Cannibalism (John chapter 6)
The surprise ending of the book and movie, ‘The Life of Pi”, exposes shocking cannibalism. We are left wondering which interpretation of the story we prefer, the unbelievable journey on a lifeboat with a tiger, or the cannibalism of castaways resulting in one boy’s survival. In fact, we are given the choice to believe either story, since the main theme of the story, apparently, is the relativity of truth. In other words, belief is a purely subjective matter—choose the story you like best; like Pi, you may even choose to syncretize several beliefs into your own version of truth.
Jesus has something different to say about truth. He begins by using a crowd of thousands to teach an important truth to his disciples. Anticipating the Passover Feast, He miraculously provides a meal on a hillside, feeding five thousand with a boy’s lunch, then withdraws while the crowd lounges in satiety. By the next day, though, the masses have tracked Him down, hoping for yet another free lunch.
Jesus responds by saying, “I tell you the truth…” Not all bread is alike. You can pick and choose your belly-filling meals, but soul-satisfying Truth has only one source. He says truth is “bread from heaven”, “true bread from heaven” and “the bread of God”. Then He goes on to reveal, to make it exceedingly clear, what Truth is: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” At those words, some of the crowd are disillusioned. Not only will there be no more free meals coming, but Jesus is requiring them to dispense with the idea of the subjectivity of truth. It’s Him and Him alone that gives eternal life. So a significant number of the crowd leaves. But Jesus is not done with that metaphor. There is more to be learned about Truth. Not only is it not subjective, it is not static: it requires a response from us that is wholly, one hundred percent, thoroughly engaged. So He pushes the metaphor of bread to its extreme. He describes the necessary response to Him, sole source of Truth, as something provocatively staggering.
He says, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Isn’t that cannibalism? The crowd is appalled at this teaching. They are concrete-thinkers and they are still only contemplating filling their bellies. But even those who see it as metaphor are appalled. That they must draw spiritual sustenance from Jesus alone is a barrier few will risk. It’s so much easier to be eclectic, to pick and choose beliefs that allow us to maintain our basic autonomy.
And so, we’re told, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Truth with a capital “T” demands more than many of us are willing to give. We all are given access to that one entry point into the sheepfold we talked about last time. Jesus is the gate. To become one of His sheep means we must submit to that gate. We hate to think this way, that it is a barrier to sheepfold entry, but that is the truth of the matter. Jesus is as objective as truth gets. So we see that He demands more of us than ‘The Life of Pi’ says about truth. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. There’s your invitation; step up to the gate and make your choice. He is waiting for you but He is not passive. And that’s the Truth.
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