As we begin what feels like our 41st week in the Bread of Life Discourse from John 6, I’ll once again point you to the good work of Evan Garner, who, like me, isn’t preaching this week, but takes some time to look again at what Jesus is really trying to get at in this “difficult teaching.”
It is a difficult teaching that Jesus offers, at least that how the NRSV renders the original text. In Greek is sounds more like a medical condition than anything else, “logosclerosis,” which in the proper tense it reads something like “eipan-scleros,” literally it is a hard word or a hard saying. Note, as Evan has, that this push back isn’t coming from the Jews, John’s polemical code-word for the Jewish leadership. It isn’t coming from the crowd either. No, this time we have “the disciples” wondering just how anyone could possibly accept this logosclerosis, this hard word.
After 96 weeks in John 6, you might be asking yourself the same question. How can something seemingly so dense make any sense in the everyday muck of Christian discipleship? I think that’s probably why the Lectionary gods decided to spend 2.654 years in this one chapter, because eventually you have to deal with it. If it gets read enough times, the preacher will have to speak to it. If we hear it enough, the congregation will be forced to consider the ramifications of this logosclerosis.
Jesus places before us the same choice Joshua offered the people of Israel, telling the swollen group of disciples that they can choose flesh that dies or spirit that lives forever. John tells us that many went on to choose the life of the flesh, they trusted their bellies over and above the Lord. From thousands, even tens of thousands, who had been fed by Jesus, we find the sixth chapter of John closing with just the 12 left.
“To whom shall we go?” Peter knows that the way of Jesus is logosclerosis, it is a hard word that Jesus offers, but it is a word that leads to eternal life. Thanks be to God that at least 12 remained faithful. It is from their witness, their example of living with logosclerosis that we are able to continue in that way. It isn’t easy. The temptation to return to Egypt is strong. The temptation to follow the god of the belly, the checkbook, the Jones’ is always nipping at our heels, but the way of Jesus is a daily decision to choose the hard road that leads through the cross to eternal life.