pushing the envelope | John 6.60
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” John 6.60 | ESV
And people gagged and spat out his “Bread of Life” talk – even many that had signed up to follow him through thick and thin couldn’t stomach any of this. “That’s it. This is just too weird, way too hard to stomach – who can follow this?” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Pushing the envelope.
According to that unimpeachable authority we know as Wikipedia, the expression “push the envelope” “used to refer to an aircraft being taken to, and perhaps beyond, its designated altitude and speed limits. By extension, this phrase may be used to mean testing other limits, either within aerospace or in other fields.” Jesus definitely does that here. But he does more than push the limits.
He obliterates them.
He breaks all kinds of theological sound barriers for his listeners – and these were committed “customers.” They weren’t newbies or seekers off the street. These were not only the remnants of the crowd that witnessed the miracle of the bread and fish, these were people who had been following Jesus for some time, listening, hoping, praying that he was the One. Seeing the confusion registering on their faces and hearing it in their voices at his whole “my flesh is the bread of life” talk, instead of easing off he went full throttle into their confusion.
Something else for us to file under the “What Would Jesus Do?” heading.
Yes, Jesus spoke as people were able to hear, but he also told stories to confound and lose his listeners, and he didn’t hesitate to amplify and compound their lack of comprehension, if he judged it fitting. While we would typically do everything we could not to “lose the sale” (soul) and see someone walk away, Jesus often doesn’t seem to hesitate to say, “I’ll miss you,” and to give them a gentle nudge.
On this occasion he even appears to risk it with the twelve. “Have I even pushed you too far?” he seems to ask them. And then he turns to us, hands extended.
Bread and wine.
Flesh and blood.
What about us?
Are we ready to give him more than a nod of the head when our head has sorted all this out?
Are we ready to take and eat?
Or will we walk too?
When most recently has God really pushed the envelope in your life? How might he be calling you to do so right now?
Abba, lead me into that radical place between playing it safe and presumptuous rashness. Give me the heart to embrace it when you push the envelope in my life. Rather than pushing back, open my heart wide in your empowering grace to press forward to the new vistas awaiting me. Through Christ.