As I watching a junior high basketball game, I’m reminded of running suicides at their age; pushing through the pain to run faster and longer, building endurance with each rep up and down the court. If a coach will push his players for more, then would Jesus push us to develop a deeper, stronger faith in Him?
“Do you take offense at this? . . . It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” John 6:61-64
After feeding the 5,000 Jesus and the disciples went to Capernaum (the disciples by boat and Jesus walking on the water, but that’s another story). The next morning the people realized that Jesus had gone to the other side of the Sea of Galilee so they went and found him. Understand as the events of this day take place that many of those who came to Jesus were also His disciples; a disciple is simply one who follows and may refer specifically to the twelve who Jesus designated as apostles, but also included many others who believed and were followers of Jesus – people just like us who believe.
Jesus informed the crowd that on this day there would not be any free fish sandwiches. Instead of working for food that perishes they must instead work for food that leads to eternal life. Put simply, this food was to believe that Jesus was “the bread of life;” whoever would come to Him would never hunger, and all who believed would never thirst (v.35).
But Jesus does not stop there; He keeps pushing so they fully understand the words He is saying. He goes on to tell them He is the living bread from heaven; all who eat this bread will live forever because, “the bread that I [Jesus] will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (v.51). Jesus wants them to understand that He is not just speaking metaphorically, but about His actual flesh and blood.
This starts the argument; would Jesus expect them to eat His flesh? Again put simply, Jesus told them they would have no life in them unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood. He compared the bread of His flesh to the manna their forefathers had eaten in the wilderness and said, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died,” but “whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (vv. 49, 58).
It is at this point John specifically says that when they heard this many of Jesus’ disciples said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (v. 60)? Too often many of us as Christians (or should I say “disciples” or “followers” of Jesus?) make the mistake of believing Jesus would never challenge our faith. We believe in Jesus; isn’t that enough?
Simply believing was not enough for Jesus and those who believed in Him because they saw his miracles, listened to His teaching, and ate a ‘supernatural happy meal’ on the beach. Jesus pushed their faith for more, so much more in fact that Jesus asked, “Do you take offense at this?”
Jesus then explained that the words He spoke were Spirit and life. The Spirit would give life because the flesh counted for nothing; nevertheless, Jesus said many who heard still would not believe. This is the key to understanding all that Jesus said; we eat of His flesh and drink His blood believing He gave His life in our place – the wrath of God was satisfied by His death, a death we deserved to die. Believing this is a big deal and is part of “the work of God” to believe in His Son Jesus (v. 29).
But is believing, or eating His flesh the only work Jesus expects of us today? Let’s not make the mistake that Jesus would not challenge our faith today. Jesus wants to push us for more, to build endurance so we can stand when the day of evil comes. So when He pushes us for more, will we be like those who did not believe, or like Peter and the other disciples who recognized that only Jesus had the words of eternal life and is the “Holy One of God?” (v. 69)
I grew up in the church and came to believe in Jesus as a child, but my faith in Christ as my Savior is not the same as it was then – for that matter even over the last year the Holy Spirit has continued to challenge and grow my faith. Jesus has opened His word to me with words of life, but His words even today are a hard teaching that can cause offense.
I desire to continue to eat of His flesh and drink His blood for eternal life and not turn away because Jesus begins to reveal truth by His Spirit I don’t understand.
Yes to Yield
LORD Jesus, I thank You for giving Your flesh that I might have life in You. Holy Spirit help me to have wisdom as I read Your word to understand the truth of the gospel contending for the faith that was first given to the saints (see – Jude 1:3). Help me to lovingly share Your truth with others that they might eat Your flesh and drink Your blood unto eternal life. And build my faith to trust You, the Bread of Life with the results, even if some refuse to believe.