I am nervous about this week’s Gospel passage…
I am treading upon holy ground…
But, here goes.
How does we understand “who” is saved, redeemed and set right, by the life, witness, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ?
Please do consider this passage from the Gospel of John prayerfully…
The Gospel reading.
35-38 Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own agenda but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.
39-40 “This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.”
41-42 At this, because he said, “I am the Bread that came down from heaven,” the Jews started arguing over him: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph? Don’t we know his father? Don’t we know his mother? How can he now say, ‘I came down out of heaven’ and expect anyone to believe him?”
43-46 Jesus said, “Don’t bicker among yourselves over me. You’re not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me—that’s the only way you’ll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End. This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, ‘And then they will all be personally taught by God.’ Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father. No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father—and you can see me.
47-51 “I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread—living Bread!—who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.”
I was taught at Sunday School and in attending numerous holiday Bible clubs as a kid; that all one had to do to ensure eternal life was “to ask Jesus into your heart”.
And to be very truthful as a 10 year old boy, in a wee Mission Hall in Waringstown, I did “ask Jesus into my heart”.
And I knew that something had changed.
And I am for ever grateful.
Throughout my teens and into my early adulthood this conversion experience rang true for me. It was preached and reinforced time and time again…School assemblies, the Boys’ Brigade, Church, Youth fellowship, Summer camps. Older people, younger people joined together with a certainty that we were “converted”, “born again”, “God’s elect”, a “Royal Priesthood”. So long as your conversion experience was understood and explained in a certain format…you were in. Jesus had been invited into your “heart”.
If truth be told my over riding memory of this season of my Christian journey is one of nurture, security, belonging, fun and occasional moments of well, “weirdness” maybe even “spiritual abuse” (now that I look back at some of what went on in doing “Church” in 1980’s and 1990’s Northern Ireland).
Thanks be to God but at 18, in leaving the highly sectarianised north of Ireland (1985 to 1986) for a year to attend an international Bible school in England, my ideas of who were “born again”, “redeemed”, “saved” began to change…
First there was Ralph …
An indigenous Canadian from Vancouver Island. To my dying day, I will never forget thinking to myself “This guy cannot be a Christian”, on noticing Ralph’s massive fish shaped earring on our first introduction. Boy, did I ever learn not to go by first appearances (or my culture’s first appearances) as to who is or isn’t a follower of Christ.
Then a few years later my understanding of what it was to follow Jesus took a real “kicking”. Thanks to Joe…
A fellow undergraduate, studying Youth and Community work. Irish, Nationalist, Catholic. From West Belfast. Politically and indeed religiously everything I was not. (Or so I understood at that time). But, Joe knew his Bible. Joe was a natural evangelist. Joe when he prayed touched heaven. Joe who set everyone at ease. Joe, who I began to understand was my brother in Christ.
Two stories amidst countless other encounters with people (throughout my faith journey) that had “come to Christ” but did not necessarily fit the “coda” I had been brought up to believe “coming to Christ” looked like. (Or indeed what a Christian should “look like” or even what a Christian “lifestyle” entailed).
Many, many individuals who I have had the privilege of encountering, very different from myself or the culture I grew up in.
“Aligned with Christ”,
“Had been given by the Father to the Son”.
Individuals who are part of God’s salvation story for the whole cosmos in being…
“..put together, upright and whole”.
Individuals, (like so so many of us) often broken, carrying their very personal trauma’s and hopes who believe…
and receive eternal life.
Yes. Eternal life in following Christ.
Regardless of their colour, creed, gender, past or current situation, abilities, character, nationality,
or whether or not they have “asked Jesus into their heart” exactly as a 10 year old boy once did.
Jesus for the many. And not just the few.
Picture courtesy of @savbrown