See how I bare you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto myself.” Ex.19: 4.

Royce Kennedy ◊ 909 Whistling Duck Drive ◊ Largo, MD 20774



Some of the hardest sayings of Christ” April 2013. Part 2


            In chapter one we noticed how many of the disciples of Christ returned from following after him, saying, “This is an hard saying, who can hear it?” Like I said before, from our vantage point, having the benefit of the scriptures, and hearing the Christmas story as far back as we can remember, we hardly need to try to believe. Even unbelievers listen to Christmas carols for months on the local radio stations, and just about all major shopping malls beam their theme in the ears of shoppers. But watch how hard it was for the people who knew Jesus and watched him grow up among them. Jesus had just completed his 40 days of temptation in the wilderness and promptly headed back to his home town.

          “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it is written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

           So far so good! But this is his boyhood home and just about everyone knew him as a willing helper in his father’s carpenter shop. Let us look at the mindset of the folks in the synagogue fixing their eyes on him. “And many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.” Mark 6: 2, 3.

           After Jesus handed the book back to the minister, he sat down and all eyes were fastened on him. Above is the profile of the man who is about to utter one of the hardest saying of the day, and many would choke on it to the point of wanting to kill him. Maybe a priest or even a kind merchant from town could get away with the remarks Jesus was about to make, but not this man [who as many thought] was born in fornication.

As they gazed upon Jesus perhaps some with their mouth agape he blew the cap off and let the essence out. “And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath. And they rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon the city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.”  Luke 4: 14-29.

 For goodness sake! This was the sabbath day in the synagogue where the menu was a good helping of the law of Moses, dressed with a generous portion of “Thou shalt not kill.” But in a moment all that the law commanded flew out the window. What was the catalyst that triggered such violent reaction? The day was right! The place was right! The scripture reading was right! But it was all wrong for Jesus to say this day. Because they quickly perceived that Jesus was saying in no uncertain term that he is the fulfillment of the prophecy.

This was a Messianic prophecy, pointing to the One who would save Israel and return them in good standing before God, and as the head of all the nations upon the earth. Jesus as a man could not come close to possessing the qualifications outlined by several of the Old Testament prophets. His place of birth, the manner of his conception [out of wedlock] the social standing of his parents; all of these demerits quickly brought the issue to a head that day in the synagogue.

How could Messiah be born, in, or around a cattle stall, [called a manger in our bible] and why would the Savior of Israel be named “Jesus?” Many people in the time of Christ bore the name Jesus, [so it is today] therefore all of the circumstances that surrounded the life of this man, made it seem to be plain mockery for him to claim that “this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

From our vantage point in time, and having a historic platform to stand on, nothing Jesus said would raise an eyebrow or catch our attention, because through the bible we are looking at the finished product. With a simple glance across the pages of New Testament History we have a panoramic view of events that have played their role and accomplished that which was intended by the Lord. For those who lived in the town of Jesus Christ and watched him grow up, it was difficult and even impossible for them to accept as fact that this thirty year old man is indeed the person of whom Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Micah, and David in the Psalms wrote about. What I love most about the style and contents of Christ’s teaching is that he always issued a challenge that forces us to take a second look. About the year 1973 I visited Toledo, Ohio, to preach in a weeklong series of meetings.

As I usually do on all of my trips, I stayed at the pastor’s home and became a part of his family during my stay. More often than not, we dine at IHOP [International House of Pancakes] or at Perkins Restaurant, or at a local steak house. While dining one day the pastor said that of all the ministries that have come to his church, mine has brought the most blessing. He went on to explain that his wife is an intellectual [a school teacher] and the ministry I brought has caused her to think more intensely and in itself has been a blessing to her.

          I do not share this to take any credit or to put a halo around my head. I am simply showing what the Lord has entrusted to me. If I go around the country telling people what they already know, isn’t that like spinning our wheels in the snow and not moving? Someone said from the pulpit that God saves children, but he doesn’t keep them. His plan is for them to grow up; to stand like men and be strong.

          Peter said that as new born babes we desire the sincere milk of the word so as to grow thereby. But the writer of Hebrews came along and made this profound observation. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not strong meat.

 For everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5: 12- 14. So we are exhorted by the apostle Paul on this wise: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” 1st Corinthians 14: 20.

 Let us look in one more time on the issue that caused many of the disciples of Christ to walk away because those sayings were too hard for them to hear. Christ placed himself up front and at the top of the issue as the true bread that came down from heaven. He insisted that unless one eats his flesh and drinks his blood, they have no life in them. Not being converted and not being filled with the Holy Spirit those disciples had no clue of what Christ was talking about.

As we fast-forward to our day and our people within the community of believers we notice that across the broad spectrum of Christendom, the spiritual realism has been accepted and is being practiced without fail. Among Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Full Gospel, and many others the term “Lord Supper” is adopted. Among others it is called “Holy Communion” and in the Catholic Church the term Eucharist is most commonly used.

As we administer the Lord Supper, we solemnly tell the people “This is the body of the Lord that was broken for you; eat ye all of it.” We refer to the wine as being the blood that was shed for us and so we drink being convinced that in so doing we are obeying Christ as stated in John 6. The bread and wine and the washing of the saints’ feet are all subjects for continued discussion among the different “faiths.”

          But if we are to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to live a healthy and long life it begs the question; how many times a day do we eat to remain strong and healthy: and in that same train of thought, how often do we observe holy communion?

          Many established religious entities observe the Lord Supper once a month, possibly on the third Sunday of each month. I do not know of any that observe this rite once every week or four times a month. This begs a rather compound question in the light of what we just said! If we are to live by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, will observing this rite once a month suffice? When in reality we need to eat three or four times a day to remain healthy and strong?

Back in London, England in 1967—68, I used to walk two miles across a common so I could use the time in prayer. One day the Lord spoke to my heart saying: “If you want to grow seven days a week, you must learn to feed yourself seven days a week, and not wait until you get to church once or twice a week. This task is for the individual who must devise a place and a time to get alone with Christ in what we call the “secret place of the most High.”

Paul added this little nugget! “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” 1st Corinthians 10: 17. In many circles of society we hear the term: “You are what you eat.” It is used to sell health products, to encourage students at school to eat healthy, and for other commercial enterprises. But look at the logic behind the statement! We do not need an amazing mind capacity to agree that if Jesus Christ is that one bread of whom we are made partakers, by now we must also become incorporated with [within] him who is the bread from heaven as noted in John 6.

The amazing part of this narrative for those who can receive it, is the fact that instead of going to the table once a month to partake of bread and wine in Holy Communion, declaring that this emblem is the Lord, we have a more excellent way to partake of that heavenly bread and know that we ourselves have become one with that one bread. Instead of breaking natural bread and feeding it to the world, the Lord breaks us as living bread and feeds us to a hungry world. First he blesses us [like bread] then he breaks us to meet the needs around us.

We said earlier that the people had no understanding of what Jesus alluded to when he said that we should eat his flesh and drink his blood, outside of which there is no life. But the main issue in this argument was not the fact of not understanding; it was the fact of not wanting to understand, and downright rejection and opposition to the teachings of Christ.

          How about the case of Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night, wanting to know how to obtain eternal life? The idea of the new birth had him so confused that he enquired whether it will be necessary for him to enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born. From his vantage point and level of understanding this was the only logical way for him to be born again.

          But let us observe the conclusion that Jesus placed upon the whole issue. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe , if I tell you heavenly things?” John 3:11, 12.

           Did you notice the clincher in Christ’s response? Notice that Jesus did not highlight the fact that Nicodemus did not understand. Of course he did not understand! And even to where we stand in the very throne-room of our Father, there are many things we simply do not understand. This man was not required to quickly get understanding! Jesus said he did not believe!

          You see, my Friend, the natural man seeks to understand, even that which cannot be understood. By contrast, the spiritual man believes and accepts even that which excels far beyond logic. Paul said that charity believes all things, and this does not mean that we are obligated to prove what we believe. Christians are never asked, or required to prove the existence of God or how his power works. We simply believe and put our belief into action, and God works with us confirming his word with signs following. Mark 16: 20.

          In every instance, those who oppose Christ and stumbled at his words fell short because of closed minds, ejecting the truth, and openly rebelled against the man and his message. In many instances as we have seen in this study, although parts of the message were hard to begin with, what made it worse was the man who brought the message. If Christ had emerged as a mysterious figure out of the Judean wilderness, a solid following would quickly develop possibly even among the religious order of the day. But this man was a local boy with questionable roots and an almost morbid lifestyle. They could not see Christ as the Word made flesh!

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But in reality this is not anything new. Even today people are taught over and over what is going to happen tomorrow. [In the future] If it is in the past it is history, and if it going to happen one day, it requires no proof our expediency. But to say today, changes the entire dynamics and puts us on the frontline to produce or shut up.

 Brother Kennedy