We all run - either toward something or away from it. In every decision of life, we make a choice to draw near, or to cautiously pull away. Throughout our daily lives, we resist some things and gladly partake of others. The pear is eaten - the candy bar avoided. The tough conversation is had - the relationship rift is avoided. We all have a response to Jesus, as well - either to be embraced by him or to rely upon our own strength.
Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don't really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don't let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me. This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time." (John 6:35-40 The Message)
Look again at the passage and you will see something quite revealing. Jesus tells us we may do the running (into his arms), but he does the embracing. I think we sometimes get this wrong - we somehow believe we are exerting the effort to be "held" in his arms. By our efforts of prayer, Bible reading, and church attendance, we somehow think we are "holding onto" Jesus. The exact opposite is true! Jesus tells us prayer is a two-way communication - it is the opportunity to align our lives with his. He also reminds us that getting to know his Word really matters very little - if all we do is learn it without the corresponding understanding which he gives. As a matter of fact, he had just chastised the religious leaders for spending too much time in their Bibles, and not enough time in the presence of God!
Some things we should not miss in our passage:
- Alignment is necessary. If you have ever driven a car with an "alignment" problem, you know it "pulls" to one side or the other. The "ride" is not the easiest. You have to constantly fight to keep the vehicle centered on the road. This mis-alignment actually wreaks havoc on the car - wearing out tires, putting undue stress on all the working parts of the steering system, and making the driver a little irritated in the process. The same can be said of our "alignment" with Jesus. When we are not in correct "alignment", we have a tendency to "pull" in a direction which gets us into oncoming traffic! We have the danger of veering off-course and into danger zones we'd rather avoid. Therefore, getting aligned is the first step - staying aligned is a life-long process!
- We are a gift from the Father. Jesus was explicit in the words he chose to use here: "Every person the Father gives me..." There have been times in my life when I have just gone to the store to buy a gift for someone - kind of aimlessly wandering the aisles until something caught my eye. Then there have been others when I know exactly what I want to give to them. I have found the gift I knew I wanted to give had much more impact in the life of the one I gifted it to than the one I merely picked up without any thought. The important fact in this passage is we are each hand-selected, with a special thought in mind, by God! He gifts us to his Son! With intent!
- We run to Jesus. We may try a whole lot of other things in life before we ever turn to him, but when we realize our need is never met in any other thing or person, we find ourselves running - straight into his arms! I read a post by a friend this morning. The words were simple: Being a Christian doesn't mean I won't fall . . . it just means Jesus will catch me when I do. It seems to me this hits the nail on the head. Jesus "catches" every runner - not because he snags them as they are running by - but because he is kind of like their safety net. When all else has failed, his arms are still wide open! When we are embraced, we are received gladly - there is no regret on Jesus' part - he receives us gladly and with eagerness.
- We are secure in his embrace. Jesus was quite explicit - he holds onto us and he never lets go. We are used to temporary embraces - those given by others. They don't last - although the memory of their embrace may linger, the true embrace ends at some point. Jesus was emphatic - he never lets go. His embrace is lasting, sure, and tight! We have no idea what his embrace will do in our lives until we "settle into it". Think of the last time you were embraced by someone here on this earth. When you "settled into it" what did it do for your emotions? Now, this was just a small glimpse of the reality of what it is liked to be embraced by Jesus - a very small glimpse! It is only when we learn to "settle into" the embrace of Jesus that he is free to begin to soothe the fragile emotions, open our eyes to new experiences, and melt away the tension of the frazzled busy-ness of our day.
- We can count on Jesus completing what he began in us. In closing this morning, I don't want us to miss this important fact. We "begin" a whole lot of things in life which we often never intend to finish. The Father gifted each of us to Jesus - it is his intention to see each of us "finished" by the hand of a loving Savior. We all need "work" - it is his joy to complete this work in us! None of us is without exception - we all need his "putting together". Nothing in us will be left incomplete. This should give us a sense of hope - especially when we have struggled with the same old stuff over and over again in our lives. The promise is sure: Not a single detail will be missed! Everything will be put together and whole! Everything!