Jesus’ Shocking Claims

About a year before Jesus’ death, He did something shocking. By that point in His ministry, His miracles had captured the attention of the crowds, and massive numbers of people were following Him. But instead of welcoming them all with open arms and praising them for their spiritual curiosity, He pushed them away, challenging their motives: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (Jn 6:26).

Jesus knew they didn’t really want Him; they just wanted the benefits He could offer them. So He sifted the crowd. He started saying things like: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (v51). And: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (v53).

As you might imagine, these strange claims disturbed them deeply. They responded with: “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (v42) And: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (v52) The net result wasn’t hard to predict: “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (v66).

You get the sense that Jesus doesn’t evaluate success the same way we do. Drawing a crowd isn’t His goal at all. A big group of followers might look like success for a spiritual leader, but Jesus knows it isn’t. What Jesus really wants is not a huge crowd of people who still have their own personal agenda intact. Jesus’ goal is to confront people with what it really means to follow Him. In these strange-sounding statements which drove so many followers away, Jesus is actually giving us the essence of Christianity and forcing us to see if we have it. Here is it in a nutshell: The essence of Christianity is finding your essence in Christ.

Here it is in Jesus’ words: “I am the bread of life: whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (v35). The essence of Christianity is less about making a mental affirmation about Jesus and more about feasting on Jesus every day of your life.