The going was getting tough. And so, many got going . . . as in, “I’m outta’ here!” For them, it just seemed to be getting weirder and weirder.
What started out as talk on the crowd’s motivation for following Jesus (answer: not because they were intrigued by His signs but because they wanted to eat some more of His free food), quickly devolved into a treatise about bread from heaven. And not the manna stuff that Moses gave, but the “man stuff” that Jesus claimed to be.
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus tells them. Come to Me, He says, and you’ll never hunger. Believe in Me, and you’ll never thirst. Not only did it not make sense to the crowds, it ticked off the religious leaders. Any claim Jesus made about coming down from heaven, no matter how nonsensical it seemed, was enough to get their backs up. They made the connection to Jesus’ “Messiah complex” even if they didn’t get His “bread of life” shtick.
And then, it gets a little more bizarre. Jesus tells the crowd that they need to eat the bread of heaven. And their minds are spinning, “I need to eat Jesus?” Yup. And to avoid any misunderstanding as to the implication of what He was saying, Jesus clearly declares, “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (John 6:44). Like I said, weirder and weirder.
Following Jesus was already starting to come with a cost. And it’s not like He was an exact fit for what they imagined Messiah to be. And then throw in this eat My flesh and drink My blood stuff? For many, it was too much. It was time to tap out.
When many of His disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” . . . After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.
(John 6:60, 66 ESV)
And so Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks them, “Do you want to go away as well?” (6:67).
And I’m thinking that’s a question that most of us disciples have heard the Lord ask at least once or twice as we have followed Him. Not because we’re hung up on eating His flesh and drinking His blood. The illuminating work of the Spirit has shown us that “partaking of the Lord” is a metaphor for receiving and believing Him. For taking by faith the life offered through His death and resurrection.
But while we might have that bit of understanding down, there’s much we still don’t get. Perhaps some of it related to hard teaching, but much of it, I’d suggest, connected to hard times.
Times in our life when our reality doesn’t align with our dreams. When what we thought would be, isn’t. When what we couldn’t have imagined has come to be. When life just seems hard. When it doesn’t make sense. When following Jesus hasn’t resulted in the storyline we had written for ourselves in our own minds. When things just seem to get weirder and weirder. When others might very well say, “Enough. This isn’t working like I want it to. I’m outta’ here!”
Then that still small voice breaks through and, in some form, we hear Jesus ask the question, “Do you want to go away as well?” It’s then the Spirit works in us to answer as Peter answered:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
(John 6:68-69 ESV)
To whom would we go? Where would we turn?
No matter how turbulent the ride gets, no safer place to be than in His arms. Regardless of how crazy the situation is yet to get, no wisdom I’d rather have than His wisdom. Whatever comes, no one I’d rather encounter it with than with the Holy One of God. The Creator and Sustainer of all things. The One who loved me and gave Himself for Me. The One who intercedes for me at the very throne of heaven. The One who has promised that, one day, where He is I will be also.
Lord, to whom shall we go? To no one but You. Where would we flee? Only to the refuge of Your mighty hand. How should we weather the storm? Always by your all-sufficient grace.
Where would I go? But to the Lord.
Because of grace. For His glory.