aspects of God's will are in harmony with each other. Without Jesus coming we would not have the message to believe in. Without his power to keep us our believing would be tenuous. And if no one believed in Jesus his coming would have been in vain. But, and this is a huge but, God's will has been, is being, and will be done. Jesus came on a rescue mission for all humanity. Millions, perhaps billions, of people throughout time have believed in Him and he has not lost one of them. This has always been God's will.

All I can say is thank you Lord for the gift of your son and his power to keep me.

I am the bread of life

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

The passage begins with a contrast between the religion of man and true religion. Man's religion focuses on a person, like Moses, and what God will do through them. Moses prayed and manna appeared. Jesus fed five thousand by multiplying fish and bread. The religious focus was on a man and on man's needs. It seems that man's religion has always been focused on the physical and not the invisible. And it seems to continue to this day as religious people still draw the attention to themselves rather than the Lord.

The great problem with this sort of religion is that it satisfies for only a moment.. the proverbial fishes and loaves fill our stomach for an afternoon.. but the hunger and thirst soon returns. Jesus speaks to them about never hungering or thirsting again.. he tells them that the focus must not be on the bread but on The Bread.. he says that the focus should be on The Man and not a man.. not on a priest but on The High Priest. He tells them that eternal satisfaction comes directly from God and not through a man.

Help me to look to you alone Lord. Help my focus to not be distracted by what I see.

This is the work of God

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Years ago I heard many tell me that I must believe for a miracle. It made so much sense then because I believed in the idea of seed faith - the idea that a miracle was only a seed away.. all I had to do was plant a seed of faith and I would reap something supernatural. Yet, in this passage, Jesus accurately shares that faith is not believing "for" something but believing "in" someone. The delineation can be a bit subtle but it is so important. The Lord gently rebukes those following him, even us, about working for things that are temporal.

What comes to your mind when Jesus speaks of "the food that endures to eternal life"? For me, this spiritual food is the Lord himself. Prayer is a way that we ingest this kind of food.. worship and the scriptures are too.. things that engage us in relationship with Jesus. These are invisible things.. things done in private.. humble things.. things that will survive our deaths.. things that transcend earth and heaven. When I think of this food I remember how the disciples grew in relationship with Jesus as they shared meals with him.

Lord, I want to share intimate fellowship with you. Fill me with the food that endures.

Do not be afraid.

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, "This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!" Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

It interests me how the Lord often withdrew to be by himself. Passages like this gives us a peek into what it must have been like to be Jesus. People were constantly pressing in on him.. every day they wanted more of him.. more signs.. more healings.. more miracles.. more teachings.. and in this passage they wanted to make him king. Small wonder why he needed times of solitude. Yet things change when he discerns that his disciples are in trouble.

Such is the image that Jesus paints of the God who hears the cries of struggling people - deep waters cannot stop him.. strong winds will not delay him.. rough waves do not hinder him as he travels to his friends. Can you imagine struggling in that boat.. feeling the pull of the waves and the spray of the waters? What would it have like to look up and see the image of a man coming towards you? And how welcome would Jesus' words be to you?

Come Lord Jesus and bring peace to the ship of my life.

Have the people sit down.

Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii  would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

It is so easy for those of us who have heard this story so many times to gloss over it and not take in the extent of this amazing time in that meadow. I close my eyes and try to imagine the atmosphere in the crowd that day - unlike me these had never heard the story. What would it have been like for the disciples to experience this miracle? It is one thing to read of the miraculous in the scriptures but it is something else entirely to experience it. To taste that fish and bread must have been so surreal. To gather the leftovers would be amazing.

Yet I wonder how many of us read this passage, scratch our heads and discount such happenings in our reality. I wonder what my response would have been when Jesus said "Have the people sit down". Sadly, I have to admit that I do not think faith would arise in me today. Like so many, back then and even now, my experiences in life have hardened me to such miracles - I wish that it was not so. But perhaps one can never be prepared for a miracle? Maybe that is the message - that miracles come when they are not expected.

I will sit down Lord. I will wait on you. I will trust in your provision.

You do not have the love of God within you.

I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

In a very real sense the delineating factor between believers and others is the existence of the love of God in a person's heart. Love is what has always defined the people of God. From the very beginning love for God and for people have framed what it means to be a child of the Almighty. Love frames the ten commandments and yet it goes further because love is not about the negatives but about the positives. Jesus' indictment to the Jews was that, even though they were religious, they did not have God's love in them.

Jesus points to the lawgiver saying that Moses testifies to the coming of the Messiah. It is worthy to note that the writers of the Jewish scriptures looked forward to the coming of the Christ. These learned religious elders were not ignorant of the scriptures but were simply blinded because they sought their own fame rather than the glory and fame of God. It is a lesson for us today - religious pride will blind us.. seeking our own fame and reputation is a dark path.. a sad journey that leads us to fighting Him who we seek to serve.

I need your help Lord. Open my eyes to the ways that I am fighting against you.

His word abiding in you

And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The issue in these verses is life. Jesus knows these to whom he is speaking to. He knows that these are people of the book. These people know the scriptures and perhaps love the word of God. Yet in all of their reading and studying they have come away not knowing God when he appears to them in human form. It is an indictment of all religious folks who claim to know God because they know the scriptures. Sadly, these folks are rebuked by Jesus time after time because they knew the letter but not the spirit of the scriptures.

Jesus tells these religious folks, and many of us today, that it is not enough to intellectually search the scriptures. For if we search them only with our brains we will miss the God who permeates them between the words and between the lines. The scriptures must be embraced and consumed with the heart - his word must be living in us. If not we will miss the very essence of the word of God. This involves meditating, praying and living the words of Holy Writ. These are life giving things that will cause us to come to the author of life.

Teach me Lord how to embrace the scriptures with my heart.

I say these things so that you may be saved.

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

Jesus words give us a peek into his success. When he speaks of doing nothing on his own I realize that he was no rogue prophet but one connected to heaven. His words and his works are powerful because they are heavenly. His miracles and his words give us such a clear image of the Father. In these we get a glimpse into God's compassion for the helpless and the anger of God towards those who will not help the helpless. Yet the Lord gives us a peek into his humility when he points to the words of John the Baptist.

Was there ever a prophet like John the Baptist? Some may point to a miracle worker like Elijah and think a prophet is mainly marked by power. Others may point to Isaiah thinking that prophets are known by their ability to predict future events. But John the Baptist did neither - he simply called people to repent in the waters of baptism.. and oh so many lives were changed in those waters. In John we saw a simple but powerful man who, as Jesus said, burned brightly for God. Such is our call - to burn with the inner flame of God.

Reignite that inner flame in me Lord. Help me to burn in words and works.

The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

I find it so interested how Jesus' words have a double meaning in this passage. He first speaks to those who are spiritually dead but physically alive. He then speaks of those who have died physically. There seems to be a difference between those who hear his voice before death than those who hear after they die. Those who hear before they die will be resurrected to life and those who refuse to hear Him in this life will not.

This passage is good news for Christians who fear death and judgment. These verses are particularly good news to those believers who have images of appearing before the God's judgment seat. The truth is that we who have trusted in Christ will not face the Lord in judgment but in friendship because our sins have been judged and forgiven on the cross.

Thank you Lord for the day when I heard your voice. Thank you for the cross.

Whoever hears my word and believes ...

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Most of us really do not like to talk about judging, the judgment day or anything like that. I think that is because we all know ourselves and the things that we have done, said and thought. We all know that apart from grace we would be lost. Apart from the intervention and the intercession of Christ we would be without hope. So when we think about judgment our focus turns to verses like these and the cross where Jesus died for our sins.

I find it interesting how Jesus says that he alone is the judge. Perhaps this position was granted to him because he is the God-man. In a sense Jesus is the only one qualified to judge man because he was a man who was tempted as we are yet did not sin. In these verses Jesus speaks of not being judged and having eternal life. Perhaps that is something that we all need to hear - in honoring the son we have eternal life and we are not judged.

Lord, thank you for dying in my place and receiving my judgment.

The Son can do nothing of his own accord ...

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

Many still today stumble over Jesus' claims - they are a bit outrageous from a purely human point of view. Before him no one ever dared call God their Father. So, the reactions of the Jews were somewhat predictable.. many religious people, even today, are angered when they hear that Jesus is "the" way to God. Even so, Jesus is the gatekeeper to the sheepfold and no one enters the fold unless Jesus lets them in. It is a challenging thought for both Christians and others because it makes it all about Jesus and not about our doctrinal rules.

I think of intimate unity when Jesus speaks of only doing what the Father is doing. We see that intimacy reflected when the Son speaks of the love that he and the Father share. Even in the confines of human flesh Jesus shows us an intimacy that he has with the Father. In the gospels we see this intimate love poured out as Jesus is moved by compassion and lovingly touches so many. In this compassion we see the love of the Father and his purpose in doing greater works.. and I believe that those greater works continue yet today.

Help me to know you more intimately Lord. I long for you.

My Father is working ... and I am working.

Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

The context of the Jews' criticism of the man who has been healed blows me away! The man has been sick for 38 years! 38 years! Where were these Jews when this man struggled? Where were they when he cried? Who among them lifted one finger to help him in his suffering? Such is the demeanor and attitude of many religious people when something great happens to a person who has suffered so long. How is it possible for folks who purport to follow God to act in such an awful way? How could they treat him so badly?

In like manner these folks persecuted Jesus because he broke their rules by helping and healing hurting people. These religious folks felt totally justified in their criticism because their theology supported such actions. They preferred to cling to a caustic doctrine rather than encouraging people who were involved in God's work. And that is the question that must be asked of all religion - does it help or hinder the work of God on planet earth? Jesus speaks directly to this question and proclaims that God is working - and so should we be.

Help me Lord to not hide behind my doctrine when I see hurting people.

Do you want to be healed?

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

I have to come clean and say that this question of wanting to be healed troubles me. I experience intense arthritic pain at times. I watched my first wife die of diabetic complications. My wife Ann suffers from a nasty neurological disease. I pray all of the time - I want to be healed and I want Ann to be healed. So I find that my heart has to come to grips with Jesus' question and not take offense when the subject of healing comes up.

I begin by saying that Jesus knew that the man wanted to be healed and knew that it was the Father's will for him to be healed. His question was an honest one yet the man's answer is unexpected. Do you find it interesting how Jesus healed the man even though the man never answered the question? The expectation is that the man would have shouted "YES! I want to be healed" but instead says that he has no one to help him in his quest for healing.

My take away from the question and the answer is that Jesus' response is always compassionate to our pain and our suffering. The man was sick for almost forty years and wanted, dare I say prayed, to be healed for all of those years. Yet healing did not come until Jesus arrived on the scene. And so it is today. Though we desperately pray for it, healing will not come until the Holy Spirit comes on the scene and touches our bodies.

I want to be healed Lord. I want Ann to be healed. Come Holy Spirit and heal us.

Your son will live.

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

This exchange between Jesus and the official is a bit strange. It feels like Jesus pushes back on the man when he first asks Jesus to come heal his son. The man responds and then presses Jesus to come but Jesus does not come but merely speaks an encouraging word to him. To the naked eye it would seem that the Lord was dispassionate about the man's son in that he would not come with him. One observing the interaction might have a different perspective than we have today as we read the condensed version of the story.

I think that is one of the messages in this story for us today. Things are not always as they appear to us in our moment of crisis or pain. The official could have doubted Jesus' sincerity and demand that he come with him. He could have insisted that he have it his way but he opted to believe what Jesus told him and do it the Lord's way. Such is our challenge in every day life when "bad things" happen. We can insist in prayer that we have it "our way" or we can trust in the Lord and believe what he tells us in his word.

Lord, help me to remember this lesson and trust you when crisis and pain comes.