John 6:1-15 ESV
We read and pray Psalm 88 and we find that “my eye grows [dark] through sorrow…” Psalms 88:9 ESV. Some people have dark eyes from the sorrows they have seen in life. They say the eyes are a window to the soul. You can look in some peoples eyes and they tell a story, oftentimes a story that is sad. Some people have dark eyes because of the sorrows they have seen in life, we understand that.
But some people have dark eyes because of the way they look at life. Jesus talks about that in the sermon on the mount. “”The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23 ESV. Jesus talks about the eye, how we look at life, being the lamp of our entire being. He says this in the sermon on the mount in the context of where he is talking about money. The text is bracketed by Jesus speaking about those who would be his disciples and how we view money. Right before this text, he says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 ESV. At the end of this passage he says “.…You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24 ESV.
So this dark eye that causes our being to be filled with darkness has something to do with a wrong approach to money. We could say it like this : there are those who go through life with the squinty eyes of greed. The squinty-eyed have dark eyes that darken their own soul because they have learned to look at life in the wrong way. We can look at life through the squinty eyes of greed, calculation, and cynicism. There is a way of looking at life through little slits, sizing people up, looking for an advantage, calculating, cynical, jaded, greedy. If you look at life that way, the light pouring into your soul is in fact darkness. We can look at life with the squinty eyes of greed, calculation and cynicism, but we end up with dark eyes and a dark soul.
Or we can look at life with wide-eyed wonder, love and acceptance. With our eyes wide open, wide-eyed wonder of love and acceptance, we have bright eyes and a bright soul. Some have dark eyes because of how much sorrow they have seen in life. But some have dark eyes because of how they shut out the light by how they look at life.
But the gospel message is this – Jesus can save us from both the dark eyes of sorrow and the dark eyes of cynicism. So that if you have seen so much sorrow and pain and suffering in your life, and you feel like your soul has been darkened, I want to tell you the good news that Jesus can come to you and heal you from your sorrows. He can give you bright eyes and a bright soul.
And if you’ve been looking at life through the squinty eyes of greed, calculation and cynicism, Jesus wants to teach you a brand new way of looking at life through the wide eyed wonder of love and acceptance so that you can have bright eyes and a bright soul…
One of the absolute deepest longings of human beings is that death would not be the end. That somehow love might overcome death, and loved ones we have lost, or even loved ones we’ve never met, we would somehow be able to meet again. One of the deepest religious longings that human beings have is that death be not final. That death can be overcome.
One of the most basic things that Christians believe is that life is good. We believe that when God created the heavens and the earth and all that fills them, he looked upon it and said it’s good. He said it’s good, it’s good, it’s good, and finally He said it’s very good. And we have come to believe that. We believe that even though life can be hard and difficult and challenging and sometimes filled with pain, nevertheless life is worth living, because in its essence life is good.
We are surrounded by beauty. But we can become numb to it. We sometimes need to be reminded to wake up to it and be aware of it. But just think of waking up in the morning. You open your eyes, the sun is shining. That’s good. You might hear something, the birds are singing. That’s good too. Maybe you’re like me and set the timer on the coffee pot, because that smell when I’m waking up in the morning is very good. Maybe you have have a nice breakfast, and it tastes good. Maybe you share a touch with your husband or your wife or even a pet. So you get all the senses involved, and it’s barely daylight outside, and we are reminded once more that life is good. It’s worth living. It has capacity for mystery and wonder and exploration and discovery, that leads to more mystery and wonder and exploration, that leads to more discovery, and it really is a beautiful thing, and life is worth living.
But then we run into a problem. Life is so good that death threatens to make life absurd, and in the end rob it of its inherent meaning. Life is so good that in one sense we are tasting and seeing that God is good. We are having some encounter with the divine, and 100 years is not enough. I would say that if you lived 120 years and then died, you died too young. Of course, the way it works out is that death begins to draw near, and the body begins to fade away and fall apart, and there is a sense in which, in that case, death can be a kind of a rest, a release, or escape.
But that’s not what was intended. That’s not what God had in mind. When God breathed upon man and man had the capacity to be God-aware and self-conscious and be able to contemplate the goodness of life, God did not intend for that to ever be lost. But the effect of sin has been death…
So we run into the problem of having tasted enough of life to know it’s good, but we want it to go on forever. We don’t want the ride to be over. We don’t want it to end. We don’t want it to stop. But we know it does…
And thus, the problem. The problem of mankind being subject to futility and death. That though we find out that life can be good, and there are moments so precious and so wonderful and so good, yet we know that death constantly stalks us. So the Gospel of Jesus Christ primarily addresses itself fundamentally to that problem.
The primary problem that the gospel addresses is not the problem of personal sin, though that is included. But the problem problem the gospel addresses is death. The wages paid by sin to the human race is death…forgiveness is included, but the primary emphasis of the gospel is that we are saved from the tyranny and dominion of death.
“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.” John 5:19-21 ESV
Here are two fundamental, most basic truths of Christian theology. Theology is simply how we think and what we say about God. Theology is important because how we think and what we say about God matters. 1). God is immutable. God does not change, is not subject to change, never will change. If God himself is subject to change then we’re all in trouble because then we’ve lost our constant, we’ve lost our rock, our foundation. We’ve lost that which doesn’t change when everything else changes. This is undeniable, I haven’t heard of anyone who really disputes it. One of the bedrock foundations of Christian theology is that God is immutable, He does not change.
2). God is fully and perfectly revealed in Christ. It is as we look at Jesus Christ that we discover what this unchanging God is like and has always been like. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” John 1:18 NRSV. Jesus says in the earlier passage in John 5 that When I’m doing these things that I do, all I’m doing is I am looking at the father, and seeing what the father does, and I am doing them so you can see it, what the works of the Father are. So if we want to know what God is all about, what God is interested in, what God does, what the work of God is like, we look in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we see what Jesus is doing, because he always does the works of the Father. He reveals to us the works of the Father. Then He says “…and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.” John 5:20 NASB.
Of course, the greatest sign that Jesus gives us in his ministry are the raising of the dead. When Jesus raised the dead….
In Capernaum, the ruler of the synagogue there is a man named Jairus. He has a little daughter, she’s been deathly ill, now she’s died. Jesus comes to the home, the mourners are already there. She’s died not long ago, but have no doubt, the girl is dead. Jesus said she is not dead, she is only asleep. “And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.”” Luke 8:52 ESV. The people began to mock him, Jesus put them out. He took the father and the mother, went into the room, took the child by the hand and said “Child, arise.” And the girl woke up, and he gave her back to her parents. “And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.” Luke 8:53-56 ESV
Why did Jesus do this?? Because that’s the work of the Father. What does the Father do? He gives life to the dead! Because the great problem facing humanity is death, and the work of the Father is to give life to the dead…
More to come…
Five days after the crowds waved their palms and cried their hosannas as he entered Jerusalem, Jesus was on trial. The Prince of Peace had come, but they didn’t want a prince of peace, they wanted a hero.
They wanted a hero. Like Barrabas. Mel Gibson misrepresented Barrabas. He got Barrabas all wrong. Barrabas was not just a bloodthirsty cutthroat criminal. He was a national hero. He was a freedom fighter. He had led an insurrection against the Roman occupation. Some Roman soldiers had been killed. He had been arrested. He was a political prisoner set to be executed. And he was a hero among the Jews.
He had a first name. Jesus. Jesus Bar-Abbas. Jesus, son of the father. He was a false messiah. Jesus Barabbas? Or Jesus of Nazareth? Pilate says which one do you want? Do you want the violent freedom fighter hero?? Or do you want the peaceful, riding on a donkey too small for him messiah from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth? Give us Barabbas. As for Jesus, crucify him.
The Palm Sunday crowd said all the right things, but they said them in the wrong way. It’s not enough to praise Jesus as king, we have to know what kind of king he is. If we think that Jesus is a king after the model of the conquering pharaohs and Caesar’s, we actually are rejecting Jesus. And refusing the Price of Peace always has terrible consequences. That’s why Jesus says a generation from now Jerusalem will become a fiery Gehenna where the worm never dies as it eats those corpses, and the fires are never quenched.
That’s what Jerusalem did to itself in rejecting Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace. Jerusalem did not want the new Kingdom of God, they just wanted to win at the old game of payback, get even, and vengeance. The old game is power enforced by violence. They didn’t want God’s new kingdom, they just wanted God to help them win at the old game. But God had already said through the prophet Zachariah that he was done playing the old game. That when the messiah comes, god is done with the old game. No more old game, behold I do a new thing. “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 ESV. And I send my son, the Prince of Peace to teach peace to the nations. “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah 9:10 ESV
But Jerusalem did not want the new kingdom, they wanted to win the old game. Their desire to play the old game led to their destruction. The Prince of Peace had just ridden into town offering a new way of being Israel and they had missed it. Their desire to beat their enemies at the old game had blinded them. They got Jesus wrong, and it set them on a wrong path that ended in their destruction.
If you had asked the chief priests if they believed Zachariah’s prophecy will ever be fulfilled, if they believed that someday the son of David, the true king of Israel, would ever really come humble and lowly, riding on a foal of a donkey, that he will come and teach peace among the nations, do you believe that will ever happen?? They would have said yes, but not now. Now is not the time for peace. Now is the time to fight. Now is the time for war.
This is not a history lesson. This is a warning for every follower of Jesus. Do we want Jesus and his new way of peace, or do we want Jesus to help us win the old game? Are we making the same mistake? Do we say that someday the prince of peace will come, we believe he will come someday, but not now!! If we do, we play the same game the chief priests played when they led Jerusalem to hell.
But the Prince of Peace has come!! The prince of peace HAS COME! Christmas, Good Friday, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday HAVE HAPPENED. The Prince of Peace has come. But do we want the Prince of Peace? Or do we want our heroes? When we play the game of saying we believe the Bible, believing it’s all going to happen, but NOT NOW, that’s how we play the game of rejecting Christ but still believing the Bible…
The chief priests would have told you they believed in Christ. They would have said they accept Christ, they believed in Messiah, they believed Messiah was coming, but NOT NOW. NOT NOW. Yes, we believe the Bible, but it’s not for NOW. We believe all those verses, but they’re not for now. Someday, but not now. Now we fight.
And Jesus said there’ll be hell to pay, and he weeps over Jerusalem. It’s not enough to praise Jesus. We can do that and still get Jesus wrong. We get Jesus right when we confess Jesus as Christ and King. We get Jesus wrong when we see him as for us and against them. We get Jesus right when wave the palms as if to welcome the worlds true king. We get Jesus wrong when we wave the palms as national flags. We get Jesus right when we acclaim him with the word Hosanna!! Save now! We get Jesus wrong when we say it’s hurray for our side…
“As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.””
Luke 19:37-40 ESV
Recently, in a group setting, the question was asked, what does communion mean to you?? I actually gave an answer, part of which included the statement “it is the center of Christian worship.” Which I believe to be true, we’ve been going through the Gospel of Luke, and it seems as though every significant event which occurs in this gospel occurs reclining at table, sharing a meal. Jesus reinforces this image in Luke 13, when as part of an answer to the question “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Luke 13:23 ESV, he says “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” Luke 13:29 ESV. This is part of an answer Jesus gives in which he also tells us the story of the narrow door. “”Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’” Luke 13:24-27 ESV. So in answer to the same question, Jesus tells us people will come from far and wide and recline at table in his kingdom, yet many who ate and drank in his presence (communion?), and in whose very streets Jesus taught (good church going believers?) will be told Depart from me, all you workers of evil! To which I don’t have much specific to say here, except that we all must be careful of our own certitude with which we go into the world. It seems to me that Jesus is telling those of us who think we have it all figured out (Jesus, God, Heaven, Hell, etc) that maybe we don’t know all that we think we know. We think we know something about who is in or out (mainly that we are in), but when the time comes some of us will be knocking on the door, looking in at all those coming from far and wide, whom we assumed would be out, or at least behind us in line. Sounds like a call to continue to walk in prayerful humility to me.
But this does bring me to my point for today, an answer to the question “what does communion mean to you?” I can answer this question many different ways, communion means many different things. It’s not a one dimensional picture, it’s a many dimensioned picture of Christ, and the way his followers are to go into the world.
I’m going to focus on four key words in relation to communion, from the account in Mark – taken, blessed, broken, given. And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them. This tells us Jesus took the bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread. Taken, blessed, broken, given. Continuing, Jesus said “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. So, do you see what has happened here? Jesus took the bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread. He took the bread, blessed the bread, broke it and gave it to them and said, “Take; this is my body.” Jesus is giving his disciples a picture of what is to come over the next 18-24 hours, and we need to realize that Jesus did not just serve the meal, he became the meal. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. So Jesus takes bread, blessed the bread, but then he does something mindblowing, now all of a sudden it’s not just bread and wine he’s serving, but his own flesh and blood. He goes from serving the meal to becoming the meal.
From the gospel accounts, we can sum up communion in four simple words, taken, blessed, broken, given. Because Jesus doesn’t just serve the meal, he becomes the meal. Jesus laid down his life and was broken and poured out for the sick, the hungry, the broken, the hopeless, the sinners. Jesus was taken, Jesus was blessed, Jesus was broken, Jesus was given for the sake of the world, and we are called to go and do likewise.
Jesus was poured out for all. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit show no partiality. It took Peter a decade or more to figure this out – “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34-35 ESV. So come one, come all, And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.
So who are we, as the church?? Are we not the body of Christ?? What we miss in communion is that this is a picture Jesus gave at his last supper of how his disciples, then and now, are to go into the world. Luke’s account tells us Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. We are to Do this in remembrance of me. Do what?? Is Jesus just talking simply about sharing a meal together in remembrance of him as a religious ritual. No, that’s not what Jesus is talking about. He’s talking about much more than that. Communion is not just about what we do once a quarter or once a month or even every Sunday. Jesus did not give us a task to do, walk away from, and check our box saying “well, I took communion today!”
We are not washing the dishes or taking out the trash. We don’t come to the table, eat the Lords Supper, and walk away thinking we are finished. No, communion is a picture Jesus gives us of how we are supposed to live life. We modern Christians have a problem. We don’t ever want to finish the meal. Communion is a four course meal. The bread is taken, blessed, broken and given. Christ was taken, blessed, broken and given. We want to stop at the second course.
We love our blessedness, we love to talk about we are taken by God, Amen!!!??? Taken from our addictions, from our sins, from our hurts, habits and hang ups. But to finish the meal, to walk as the body of Christ, to be broken and given, poured out for many, we would rather not eat those two courses of the meal. We would much rather gluttonously revel in our taken-ness and blessedness than to be broken and poured out for the world around us. But that is our call. That is why we Do this in remembrance of me.
We all want to be taken, we all want to be blessed. But do we want to finish the meal? “Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” Matthew 20:22 ESV
Taken. Blessed. Broken. Given. Finish the meal. Go into the world as the taken, blessed, broken, and given body of Christ.
“And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.””
Mark 14:22-25 ESV
“And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.”
Luke 22:14-23 ESV
Just had a random thought enter my mind during my prayer time this morning. I’ve never thought about this before, and this thought line may be totally undeveloped for now, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway.
Just had a thought about this particular verse of scripture – Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin. This same verse appears slightly differently in the gospel of Luke as well – “”And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” Luke 12:8-10 ESV
And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Ok, so here’s the thought I had this morning, and it’s a very serious thought. The one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven…if we are Christians, who claim to have been “saved”, who claim to have communion with the holy, risen Christ, who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who claim to have been indwelled with the Holy Spirit, yet we walk in the world as the same angry, selfish, obnoxious person/people we were before…is that not blaspheming against the Holy Spirit? Is not the worst blasphemy we could possibly make the blasphemy of an unholy life lived in the name of the Holy Spirit?
This gives me chills. People know who I am. They know that I am a Christian, one who believes in Jesus Christ, who believes he is the way, the truth, and the life. But – is what they see from me in my life and the way I carry myself on a daily basis blaspheming against the Holy Spirit? Do they see me loving my neighbor, am I one who prays for those who would be my enemies? Do I even love my own wife and children, brothers and sisters as myself?
How about the church as a whole?? Does the church blaspheme against the Holy Spirit in our day to day interactions with the “world” around us? Do we, as a church, walk in a spirit of protest and confrontation, or in the spirit of love and reconciliation?? Which of these spirits is of the Holy Spirit? Is one of these spirits a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.
We think we know what “sin” is. But these are words straight from the mouth of the sinless one. These are not my words, they are the words of Jesus, the one we claim to follow yet ignore his teaching. All those “unwashed masses”, Jesus says all their sins will be forgiven them, but those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.
Again, am I guilty, in my own life on a daily basis, of blaspheming the Holy Spirit? “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36 ESV. Sometimes we think we have all the answers, we know every sin known to man, and we can tell the “world” all the things they are getting wrong. But, as Jesus also said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3 ESV. How many of us point out every speck of dust in the world’s eye, when we can’t even see past the redwood tree in our own eyes? After all, it may be we who are guilty of the only sin Jesus says is unforgivable.
“”Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.””
Mark 3:28-30 ESV