GROWING LIKE JESUS – NOT EASILY OFFENDED
Introduction: YouTube Video: I Have A Dream
Growing Christ followers...
In 1950's America, the equality of man envisioned by the Declaration of Independence was far from a reality. People of color—African Americans, Hispanics, Asians—were discriminated against in many ways. As some of you may remember, it was a turbulent time in America, when racial barriers began tumbling down. Into that scary world stepped the Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr. whose birthday as a nation we remembered this past Monday January 21st. He was a driving force in the push for racial equality. In 1963, King and his staff focused on Birmingham, Alabama. They marched and protested non-violently, raising the ire of local officials who aimed water cannons and sicced police dogs on the marchers whose ranks included teenagers and children. The bad publicity and break-down of business forced the Caucasian leaders of Birmingham to concede to some anti-segregation demands.
Thrust into the national spotlight in Birmingham, where he was arrested and jailed, King organized a massive march on Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he evoked the name of Lincoln in his "I Have a Dream" speech, which is credited with mobilizing supporters of de-segregation and prompted the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
I don’t know about you, but that speech still moves me. And as I reflected on that speech, actually listening to it’s entirety more than once this past Monday before posting it on my blog, it got me thinking that I have a dream too. So I started writing some of mine down and I want to share them with you now.
Martin Luther King Jr.did. And it was his dream, I think, that allowed him to not be so easily offended. It was his dream that allowed him to see by faith a world based on equality. Even though the world didn’t grasp that yet. It was his dream that made him stay the course. Long after the water cannons and police dogs dispersed the crowds. And it seems to me, from our passage today, that some people following Jesus understood these characteristics of dreams that are shared with characteristics of a growing faith and some did not. Which led to a massive exodus of another kind.
My Bible’s sub heading says, “Many Disciples Desert Jesus.” How many Bibles do we have here today? If you don’t have one, open the one in front of you and turn to John 6:60. We’re going to be zeroing in on verses 60-71 today. There’s a group of you who signed up for Ohio Ministry University and will be leaving with me right after church today. We’ve got to be in Columbus by 3pm. So let’s see if we can fit these 3 points in before we go.
John 6:60 and following reads, “60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" 61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit[e] and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." 66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Verse 60 says, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” What had they just heard? We didn’t go into detail about them today. But here’s some of the things they heard that we’ve been learning the last few weeks. Jesus doesn't need to be defended. He wants to be befriended. Because being right about doctrine is not enough. Craving the master begins by craving the miraculous. Miracles therefore are primarily for baby Christians not mature Christians. Mature Christians instead, often grow from the end of our rope. But do so in His time. Not ours. And a growing faith walks on the word, boasts only about Jesus, and keeps its eyes fixed on Him. Do any of those things strike you as hard teachings? They sure do for me! For years I settled for being theologically right about stuff. It’s been a fairly recent development in my faith journey with Jesus that I realized He doubled His efforts at being in relationship with people. Even the people crucifying Hi on the cross! Jesus spent more time showing love to people than arguing with them. That was a hard teaching for me to accept.
I didn’t like to learn that maturity often begins at the end of our rope either. When we’ve exhausted all possibilities. And humanly helpless, we finally fall to our knees as Jesus did in Gethsemane, and pray, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” My house in Canton still hasn’t sold. This is a hard teaching to accept.
But the one the disciples following Jesus were most upset about was the one about fixing their eyes on Jesus and feeding on the Bread of Life. They couldn’t believe that that was what eternal life was all about. And that Jesus was making an open invitation for everyone to do so. In verse 37, my favorite in the Bible, Jesus says, “All who come unto Me I will never drive away.” Well, that can’t be right! You can’t just come and keep coming to Jesus can you? That’s so simple. Anybody could do that! Why would they have to become a Jew first? Why would you have to become an Adventist first? Answer? You wouldn’t! Unless you believe that Messianic Jews and Seventh-day Adventists are the only ones that are going to be in heaven some day. Which was the kind of thinking that led to identity crisis Acts 15 had to settle once and for all.
But looming identity crisis or not, Jesus stays the course. He keeps repeating to this crowd of church people in Capernaum that yes, I am the bread of life. I am the Mannah come down from heaven. So come and keep coming to me. Jews. Gentiles. Men. Women. Children. Everybody. Why? Because verse 51 says, “If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.” Verse 54, “Whoever drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Now, to be sure, just reading that out loud does sound a little looney. Eating flesh. Drinking blood. What on earth is this all about? Sounds like some kind of nasty cannibalistic cult thing going on here. Right? I mean who talks like that? So it’s important that you get the context and not get carried away on a word or a phrase when you’re reading the Bible. Jesus, I think, summarizes nicely this hard teaching in verses 57-59 so let’s look at those. “57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
You need to know He’s using Exodus language. He’s talking about Moses feeding the multitudes in the wilderness. He’s trying to reach these Jews where they are. Many of whom were clamoring to crown him king just a day before in Bethsaida. But they don’t get it. They miss the point. Their dream becomes a nightmare. Because instead of being crowned a king, instead of leading and feeding multitudes like Moses in the original Exodus, it’s becoming clear to them that Jesus is not interested in being a wonder worker. His concerns are purely spiritual. Not political or material. He wants them all to grow up spiritually. Just like He wants us to grow up spiritually! And to summarize everything He’s said so far about that spiritual growth, John uses the word “logos” in verse 60. He writes, “This is a hard teaching. This is a hard logos. Who can accept it?”
Which to the Greek believers reading John would have made sense but not consensus. Why? Because John chapter 1 is all about the logos. The word made flesh. It’s a recurring theme. Part of which should be understood spiritually. Even though it wasn’t according to verse 52 which says they were arguing.
Which leads us to point number one this week. A growing faith doesn’t know it all. There are many things we know. But there are some things we don’t. Even about prophecy. Jesus spent 3½ years with the disciples teaching them about all kinds of things. But they still needed Jesus to explain to them what happened on the road to Emmaus. And since the entire group wasn’t there for that conversation, Acts 1:3 says Jesus returned after His resurrection for 40 days to explain it to the rest of them. They didn’t know it all! So what makes us think that we do?
1 Corinthians 13:8-12 says it this way: 8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
I hope you’re beginning to see point number one: Growing followers of Christ don’t know it all. This is a really hard teaching. Who can accept it? Moving on: Verse 61 says, “61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you?”
I love that. Jesus always speaks truth in love. Even about the elephants in the room. Straight out asking them questions about it. Not because He didn’t know they were offended by His metaphor of His body as bread. He could hear them arguing in verse 52. But because I think he wanted them to realize point number two: Growing followers of Jesus aren’t easily offended.
Verse 62 continues. “62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." 66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Can we all, by faith, simply choose to assume people have good intentions? Can we all, by faith, choose not to be so easily offended? I believe we can. And I believe that’s what Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. did. Even in jail! On April 12, 1963, eight Caucasian clergy friends wrote him a letter entitled “A Call For Unity” while he was sitting in a Birmingham jail for racial segregation. In their letter, the ministers agreed with King that social injustices were taking place. But they disagreed with King that the battle against those social injustices should be taken to the streets. So on April 16, 1963, King wrote on bits and scraps of newspapers an 11 page response to their letter now known as ‘The Letter From The Birmingham Jail.” In it, he said that without “forceful, direct actions” such as his, true civil rights could never be achieved. As he put it, “This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'” He asserted that civil disobedience is justified in the face of unjust laws and that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” The letter includes the frequently-quoted lines that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” as well as the words of Thurgood Marshall quoted by King that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
If King had been easily offended by the hard teaching of equality, who knows where we would be as a nation today? Yes, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” But it also says that “6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Point number one: Those with a growing faith admit they don’t know it all. Even about prophecy. Point number two: Growing followers of Jesus aren’t easily offended. By faith, they choose not to be. Why? Because point number three: They stay the course. They always trust. Always hope. Always persevere. When everybody else leaves, they stay.
Turning to the twelve, Jesus asks them in John 6:67-69, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God..” Christ followers with a growing faith come to the same conclusion. Lord, to whom shall we go? What other option do we have? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. Aren’t you glad it’s always been about who you know?
So let me ask you: Do you believe the truth about yourself and about Jesus? Are you following His dream for you? Did you even know He has one for you? If you didn’t, I want to give it to you. It’s found in 1 John 2:28. I like to write it in the covers of books and Bibles and on thank you cards and even marriage licenses. And I’d like to close with those words. “28And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”
So let’s continue in Him friends. And if we do, and together we grow, we can be sure that His dreams will become our dreams too.