Christ is risen!
He looked at me and said something I never expected: “Conflict is necessary for close friendship and healthy relationships.” What? I hated hearing that. In fact, it made me question whether I was trusting the right person with this particular challenge. It was a sticky situation that meant I had to confront someone with a hard truth, and I was trying to avoid that, if at all possible.
But my mentor was right. Conflict is absolutely necessary IF there is going to be a healthy relationship. The real challenge is handling conflict well, not trying to avoid it!
Look at our lesson today in John 6:56-69:
The Lord said to the Jews who had believed in him, “He who eats 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 he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?” Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The Apostle John keeps focusing on the Lord’s hard sayings about His Flesh and His Blood. And these words of Jesus are unambiguous and clear AND they were really hard to hear! To “abide” in Jesus means to eat His flesh and drink His blood! This graphic and shocking teaching was meant to separate the casual followers from the people who were willing to embrace this revelation of intimacy with God and the transfiguration reality of becoming like” Christ through authentic communion.
No wonder some of the disciples of the Lord said “This is a hard saying.” They were right. It still is a “hard” teaching. But the honest heart would be curious. It’s only egoistic and childish, shallow people that automatically get offended.
But Jesus says this truth about His body and blood to bring about exactly what happened. Some stopped following Jesus when they were confronted with a hard saying.
The 12 apostles were asked as well. “Do you also wish to go away?” Peter answered for the group.
So, what are we supposed to do with this hard saying? We are supposed to not allow one hard saying to make us forget all the other sayings, all the other teachings, all the other miracles, all the other wisdom the Lord has offered us. We are supposed to assume this hard saying is for our good based on what we know of Jesus Himself; that He loves us and wants us to become by grace what He is by nature. We are supposed to do the hard work of confronting something difficult and pressing out the wisdom offered to us. We are supposed to trust Jesus.
And in doing so, we hear the wisdom of the centuries in knowing His “hard saying” is actually an invitation to embrace such an intimate relationship with Him that we regularly see Bread and Wine transformed by faith into Flesh and Blood. And we see ourselves transformed by faith into the Body of Christ as we continually offer ourselves and one another to Christ, our God!
Today, are you willing to do the hard work of communion with the Lord and each other so that you become the Body of Christ for your world? Are you willing to approach the Cup of Salvation and become what you eat? Are you willing to be Orthodox on Purpose?
P.S. Dear Lord, You prepared us for centuries in Your work and law in the Old Testament to recognize Your Son when He came among us. You gave us the Torah. You gave us Abraham willing to sacrifice his son and You provided a substitute “lamb” to save his life. You fed the People in the wilderness with “bread that came down from heaven.” You call us to see all this wisdom as preparation for the coming of Your Son, Who provides us with “real” food and “real” drink to finally nourish our “real” hunger and thirst. Grant us the courage to embrace Your gift of “food” with gratitude and joy! Amen.