Today’s Gospel reading continues the Bread of Life Discourse. At the end of the passage today, St. John writes “These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.” The synagogue is where the rabbis taught Torah. From here the wisdom of the sages was dispensed. Holy writ proclaimed. For Jesus to teach in a synagogue that was not in his hometown, but an adopted, temporary home for an itinerant rabbi, is quite interesting. The local rabbis must have wanted to what more. Perhaps they heard about the signs.
Indeed, there was a great deal of interest in what He had to say about Torah. Jesus taught a wide variety of people, spanning socio-economic class and education. There is something captivating about this combined with the loud thunderclaps wrought when Jesus says that His flesh must be eaten and his blood consumed for one to have eternal life. What could this possibly have to do with Torah and living as God’s Covenant people? Nothing and everything.
If Jesus does not speak in the Person of God, if He does not have divine authority to speak as the author of the Torah itself, then His words must be dismissed, even despised, by His countrymen. On the other hand, if Jesus speaks in the very Person of God, then what He says opens up the heart of Torah and the very author of it is expounding upon its purpose and deepest meaning.
C.S. Lewis famously argued that Jesus was either a liar, lunatic, or Lord. He cannot be merely a good moral teacher or wise sage. He claimed to be God. He claimed to speak as God. One could think He was lying or crazy. But one cannot make Jesus into anything one wants Him to be. Simplified, Jesus is nothing or everything. If He is not God, then He is nothing. If He is God, He is everything. If He is God, then we must receive His word and His flesh and blood in the Eucharist by faith. If He is not God, then all of these things can be dismissed. Most people in the audience hearing the words in today’s passage were in this latter category. But some of His disciples understood that He has the words of eternal life. In His grace and love, God always gives us the same choice.