On hearing it, 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? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
– John 6: 60-71
“God is not a railway porter who carries your suitcase and serves you. God is God. He made heaven and earth. He holds the world in His hand. He measures the dust of the earth in the balance. He spreads the sky out like a mantle. He is the great God Almighty. He is not your servant. He is your Father, and you are His child. He sits in heaven, and you are on the earth.”
– Rev. A. W. Tozer, Faith Beyond Reason
You look at the Tozer quote and you scream, “But Jesus washed the disciples’ feet! But Jesus said to ask, and it would be given! C. S. Lewis is wrong too. God IS a senile grandfather that wants the little children to have some fun.”
That is what many thought when Jesus was teaching along the banks of the Sea of Galilee or on the mountain tops. Here is a physician that doesn’t charge, and His healing is true healing. But once Jesus starts talking about being the Bread of Life, they throw up their hands and leave.
To understand the craziness of this mass exodus, let’s look at John 6 as a whole. Jesus feeds 5,000 men, their wives, and their children with practically no food to start with. Jesus then walks on water. Then He starts a lesson with His followers, and they leave. Jesus says to stick around and you will never hunger or thirst again. They can’t take it. They walk away, but Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
In many of Tozer’s writings, he talks about how the church is straying from a Biblical Christianity to a worldly religion. Most of Tozer’s writings are from the mid-20th Century. A decade after Tozer died, many of the mainline denominations watered down the gospel due to the increasing number of empty pews in the churches. ‘Maybe if we become lax on the subject of sin and repentance, maybe they’ll come back.’ They did the opposite of what Tozer preached. Instead of getting back to the Bible, they wandered further away.
Did Jesus wash the disciples’ feet? Yes, but as a lesson. The master must become the servant. For us to lead other Christians in faith, we must serve them. We must serve them through Christ who is within us. Serving to curry favor with God is not what it is about. We are not saved by works. The service must be from the heart. With God in us, we should desire to serve. This joy of serving comes from Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.
Did Jesus say that we could ask, and it would be given? Yes, but once our heart is attuned to the heart of God, we will ask for God’s will to be done. We will not ask for a million dollars or a Mercedes Benz. Oswald Chambers continued his discussion of getting closer to God. In previous posts, I wrote about Separation from the world and world view and Character development. But Chambers continued with character development must continue until our will aligns with God’s will. At that point, whatever we ask will be granted, for we are aligned with what God wants. Yet, forcing alignment is impossible. We can only get there by sacrificing ourselves to God’s will.
When churches look at empty pews, a focus on the numbers is necessary for a few reasons, but dangerous on the whole. When the pews are empty, is the word of God being preached? Is the Holy Spirit present in the few who remain? When there isn’t enough money to support the programs of the church, are those programs glorifying God alone? Are those programs necessary? Tenaciously holding on the failing programs is a result of pride.
Jesus taught some hard lessons. It has been said that Billy Graham did not have all the answers, just the key answer – yes, I am saved, because I trust in my Savior.
People can follow the prosperity gospel peddlers. If they do not become prosperous, they will be told that their faith isn’t good enough or their giving isn’t enough. But if they become prosperous, they will fall prey to what C. S. Lewis warns in The Screwtape Letters. They won’t find their place in the world; the world will find its place in them.
I wrote about miracles recently. There are a lot of churches that focus heavily on faith healing, but as Metaxas warns, when you ask God and the answer is always ‘yes’, at what point does it cease to be a miracle? At what point does God become your servant? When you are not healed, is it your lack of faith? Faith healing happens, but it is a minefield of contradictions when it becomes the focus, instead of focusing on the risen Christ.
Yes, we, us humans, have screwed up the very church where we worship God. No wonder outsiders call us hypocrites. Yes, we are broken people in a broken world. Why would we expect anything different with anything upon which we have an influence?
Jesus had some hard lessons that He was trying to get across. To truly understand a small portion of those hard lessons means that we need to spend a lot of time studying the Bible, praying, and listening.
To discard the hard lessons is folly. To embrace those hard lessons is to find our cross.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
I am like Peter. I am confused about a lot, but not all, of the hard lessons, but I am at the part where I have to say, “Where else can I go? I look upon Jesus, and I see the face of God. I may not understand, but I will follow.”