You will notice that in the daily lectionary from which these readings are taken, the gospel lessons are continuing from John 6, the “Bread of Life” chapter. And just as we read a few days ago about the Jews murmuring at Jesus’ statement that He is the Bread of Life come down from heaven, now we hear the disciples, themselves reeling, saying, “Jesus, this is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” To some, Jesus’ talk of eating flesh and drinking blood is harsh and offensive—without a faith perspective, one would assume Jesus is advocating cannibalism!
But nothing could be further from the truth. We know that Jesus’ presence is attached to the bread and wine—as Luther said, “in, with, and under the bread and wine” of Holy Communion, so that we are not eating human flesh and blood. But this doesn’t make the disciples less offended. It is indeed a hard saying, and a teaching that challenges us to consider, spiritually, what Jesus is saying. And when you get right down to it, there are lots of sayings of Jesus which are harsh and hard. There are many of His teachings which call us to leave self behind, take up our cross and follow Him—and many are offended by such a suggestion. People generally want to live for themselves, to make their own decisions in life, and chart their own course. To yield to God’s will for their lives—to follow Jesus on the way of the cross—is just not acceptable to some.
Which is why we commit ourselves to each and every word which comes from the mouth of Jesus—not just the ones that we like or the ones that are easy or comfortable. This is the great value of following a weekly lectionary for preaching, as it causes the preacher to deal with hard or difficult biblical texts whether we want to or not. When I read through the lessons each week, my mind naturally goes to messages that are easier to preach, and perhaps easier for folks to hear. But I discipline myself to look further, to consider whether there might be another message equally important for the congregation to hear, even if not easy or comfortable.
During Lent, spend some time reading biblical texts that might seem difficult or hard— they might just have more to say to us than we would imagine!
Ever-living God, speak to us every day, and open our ears to hear what you would say to us, whether we like it or not! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Taken from Wendel, David, From Ashes to Easter, Ashes Lenten Devotional Booklet, North American Lutheran Church.