“On hearing it [Jesus’ teaching], many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you?'” (John 6:60-61, NIV).
I often wonder how many people are really offended by the gospel.
In Jesus’ previous discourse, He was teaching that He is the Bread of Life. Let’s look at the conversation:
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:25-27).
Jesus had just fed over five thousand people with five small barley loaves and two small fish and then climbed a mountain to be by Himself. He later walked out on the water to meet His disciples and join them in the boat they had taken to the other side of the lake. When His followers arrived at the other side the next day, they couldn’t figure out how He had gotten there. After all, they had seen the disciples get in the boat without Him the day before.
Jesus then confronts them with the truth: they were not looking for Him because they wanted more of His Spirit at work in their lives (the miracles) but because their flesh had been fed (the bread and fish).
Sadly, I think many people fit into this latter category today. They feel that they tried “church” and it didn’t work for them. They tried doing all the right things – and it left them unhappy, without their needs met, still looking for the “fix” to all their problems and missing the point of their deepest need.
Jesus went on to explain to His followers that the gospel is simply about believing in the power of God to grant them eternal life through the Son. They needed only to feast on Him, the true Bread of Life, and they would be filled.
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty'” (35).
Jesus was speaking of spiritual food – a true relationship with Him that comes through simply believing and surrendering. Feasting on the Bread of Life is finding fulfillment in knowing God through His Son – turning from sin and falling into the arms of the Savior.
“Your forefathers ate manna [physical food] and died, but he who feeds on this bread [spiritual food] will live forever” (58).
Jesus went on to say to them, “‘The spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe'” (63-64).
Jesus challenged his followers to seek more than just filling their physical appetites. That leads only to death. Seeking to fill our spiritual hunger is what will lead to life. It’s not about what we do – going to church, saying the right things, trying to be someone we’re not, being disappointed when it doesn’t work out; that’s just working for food that spoils. And when it spoils, we give up and turn back.
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (66).
Not surprising – they never really knew Him. They never came to Him with their empty hands and sought His very presence in their lives, to save, forgive, cleanse, fill.
How about you? Are you offended with God? Do you think you would be happier living life on your own terms? You probably will for a while. We all think we are happy when we are getting our way.
Maybe you’ve tried church, religion, and rules. You’ve tried changing yourself, only to find that it doesn’t really work. Maybe you are disappointed with how this whole “Christian” thing has turned out.
“‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve” (67).
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'” (68).
There’s only one way to be completely filled: come taste and see that the Lord is good.
We can spend our lives fulfilling our own wants and desires, looking for that temporary miracle of manna. Or we can surrender our lives to the One who is the very Bread of Life and never hunger again.
To whom shall we go, indeed?