Some have reckoned Jesus Christ as one of many great teachers who have appeared on the panorama of human history. They count him a peer with eminent sages such as Socrates and Solomon, Anselm and Aristotle, Calvin and Confucius, Gautama (the Buddha) and Gandhi.
Let’s think about that together for a bit.
Suppose your favorite novelist is Stephen King. Perhaps your favorite novelist is someone else, but work with me here. Now let’s say you learned that I had read one of Mr. King’s books, asked me what I thought of it, and I replied, “he is obviously a great typist.”
Now that very well might be true. It is hard to imagine that someone with such a fertile imagination and desire to communicate its contents would not master the skill of typing as writers of old mastered the quill. Writers need nimble fingers that can sling ink or fly over a keyboard to get their great thoughts on record as quickly as possible. On the other hand, maybe your favorite author uses dictation and someone else types up a rough draft. But work with me here.
My point is made with this question: Does the description “great typist” do justice to the full scope of the literary art of Mr. King or any other renowned writer? Does “great typist” adequately tell us about an author’s accomplishments in enthralling, informing, challenging, or motivating readers?
Jesus Christ is indeed a great teacher, to be sure. But He is so in the way that Mr. King and other wordsmiths are most likely good penmen or typists. The designation great teacher falls short – infinitely short, in Christ’s case – of setting forth the fullness of His accomplishments on behalf of His people.
The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, the fourth book of the New Testament, tells us about a group of people who heard Jesus teaching and quickly learned, to their consternation, that He was speaking on a level far above any world class philosopher or sage.
John, the Galilean fisherman turned author of that short booklet which has endured as a best seller for millennia, comments as follows regarding that teaching session of Jesus: “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’ ”
What was that difficult statement, and in what context was it spoken? This writer suggests that you read the Gospel of John chapter six for yourself. It is very likely that if you have never done so before, you will become enthralled, informed, challenged, and motivated like never before. Until you go straight to the source, here is a digest.
In the first part of the chapter, Jesus multiplies five small loaves of bread and two fish, overturning the basic laws of physics in order miraculously to provide a meal for five thousand men. Shortly thereafter, John records another of Jesus’ famous miracles, how He tread upon the wind enraged, choppy surface of the Sea of Galilee as if He was walking on level and dry land. No such claims are made of any of the sages mentioned above, but I won’t digress into that at present.
Following that astounding culinary coup which astounded that hungry crowd and that astounding aquatic stroll, the Master went on to give a lesson which included these astounding statements:
“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
“For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.”
That final statement, like a crescendo to its preceding incredulity inciting clauses, is what prompted many of His disciples to say “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”
Mere sages utter sayings that are hard to understand because they are abstract, complex, or erudite. This saying of Christ is hard because it makes us think of cannibalism at worse or bizarre metaphor at best.
But as the greater context of the Bible makes clear, Jesus was neither advocating cannibalism nor using bizarre metaphor. He was soberly proclaiming our absolute need for Himself, not merely His ethical instruction. He was telling us that our need for His once for all sacrifice of Himself as the Lamb of God is as necessary for our spiritual life as physical food is for our earthly bodies…
Are you one who desires to fully understand this saying? Christ Himself, having given His flesh and blood once for all, having risen from the dead, and now living above in heavenly glory, is able to give you that understanding by the power of the Helper He promised to send from the Father, the blessed Holy Spirit. Pray…call upon Jesus’ name.
Work with Him here.