Over the past 8 weeks, our church has been reading through the entire New Testament, and we are almost finished! I am so proud of how our church family has remained steadfast and kept reading even after falling behind or losing that initial enthusiasm with a long project like this. This past week, our reading sent us to the Gospel of John, which happens to be my favorite of the four gospels. One of the things I love about Jesus, which I feel is highlighted in this book, is how Jesus is not afraid of the hard truth or the difficult teachings.
Jesus feeds 5,000 men and their families in a miraculous way. Doing so automatically increases His popularity and people are flocking in to stay close to Him. There is a curiosity about who Jesus is and what He will do next. This seems like the best-case scenario! We pray for revival and a powerful change in our community. From an outsiders’ perspective, it could be said that Jesus was experiencing a version of that, whole families following Him and hanging on every word He said. But Jesus responded in a way that is so counter-intuitive. Instead of setting up a consistent food program, or a class for all the new people to the group, or making it an easy 1-2-3 step to being a member of His group, He ran away. Then when He was found, He began to teach a message that was confusing and seemingly barbaric to the listeners. He let them know that they are looking for bread, but He is the bread, and they must eat of His body and drink His blood to have eternal life (John 6:53). It makes sense to me that people were offended, confused, and left unwilling to submit themselves to cannibalism! Jesus was not going for the easy-to-please crowd-focused message. He was working for something greater. People who loved Him, not just what He could do.
This is incredibly challenging both as a follower of Jesus and as a person dedicating a huge portion of my life to sharing the Good News so others would follow Him as well. When I read scriptures like this, I need to ask myself, which part of the crowd would I fall into? Would I be in the crowd excited about a chance to see a miracle, and annoyed when Jesus said something I don’t understand? Or would I be a person who appreciated the miracles, but stayed, even when Jesus steps into toe-crunching and confusing territory with His teaching? Are we dedicated to the power or the Person?
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Here are a couple of questions to ask ourselves to check our hearts. When you are praying for the Lord to do something in your life, are you still in love with Him and just as devoted if the situation does not “work out” the way you hoped? When you are praying, do your conversations exist primarily to ask for things, rather than to praise or give thanks? Do you find yourself growing more in love with loving people as commanded by Jesus? This is the result of a life dedicated to Him: turning to bless others.
Not all of Jesus’ teachings were easy. He was ok with that. He knew not everyone would follow Him because it seems offensive to presume He is the only way. We desire to make it easy for ourselves and others, and Jesus didn’t do that. He wanted to make sure people knew the truth, not an easier-to-swallow version of it. Lord, help us love the same!