The Holy Gospel: August 19, 2012 (Year B)

Read:  John 6:51-58

Meditation:  “Who Does He Think He Is?”

The current lectionary readings are taking us deeper and deeper into metaphor and mystery, and that’s more than the folks who demand literalism and explanations can handle.

Don’t forget—the religious leaders were some of the smartest people in Israel.  It’s almost amazing that we can read today’s lesson and see the symbolism, but they could not.

But the fact is, theirs was not ultimately a failure of intelligence or the absence of an ability to be “right-brained.”  Running through the entire Gospel of John is a much-more devastating indictment than that.  Their refusal to see is rooted in a willful unbelief.

Jesus was not assaulting their left brain as much as he was overturning their entire security system, expressed ultimately in their retort, “We have Abraham for our father” (John 8:39).

This was as much a problem for the Pharisees as it was the for Sadducees—which means that Jesus eventually confronts both the conservatives and liberals, because there is no religious “it.”  There is only the incarnated “I am.”

When Jesus reveals himself and asks us to ingest him, we know what he means—we just don’t want to do it.  We know it means that he will be Lord, and since there can only be one Lord, we know it’s not going to be “us” anymore.  When Jesus is our nourishment, no other system will ever be enough to completely satisfy us.

I think it’s why Eugene Peterson has spoken of the need for a “naked noun.”  When Jesus is Lord, I am simply a Christian.  I am not a conservative Christian, a liberal Christian, an evangelical Christian, a progressive Christian, a missional Christian, or an emergent Christian.

I am a Christian—one who follows Jesus, knowing that as I do, he will upset “my apple cart” sooner or later.  He will take my sacred cows and slaughter them.  Jesus is not assaulting my left-brain; he is overturning my life.  And the first response of the fallen self is always to piously ask, “Who does he think he is?”

Thankfully, he knows who he is.  Do we?


About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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