The End that Justifies the Means
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may that love and mercy be revealed to you, and may it assure you that in His presence you will remain!
Is the Journey more important than the destination?
Four years before Martin Luther would nail to the door an invitation to discuss indulgences, a man in Italy, the man who would become the father of political science, and the first to write on political ethics finished his best known work.
Though not in the book as a direct quote, a summary of it gave us one of the best known proverbs that is not contained in the Bible. A proverb many a businessman and many a politician see as foundational.
The end justifies the means.
Basically, Machiavelli held that, “a ruler must be concerned not only with reputation, but also must be positively willing to act immorally at the right times.” (Wikipedia)
One example given on Wikipedia of that is this, “Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”
As odd as it sounds, there is one example of that proverb, that you and I must be grateful, one time in history where the end justifying the means was not only appropriate, but a blessing.
As the Jewish people struggle with Jesus teaching that they must eat His body and drink His blood, they will struggle even more that in order to receive the promises of God, in order to be His people, they would have to depend upon the greatest injustice in history.
There is a part of me that wants to preach on this passage from the safety of focusing on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. After all, there are theologians who say this passage where Jesus demands us to eat His Body and drink His blood as being primarily about the Lord’s Supper. And there are some that say it is not. Fascinating arguments on both sides.
It is safe, it would help you comprehend what we do during communion, and it would miss the point.
This passage isn’t about communion, in the way that a journey isn’t about the journey, it is about the destination. Because the Jewish people were worrying about the journey, they missed the message of the destination.
That God would remain in us, and we in Him.
We’ll get back to that in a moment, but we need to see that we are no different than the Jewish people, who though knowing God’s law, struggled with what Jesus was saying, struggling so much that they would say,
“This is very hard to understand, how can anyone accept it?”
It was so hard to understand, that most of the disciples would leave.
Because they were focusing on the means, rather than the end.
We do the same thing today, when we toss aside God’s word. Maybe we consider it out of date in the moral standard. Or when we dismiss something because those rules were okay back then before people were educated, but they don’t apply to us smarter and more sophisticated people today. We argue with God, we try to define what is right and what is wrong. We try to change the rules, rationalize our way out of things, or create a different standard.
A great example is how we treat our enemies, adversaries and those who are a pain in the butt.
Do we really love them? Do we really pray for them? Do we really want to forgive them and welcome to commune with us?
Or do we try to find a loophole, an exception to God’s desire that we love all our neighbors?
Or what about when God says to embrace persecutions and suffering, for the sake of the gospel. He just means pastors and worship leaders and elders. Not bass players and sound men, and ushers, right?
We don’t get it, it seems too hard to understand. We don’t like it when God confronts us and challenge our agendas, or rules out what we like and what we dodo. Sometimes, confronted by God’s wisdom and unable to get it, sometimes we walk away. Just like the disciples did.
John’s gospel shows how hard it is, as it records Jesus’ words, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.”
We need it, we need a God we can relate too, trust in, depend upon…
for our very lives.
Remaining in Christ Jesus
One of the things that we look at, when studying the passage, is the frequency something is mentioned. For example – if a thought is repeated, even if a little different, that is called a parallelism – and it is important. Especially if it followed by AMEN! AMEN! or “This is True!” Three times is even more critical to understand.
We know this well. If our parents or our wives or our bosses repeat themselves, it is critical we are listening.
In this passage, the body and blood being sacrificed is mentioned frequently. But even more frequently is something else. Here it is….
“will live forever”
“so the world may live”
“have eternal life within you”
“has eternal life”
“I will raise that person at the last day”
“remains in me, and I in him.”
“will live because of me”
“will not die”
“will live forever.”
“The Spirit alone gives eternal life”
“Very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life”
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
This is what it is all about, this life we have with God. That we are His people, that He is our God. That we are fixed to Him, we remain in Him, and He in us. United from the very moment of our baptism, united by a promise, the very new covenant, a promised renewed as He sustains us with His body and blood.
A life given, and shared.
A glorious eternal life.
That is our destination, that is the end that justifies the means that seem beyond unfair.
For one of Nicollo Machiavelli’s summaries became true, at the cross.
Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”
Or let me phrase it a little differently
Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of God’s reign and introduction of a new covenant.”
The violence of a Cross, the creation and stabilization of a righteous people of God, gathered in His presence, by the enactment of a new law, a new covenant.
That is what this is all about… it is why we know Jesus words are true.
Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”
So eat, be nourished, understand the gift of life in Christ and remain in Him, for there is His peace. AMEN.