The more I understand Christianity and Christ the more that I don’t want to be Christian, and yet the more I can’t help myself from being so. Christianity is about grace, it is about how a God who is love has provided a means for a wayward people to come back to himself in the person of Christ. However, it’s not just grace, a grace we so often like to focus on, it is also discipleship and it is discipleship that makes me not want to be Christian as much as it is discipleship that makes me remain Christian.
I was contemplating John 6 this week where Christ talks about how he is the bread of life and it really struck me. Let me share with you the parts of John 6 that have been on my mind:
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”
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Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” . . . Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves . . . I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
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The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
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Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.
See this highlights what I feel about discipleship. The moment you realize one thing, following Christ demands another and this other thing is at times almost unimaginable. Think about how his disciples must have felt when hearing this. The Bible previously condemned the consumption of blood and even today animals must be properly drained of blood to be kosher according to Jewish dietary law. When given the chance to soften his teaching to make it palatable to his audience, Jesus increases the intensity of what he says.
Following Christ is ridiculous. If you don’t think it is, I want to see you try and describe how it is sensible to give up monetary security, the comfort of family, the appreciation of neighbour. In the Sermon on the Mount we find commands this radical, commands to die to self so that we might find life. It is not sensible, and the more you believe what Christ says to be true, the less you wish to remain a disciple. Christ’s commands should make us feel alienated because they demand so much of us. The grace that we receive is a costly grace to continue in.
Why then do we follow Christ? After most of Jesus’ disciples have left him and only the twelve remained we find that Simon Peter gives the full answer to this question:
Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.
Ultimately this is why we follow Christ. To who else can we go? When it seems as if the demands of Christ surmount all possible reason, we cling to this one fact that in Christ we find true life. It is a difficult to accept fact, but it is the fact of discipleship. What we are called to is impossible, nonsensical, implausible but because it is the Word of Life we follow that word and calling to the ends of the earth. This is true discipleship and this is why so many fall off the path of discipleship as life continues. Christ has the words to eternal life and though I may not want to be a disciple, I remain one because those words outweigh any desire of my heart to stop following that which is mana from heaven.
Christ is the bread of life, we celebrate this fact every time we partake of communion. In communion we receive again the grace of Christ so that we might be strengthened in our struggle of discipleship each and every day. In communion we give thanks, Eucharist, to God. We remember that “Christ our passover has been sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Let us remember that discipleship is hard, but that in Christ we have the words of eternal life. I might not want to be Christian, but the words of Christ make this wayward soul continue to come back for more.