Rev. Joshua D. Gill
The Reverend Doctor Barbara Lundblad tells the following story in her commentary on our Gospel passage. She writes, “Years ago, I got a phone call from a man I had never met, a man named Paul. He had heard a sermon I preached on The Protestant Hour radio program and asked where he could get a copy of my sermon. Of course, I was flattered, as most preachers are when someone wants a copy of a sermon. This is especially true when you preach on the radio, and you are not sure if anybody is listening. I told him where he could get the booklet of sermons, and a couple weeks later, he wrote me a letter: ‘When I came to the moment where they recognized Jesus, I broke into uncontrollable sobbing. After I regained my composure, I came back to finish the story, and the same thing happened again. What on earth was happening to me? After an hour of sitting and wondering, I went back to finish the story. . . . Since then, I have gone through the necessary motions of life, but my head and my heart are full of the same questions, endlessly repeated—what has happened? What is happening? What must I do?’ I would like to claim that my sermon created this life-changing moment, but I am sure that something else was going on. That sermon was almost a word-for-word retelling of the story of Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It was the gospel that touched this man. It was Jesus who met him in the story. He went on to tell me a bit about his life, how he had grown up in a Christian home and studied the Bible as a youngster. Then he had found it harder and harder to reconcile the Jesus story with a lifetime of study and teaching. In his words, he had decided that Jesus was a ‘charismatic lunatic.’ Now years later, this retired professor had been caught off guard by Jesus. He dared to look again at the Jesus he did not believe in. He had packed Jesus away as a childhood memory he had outgrown. Now Jesus had interrupted his settled worldview. It may be as disruptive to consider the possibility of believing as it is to consider the possibility of doubt. Either way, nothing is ever quite the same again.” 
Our lectionary gospel text might better go by the title “Does this offend you?” This teaching feels so radical that some turn away and stop following Jesus. The twelve remain but it is clear that for even the disciples their world view was disrupted. For anyone brought up in first century Judaism this teaching would have difficult. The messiah was supposed to follow a specific pattern and to stay within bounds of the agendas and aspirations they had in mind for him. But Jesus’ teaching feels like too much. One of the central principals of Levitical law is that you should not eat or drink any blood. A complex system of Kosher butchering developed to ensure that no blood remained. But Jesus wants those who abide in him to eat his flesh and drink his blood. While we know now this is a reference to communion it is still shocking.
We hear again this word to “abide,” “dwell,” or “remain.” This verb occurs 34 times in the Gospel of John more than any other gospel. So, what is the connection here to abiding and Jesus’ flesh and blood? Why is it so important to John’s gospel? Part of it is the desire to reflect on the complexity of the incarnation. The idea that we see the fullness of God’s divinity expressed in Jesus and the fullness of Jesus’ humanity as well. For John, abiding is about remaining in between two distinct realties — human and divine. For John, abiding is the key to transformation that we can abide in God and God can abide in us. Jesus enables us to live fully into what it means to be human, as God is most fully lived out in us. I think this is what makes this teaching so hard. I would imagine most of us at times don’t feel as though God is most fully lived out in us. We all have our moments when we are short with our spouse, lose our patience with our kids, or say an unkind word. In short, there are many moments where it can feel like God is not fully lived out in us.
Yet, Simon Peter is the one bold enough to respond to Jesus’ question. Where could we go? We know you are the Holy One of God. This would be a question Peter would continue to wrestle with for the rest of his life. This is probably why many scholars believe John’s Gospel has two endings. The first ending is at the beginning of John chapter 20 with Mary Magdalene running to Peter to tell him they have taken Jesus and I don’t know where they have laid him. Peter at that moment is living in the midst of his denial; he has turned from this hard teaching and is no longer abiding. But then in chapter 21 begins it all over again and Peter has a moment redemption as he shares bread and fish with Jesus. A reminder to us that if we are listening, God will surprise us. And many times those words may be hard for us to hear when they come in the voice of a friend, a preacher or even a stranger, or even a book, but no matter, what the grace of God is always before us. The grace that calls us to abide in God.
 Connections: Year B, Volume 3 (Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship) (p. 262). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition
 Connections: Year B, Volume 3 (Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship) (p. 259). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.