08212021 – John 6. 56-69
You know I DO NOT talk about politics…
Politics, in and of itself, by its nature, seems to be “pretty divisive stuff.”
Us against them, kind of rhetoric…drawing lines in the sand…
People can be such die-hards, and so sure of their stance…and of the correctness of their position…
Sometimes, EVEN the gospel itself gets a little political, well kinda…sorta…
John’s gospel is replete with splendid imagery of “the saving power of Jesus,” SO MUCH SO, that “it can be EASY TO WONDER” why SOME, or maybe even MANY, considered “turning away from Jesus…”
Turning away…Turning back…
Running away…Taking off…splitting…
Or, as Paul Simon sang, “Slip-sliding away!”
But here we are, still a far cry – from the cross and Jerusalem, long before the last supper and the cock’s crow, and rather than “THE MASSES that we’ve GROWN TO EXPECT” to see coming out towards Jesus IN DROVES, we are told that “bunches of them were now” TURNING AWAY from Jesus, ‘en masse.
HOW could this happen?
WHAT motivates those who leave?
And, LIKEWISE, what motivates those who stay?
In the face of “HARSH words,” “HARD words,” “INCENDIARY words,” “SCANDALOUS words,”– what motivates some to hang around for a while?
These are “the politics” of our gospel text…
It happens to be one of “the approaches” to scripture that we SELDOM, if ever, DISCUSS.
It seems that our first century counterparts were very much LIKE US…
They wanted to be on the WINNING team.
If they were going to “jump on a BANDWAGON,” it had better be the right one!
THOSE who were anxious for REFORM (both religious and political, as these two seemingly went hand in hand) would FOLLOW and even SUPPORT out of their own (often limited) livelihoods THE PERSON–(in this context,) always a MALE–whose “PLATFORM” best aligned with that of their own.
And so, Jesus had “MANY-many followers” because he proclaimed, “a NEW HOPE and a HEALING for all of Israel.”
His vision included ALL. NO ONE was being left out. He was a POPULARIST candidate.
But, of course, “pie in the sky dreams” DO NOT an instant reformer make.
In order for JESUS to “COMMAND a FOLLOWING,” people had to believe that Jesus was CAPABLE of DOING the JOB.
So therefore, we have the SIGNS in the first 6 chapters of John’s gospel. We have the “turning of water into wine,” “the healing of an official’s son,” “the healing of a lame man,” and then, the “feeding of the 5,000.”
Jesus was “THE GUY.” He was “THE MAN.” He was “THE ONE” to follow. This guy could seemingly do ANYTHING.
He was “on fire” —-but then…
He started talking “a little bit crazy.” “Bizarre words” were coming from his mouth…he was espousing “anti-mosaic rhetoric.” You do not go against Moses. He was saying WORDS…that were antithetical to everything the JEWS BELIEVED.
MOSES was crystal clear. You DO NOT drink blood. You DO NOT eat flesh with the blood still in it. Period.
JEWS were NOT involved with human sacrifice…of any kind. Maybe their neighbors WERE – but they – WERE NOT! Blood was repulsive. The life was in the blood.
Maybe for some THE STAKES were simply getting TOO HIGH, or the PAYOFF was too far down the road.
Whatever the case, some LEAVE–they TURN AWAY–and I imagine they have GOOD SOLID REASONING behind them.
It was the “rational thing to do. So, WHY THEN, did some followers stay?
One almost gets THE IMPRESSION that Jesus is wondering this very same thing himself. So, he actually asks the question of the 12: “Aren’t you going to go away, too?” he muses out loud.
HIS MESSAGE had become politicized. Sides were being taken. Some were declaring him to be a real LOSER, and, a BLASPHEMER and were walking away. They were pulling out their support. No more rallies. No more gatherings. No more showing up – to – where he was. No more hanging on to his every word. They were through with him. Done. Over him. Old News. Say BYE.
Even, Jesus himself must have been questioning, if he had crossed over some line…and it was definitely sad…to see them go. It always is.
No matter what the circumstances.