Recently I sat with someone over coffee who shared with me that they were over going to church. The reason she gave was that the church was too narrow in their beliefs and unloving toward those who were different. She believed that Jesus would not turn anyone away and that He would embrace all people. In one way she is right. Jesus does embrace people regardless of their background or sin. As Paul reminds us in Romans 5: 8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Where this lady stumbled is that she felt that it was fine to live life the way she wanted to do regardless of whether sin is offensive to God. She saw Jesus as a loving and nice man. In other words, she wanted a relationship with God based on ‘her terms’! She was not prepared to accept God’s solution to sin on ‘His terms’. This is where we find ourselves in John 6 today. The staggering truth for us to take on board today, is that it was not only the Jews who struggled with Jesus teaching, but many of Jesus’ own followers started to desert Him.
I say staggering because in this chapter alone Jesus’ followers, as well as many Jews, witnessed two amazing miracles viz. the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water! They were certainly impressed by the power He had and how He demonstrated it. After all, He fed them and filled their stomachs! What troubled them, however, was what He taught. He introduced them to God’s rescue plan and they could not accept it. They certainly wanted a Messiah … but on ‘their terms’. They certainly wanted someone to provide for them and even lead them … but on ‘their terms’. So when Jesus told them that He was the bread of life and it would only be through Him that they could be saved they started to argue and criticize. They also struggled with His teaching that it was His Father who draws people to Himself and that it is His Son who has been sent to rescue them.
In this chapter, we are introduced to the first of Jesus’ seven (some say eight) ‘I Am …’ sayings. Verse 35 states, “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”. He states in verse 40, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”. And again in verses 47-48, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life.” In other words, it is all about Jesus and they found it uncompromising and therefore unacceptable. They were really only interested in the ‘here and now’ and wanted their physical desires satisfied. Eternity could wait, and even if they did wait, they could not accept that Jesus was the only way to salvation. Sounds very much like the people of our community today … “Sorry … this is not me … too narrow … too unfair …” Let me ask you are a question (forgive me for the bluntness) – could you ever walk away from Jesus? What could make you desert Him?