Really Rough Words

In the Gospel of John, an interaction is recorded between Jesus and the people following Him. Keep in mind that in the middle of his earthly ministry, thousands of people were following Him. They were amazed as they watch Him heal the sick, cast out demons, restore lives. They were probably saying, “Wow! That’s Incredible!” or “Wonder what He’s going to do next?” At one point Jesus fed fifteen to twenty thousand people (5,000 men and their families; John 6:10)! Jesus was very popular with the people. He was the guy at the head of the motorcade, the one marching bands and cheerleaders led into town. He had the keys to the city and the Nike sponsorship. People really enjoyed Jesus.

At the height of this popularity, Jesus gets real with those following Him. He tells them, not mincing words that He is God Himself. He said, “I AM the bread of life” (John 6:35). To us, that sounds alright…but to the people following Jesus, that would have sounded very familiar, like the time when God revealed Himself to Moses and called Himself “I AM that I AM” (Ex. 3:14). Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh, and that meant He was implying people would worship Him.

Put yourself in the audiences’ shoes: “Wait a minute. I like the healing and raising and eating, but I don’t know about this Deity thing…” (John 6:52). Seems to me that they wanted Jesus to recant and say, “Well, I don’t want to offend anyone, so let me take that back—forget I said it.” But that’s not what Christ does. He actually throws it into overdrive! He tells them, bluntly, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’” (John 6:53). Eat His Flesh? Drink His blood? That foul! That’s obscene! That’s blasphemous! The crowd couldn’t handle it. At that very minute thousands of Jesus’ “disciples” left and went back home (John 6:66). After they all left, Jesus stood there with the twelve and asked “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67).

Talk about standing at the fork in the road! These twelve had a tough decision to make. This, as David Nasser writes, “was the point at which they had to decide who Jesus was to them.” Peter says the following words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). So the twelve stayed. The ministry continued, and the Cross loomed closer.

We have to realize something big: Jesus didn’t come to entertain us. Jesus’ ultimate goal in coming was to bring glory to the Father. While in that is included the Gospel and a chance for our salvation through His death, burial, and resurrection, it’s the obedience that matters. It’s not the fun news, but the good news. If we expect only to be entertained, we will leave him at the first request for sacrifice and obedience. The people in the crowd did. Many of us, do, as well. But hard words are one of the main parts of being a true disciple of Jesus. An author says this: “In fact, if you don’t hear any hard words from God, it’s a good sign you aren’t His child at all.” Solomon wrote about it; so did the writer of Hebrews:

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6​​​​​​​​For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:5-6).

Only a loveless, non-caring father or mother refuses to correct their son or daughter. Our Heavenly Father is not that way at all! His heart shatters when we step off the narrow road He’s called us to.

What are the hard words God is saying to you? Is He saying any at all? If not, be quick to check yourself, your motives, and your relationship with Him. What excuses do you use to avoid the hard words? Only you can answer that. Just something to think about this week.

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