Trusting the God Who Offends You
By Greg Wright
Preached At Grace Bible Fellowship on February 27, 2011
Good morning and welcome to Grace Bible Fellowship. I appreciate Pastor Mark Mann for trusting me to bring the sermon this morning. We all hope he and Barbara are having a wonderful vacation. Meanwhile, I trust that God will use the sermon this morning to strengthen and encourage people in their faith. We will be looking at the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, so please turn to John chapter 6. While you are turning there, I would like to ask you a question:
Have you ever been deeply offended by someone? Have you ever had a person offend you in a way that hurt you so much that you thought about it for days or even years? Maybe it was a relative or a friend. Perhaps it was an enemy or a fellow employee. Or was it someone else, someone bigger, someone greater? Have you ever been offended by God? Have you ever had God bring something to bear in your life that seemed so unwarranted that you were offended by it?
The disciples knew what it was like to be offended at Jesus. We find an example in John 6:60-61, where we read:
Therefore, when many of his disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?” Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this offend you?”
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, we thank you for this opportunity to consider life’s challenges under the guiding light of your word. As we consider those times when Providence is hard to receive, may this discussion be used to keep believers believing, and may it be used to strengthen people in their faith in preparation for possibly harder days in the future. Amen.
Trusting the God who offends you, what a title for this sermon! When I consider this title, I almost feel guilty for even acknowledging that people are offended by God, the God for whom righteousness is part of his very essence. For if I were to complain to an ordinary person that he had offended me, implicit in my statement would be three things:
1. That he had not met my expectations.
2. That he had some obligation to meet those expectations.
3. That by failing to meet those expectations he had done me wrong.
Therefore, I must affirm in advance that God has no obligation to meet my expectations. Anytime I speak of what I ultimately deserve from God – the God who is holy, holy, holy – the one thing I deserve is Hell, and anything short of that is grace.
Nor is it necessarily wrong to offend people. In fact, sometimes it is necessary to offend people for their own good. For example, a child who is unruly or a brother who has fallen into sin might be offended when you reprove him, even if you reprove him gently and lovingly.
Therefore, when I say God sometimes offends us, I am not saying God is wrong, nor am I saying we are right in being offended. Rather, I am addressing this issue – this idea of being offended by God – because some people get so offended at God that they turn away from God and never return. Their faith turns out to be temporary faith. While God is the one who keeps the faith of the elect alive – this is part of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints – God often uses means to do that. Those means include sermons that prepare people to face difficult times. The purpose of this sermon is to help people to stand firm in their faith during such times, especially those times when the difficulty is further aggravated by an attitude of being offended at God.
The Gospels often speak of people being offended by Jesus, and I believe there are lessons for us to learn from how the disciples responded when they were offended at Jesus. Our text asks the question, “Does this offend you?” The Jewish people had certain expectations regarding the Messiah. If Jesus had met those expectations – if he had become the military liberator and walking grocery store they were seeking – the people would have followed him in droves. But when Jesus made it clear that his mission, at least initially, was to save their souls not to save their land, they were offended, and because they were offended, many abandoned him practically overnight.
People do the same kind of thing today. People still have wrong expectations about God, and when those expectations are not met people often turn away from God. For example:
· [Many have wrong expectations about faith.] Instead of having a faith that is focused on Christ, they have faith in their faith: that if they believe enough, confess enough, and pray enough against every imaginable demon, they can be spared from the afflictions of this world. They have misunderstood the atonement, thinking that it supplies a pool of physical healing available to all who lay hold of it with sufficient faith. They have misunderstood what it means to live the abundant life, thinking that it means health and wealth in this world, not realizing that the abundant life is found in Christ.
· [Many have wrong expectations about prayer.] Job prayed and sacrificed for his children, but this did not protect them when the hour of trial came. Yes, it is true that God has ordained that our prayers be used to protect and strengthen his people. Prayer is a means by which common human beings can seek and find the power of God to change the world. But our prayers never change the plans of God. God's plans must prevail. When we pray, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," we must recognize that this means that when our desires conflict with God's plans, we treasure the will of God over our own.
· [Many have wrong expectations about suffering, expecting God to quickly take it away.] But this is not always going to happen. Paul wrote concerning one of his ordeals, "I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me" (2 Cor 12:7-9).
· [Many have wrong expectations regarding living a godly life. They expect to avoid suffering through their godly living.] It is written of Job that, "He was a man of perfect integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil" (Job: 1:1). Yet, look how much he suffered. Some would say that Job gave Satan an open door when Job feared for the safety of his children. Job feared God and that was sinful? What kind of sloppy theology is this? It is God who opens and closes the doorway to suffering. In 1 Peter 4:12 we read, "Dear friends, when the fiery ordeal arises among you to test you, don't be surprised by it, as if something unusual were happening to you."
In John 6:67 5,000 men, along with their wives and children, have turned away from Jesus. The things Jesus had to say did not meet their expectations, they were offended, and all the Christ-confirming miracles in the world would not change their minds. In this context Jesus asked the disciples a question, and it is a question that he asks us today. The question is this:
You don’t want to go away too, do you?
You don’t want to go away too, do you?
The form of the question in the Greek reveals that the expected answer is, “No we don’t. No we don’t want to go away.” That was Peter’s answer, but what will your answer be? Will you go away:
· If you lose your job?
· If you lose your retirement savings?
· If your marriage is ruined?
· If your reputation is destroyed?
· If you are diagnosed with a deadly illness?
· If you are met at the front door by a policeman and a chaplain, and the chaplain struggles to tell you that your child died in a robbery at a fast food restaurant?
Some would answer, “The question is unfair. I would hope to remain faithful to God, but no one really knows what he will do under those circumstances.”
No, the question is not unfair; it is preemptive. It is designed to prepare you to respond constructively to future trials that might initially offend you. Part of your preemptive strike against future apostasy is to resolve today, right now, while you are still able to think clearly, that you will trust God unconditionally – that you will trust God, no matter what he brings to bear in your life – indeed, that you will trust God whether or not he meets your expectations.
In the next few minutes I will argue for a preemptive commitment to trust God unconditionally, and to support this argument I will be using John chapter six. There will be three points:
1. Faith encouraged – reasons for believing.
2. Faith challenged – obstacles to believing.
3. Faith continued – persistence in believing.
II. Faith encouraged – Reasons for Believing.
Whenever I think of our first point – faith encouraged, reasons for believing that Jesus is the Son of God – I am reminded of the reason John wrote this Gospel. We see that reason in John 20:30-31:
30Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.
The signs are given in order to get people to believe. In this gospel seven signs are recorded:
1. In John 2 Jesus turns water into wine.
2. In John 4:46 Jesus heals the royal official’s son.
3. In John 5 Jesus heals a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.
Those are the first three signs. In John 5:36 Jesus makes it clear that the purpose of these signs is to show that he is from the father. While reminding the people that John the Baptist has already testified about him he, nevertheless, says, “But I have a greater testimony than John's because of the works that the Father has given Me to accomplish. These very works I am doing testify about Me that the Father has sent Me.”
Now in John 6:1 we come to the fourth sign, a miracle in which Jesus feeds 5,000 men, along with their wives and children.
After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 And a huge crowd was following Him because they saw the signs that He was performing on the sick. 3 So Jesus went up a mountain and sat down there with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a Jewish festival, was near. 5 Therefore, when Jesus looked up and noticed a huge crowd coming toward Him, He asked Philip, "Where will we buy bread so these people can eat?" 6 He asked this to test him, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. 7 Philip answered, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn't be enough for each of them to have a little." 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, 9 "There's a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish-- but what are they for so many?" 10 Then Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, so they sat down. The men numbered about 5,000. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks He distributed them to those who were seated-- so also with the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were full, He told His disciples, "Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted." 13 So they collected them and filled 12 baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, "This really is the Prophet who was to come into the world!"
At this point the people are ready to recognize Jesus not just as a prophet but as the prophet, going back to Deuteronomy 18:18-19: “18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you [that is Moses] from among their brothers. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to My words that he speaks in My name.”
But the people want more than a prophet; they want a military king. They are ready to force Jesus to be king the way Saul, the first king of Israel, had been compelled to be king, but Jesus outsmarts them, as we see in John 6:15-21. Also, it is here that we have a fifth sign, Jesus walking on water.
15 Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself. 16 When evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. Darkness had already set in, but Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 Then a high wind arose, and the sea began to churn. 19 After they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, "It is I. Don't be afraid!" 21 Then they were willing to take Him on board, and at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading.
Initially, perhaps only the disciples know that Jesus walked on water. He uses this private sign to build their faith. Jesus knows that very soon most people will turn away from him. We have a hint that most will turn away as early as John 2:23-25 where we read:
23 While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many trusted in His name when they saw the signs He was doing. 24 Jesus, however, would not entrust Himself to them, since He knew them all 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify about man; for He Himself knew what was in man.
These people have enough reason to believe that Jesus is from God. The reason is solid and compelling. In a rational moment they would have to say as Nicodemus said in John 3:2, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one could perform these signs You do unless God were with him.” Yet they turn away from him. We do the same kind of thing today. We can get so caught up in the thing that offends us about God that we forget everything else we know about God. In the emotion of the moment, the only thing that matters to us is the thing that has offends us. But is that any reason to take everything else we know about God and throw it away? Do we not already know enough about God to trust him with the things we don’t know and don’t understand? Indeed, let us be resolved that we do know God well enough to trust Him, no matter what happens. In this way we will be well prepared to face the issues of our second point, faith challenged, obstacles to believing.
III. Faith challenged – obstacles to believing.
Continuing from verse 22:
22 The next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea knew there had been only one boat. They also knew that Jesus had not boarded the boat with His disciples, but that His disciples had gone off alone. 23 Some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord gave thanks. 24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?" 26 Jesus answered, "I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Don't work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him."
Jesus’ response cuts straight to the point: “You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” The feeding of the 5,000 is a compassionate gesture on Jesus’ part, but that is not the primary purpose of that action. The purpose is to provide a sign that reveals that Jesus is from the Father.
Then, when Jesus says “Don’t work for the food that perishes,” they miss Jesus’ point, instead thinking he is going to tell them how to make food on their own, as we see in verse 28 where they ask, “What can we do to perform the works of God?” They want to be able to multiply food the way Jesus did.
This time in verse 29 Jesus answers in a short, concise manner that they cannot misunderstand, “This is the work of God: that you believe in the One He has sent.”
Evidence that they understand this time is indicated in verses 30-31 by their next question. “What sign then are you going to do so we may see and believe You?" they asked. "What are You going to perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat."
They have finally arrived at the main issue. Now, are they going to believe that Jesus is who he says he is or not? They are not sure. They want more signs. They want more evidence. Why? Do they not already have enough evidence?
When it comes to God, it is the nature of fallen man to always want more evidence. Meanwhile, God holds man accountable for not responding with faith to the evidence man already has, even as Jesus says in John 14:11, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.”
Jesus goes on to explain in verses 32 and 33: "I assure you: Moses didn't give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Verse 31 uses the word bread without the article, but in verse 32 Jesus is not just bread from heaven, but he is the bread from heaven. He further magnifies the point saying he is the real bread from heaven. Your translation may say true bread from heaven. That’s quite alright. The word truth is used in three different ways in scripture:
1. Truth as fact
2. Truth as fullness or realness
3. Truth as faithfulness
The Greek word here is alethinon which means true, and in this context it means true in the sense of realness or fullness.
Jesus then continues with verse 33, but they do not seem to hear it, “For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” I say they don’t seem to hear it, because they reply, “Sir, give us this bread always!”
A few verses back they finally understand that Jesus wants them to believe he is from the Father. But at this point they do not quite grasp that Jesus is referring to himself as the true bread. Jesus clarifies, starting in verse 35: “I am the bread of life," Jesus told them. "No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again. 36 But as I told you, you've seen Me, and yet you do not believe.”
Jesus is about to explain why they do not believe, but they are so offended that Jesus says he is the bread that came down from heaven that they will not even notice the next thing Jesus says, starting with verse 37:
37 Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
We see several things here. The Father has given Jesus a people. This giving predates their coming to Jesus. Everyone the father has given to Jesus will eventually come to Jesus. Though they come willingly, their coming is predestined. In the gospel of John these people are called sheep. In the New Testament in general these people are called the elect. The people arguing with Jesus are indicating by their persistent unbelief that they probably are not his sheep, although some of them may have believed after Jesus was raised from the dead.
They continue their whining in verse 41:
Therefore the Jews started complaining about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42 They were saying, "Isn't this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"
Now, in my mind this is a reasonable question: “How can you say you came down from heaven when we know your parents?” You and I know about the virgin birth and the incarnation, but they did not know these things. Nevertheless, here we see a pattern we must avoid when we are offended by God. There is nothing wrong with having questions about God. There is nothing wrong with puzzling over things about God, things which don’t make sense to us in our own, finite minds. But believers and nonbelievers ask questions differently. The believer asks questions in order to know God better. He instinctively wants to draw near to God, even if he is angry with God. The unbeliever asks in order to excuse his unbelief. He seeks reasons for pulling away from God. Of course there is an answer to their question. We know the answer, because we have the full revelation of scripture. They only had the Old Testament and what Jesus had told them up to that point. Yet, because of the signs Jesus had given, that revelation was enough that they should have been willing to humbly listen to Jesus regarding the things they did not understand. Likewise, today, even though we know much more, we should be willing to trust God regarding the things we do not understand.
Starting in verse 43 Jesus responds by doing four things:
1. He again tells them why they do not believe.
2. He explains that those who do believe have eternal life.
3. He explains that he is the living bread
4. He explains that the bread he gives for the life of the world is his flesh.
Picking up from verse 43 we read:
43 Jesus answered them, "Stop complaining among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me-- 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God. He has seen the Father. 47 "I assure you: Anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh. 52 At that, the Jews argued among themselves, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?"
Now they have two things to be offended about: he says he came down from the father, and he says they have to eat his flesh, metaphorically speaking, in that he gives his flesh for the life of the world. Although no one thinks Jesus is suggesting cannibalism, the idea of eating his flesh is extremely offensive to them. They do not understand.
But note: does this offense change anything regarding the miracles Jesus has already done, miracles that prove God is with him? Of course not, they were so focused on the things that offend them that they are unwilling to see those offenses in the right context. Jesus goes on to explain, starting at John 6:53:
53 So Jesus said to them, "I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. 54 Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, 55 because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. 56 The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him. 57 Just 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. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate-- and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever." 59 He said these things while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Of course, these verses are no problem for us, because we are familiar with the Lord’s Supper. Sometimes during the Lord’s Supper we hear from Matthew 26:26-28:
26 As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take and eat it; this is My body." 27 Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, "Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.
We also note that the Lord’s Supper points to what Christ accomplished on the cross. We know that the Passover feast was a shadow that pointed to what Jesus would do on the cross as the Lamb of God. Of course John the Baptist had already used the Lamb of God imagery with reference to Jesus in John 1:29 when he said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
The “lamb of God” imagery points to the Passover, the very feast that was on their minds at this point in time.
Nevertheless, in all fairness, it is hard to fault the people for not understanding that Jesus is about to become a human sacrifice. Such a thing is outside the realm of their ceremonial practice. Even his disciples complain about it, as we see in verse 60:
60 Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, "This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?" 61 Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, "Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn't help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some among you who don't believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who would not believe and the one who would betray Him.) 65 He said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father."
Finally, when Jesus speaks of ascending back to where he was before, that is too much for most of the people, as we find in verse 66: “From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him.” This brings us to our third point: faith continued – persistence in believing.
IV. Faith Continued – Persistence in Believing.
What’s going to happen now? Everyone is confused. No one fully understands what Jesus is saying. Is that enough reason to turn away? For some it is. Meanwhile, Jesus has already provided five signs that demonstrate that He is sent from God:
1. He turns water into wine.
2. He heals the official’s son.
3. He heals the man who has been sick for 38 years.
4. He feeds 5,000 people plus their wives and children.
5. He walks on water.
Any one of these signs by themselves is sufficient to demonstrate that Jesus is from God.
At the same time, Jesus says and does things that offend everyone:
1. He refuses to provide more signs, although he will do two more major signs later: healing the man who was born blind and raising Lazarus from the dead.
2. He says he came down from heaven.
3. He says they have to eat his flesh.
4. He says they have to drink his blood.
5. He says he will ascend back to the father.
For many, the mere use of the metaphors of eating his flesh and drinking his blood are enough to drive them away, even though they probably understand that Jesus is not speaking literally. For others, it may be his explanation of these metaphors that offend them most of all – the idea that their eternal destiny depends on believing Jesus. Note the following verses:
· 35 “I am the bread of life," Jesus told them. "No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.
· 40 For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
· 47 "I assure you: Anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh."
The twelve do not turn away, and I think we should take careful note of the reason Peter gives, for this same reason applies to us. Picking up at verse 67:
67 Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, "You don't want to go away too, do you?" 68 Simon Peter answered, "Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!"
Peter knows Jesus is sent from God, and Peter understands that Jesus is the way to eternal life. But as for how Jesus can give his flesh for the life of the world, Peter is just as offended as the rest of the people, but this offense does not lead him to turn away from Jesus.
Perhaps we should all ask ourselves whether there are aspects of our experience with God that have offended us, and if so, do we not know enough about God to keep us from turning away?
Meanwhile, at this point do we congratulate the disciples for not turning away? What keeps them in their faith? Is it their stoic discipline? Is it their strength of character?
No, it is the fact that they are a gift of the Father to Jesus. Let’s look at these verses again:
· John 6:37-39 37 Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day.
· John 6:44 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
· John 6:65 65 He said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father."
What we see here is that those who remain with Jesus remain with him for two reasons:
1. They are the Father’s gift to Jesus.
2. They have good reasons for remaining with Jesus, good reasons for believing in him.
That both are required is clearly demonstrated in the case of Judas Iscariot. In John 6:70-71 we read:
70 Jesus replied to them, "Didn't I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is the Devil!" 71 He was referring to Judas, Simon Iscariot's son, one of the Twelve, because he was going to betray Him.
Judas walks in the very shadow of Jesus, hearing the parables explained, witnessing the signs, seeing the miracles, and observing Jesus’ sinless life. If anyone has reason to believe it is him. Yet, instead of believing, he is the great pretender who carries the money bag for Jesus and the disciples and steals from it. Indeed, when Satan finally does enter into Judas, Satan merely walks through a door Judas has been holding open for a long time.
Why does Judas not believe? It cannot be for lack of evidence. It is because he is not a sheep; he is not one of those who were given to Jesus by the Father. In his state of spiritual blindness evidence alone is insufficient to bring him to saving faith.
This brings us to the end of chapter six. Let’s summarize what we find there. First, in verses 1-21 we find good reasons for the people to believe Jesus is from God. We have even more reasons, living on this side of the cross.
Second, we note that people are offended by Jesus when he says things they do not and cannot understand at that point in time.
Third, we note that while most turn away from Jesus, a remnant continues to trust Him. They continue to trust him for two reasons:
1. They have been given to Jesus by the Father.
2. They have good reasons for believing.
The ones who abandon Jesus also have good reasons for believing, but they cannot clearly see those reasons because of their spiritual blindness. God does something very special for those he has given to Jesus; he changes their hearts, overcoming their spiritual blindness to the point where they can and will believe. Suddenly, the gospel makes sense to them, and they willingly repent of their sins and receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. Once their hearts are changed, once their spiritual blindness is overcome, all of a sudden the Christian faith looks very reasonable and rational. They see the same evidence that was there all the time, only now their hearts are no longer biased against it.
Does this mean all their questions are answered; surely not. Even today, do we fully understand how God is both one and three, how Jesus is both God and man, how God controls everything and still hold us responsible for what we do, how God elects some to salvation and passes over others, and how the God who is Holy, Holy, Holy could have permitted the first sin? No, but we do know enough about God to trust him with those puzzling theological questions.
What about calamities? For example, when a tornado comes, do we understand why one house is destroyed and the one beside it is untouched or why God sends a devastating drought to one part of the country and an equally devastating flood to a different part of the country? No, but we do know enough about God to trust him with those puzzling questions about calamities.
What about when it gets personal? Do we fully understand why God sends personal trials into our lives? Scripture gives some explanation; God uses trials for our progressive sanctification in order to make us more like Christ. But what about when the trial seems like overkill. How many times must a man face unemployment for God to achieve his sanctifying purposes? How many times must a woman be beaten by a drunken husband for God to accomplish his purposes in her life? That God uses adversity to refine us is somewhat explainable, but does anyone fully understand why there is so much adversity?
No, but we do know enough about God to trust him with those puzzling questions about our personal lives.
In fact, scripture advises us against making our faithfulness to God contingent upon our own understanding of God, as we see in Proverbs 3:5,6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; 6 think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”
That the people should have trusted Jesus is demonstrated in the book of Acts. The conversion of 3,000 people and the rapid growth of the church were not unrelated to the events in John 6. Rather, many of those who were converted were likely part of the same crowd that had deserted Jesus a year earlier. Now, in the climax of Peter’s sermon, the offensive things that Jesus had said, the giving of his flesh and blood, make sense. Likewise, there are many things that will make more sense to us someday. Meanwhile, let us resolve to trust God in all things, even the things we don’t understand.
Over the next few years many of us will face tests that expose the very foundations of our faith. God will permit things to occur in our lives that, at least initially, might offend us. If our faith is contingent on unbiblical expectations, especially the expectation that God’s ways will always seem reasonable to us, we will topple over like a badly built building in an earthquake. But if tragedy finds us fully resolved to trust God no matter what – to trust God unconditionally – we will be able to stand firm in our faith. We won’t have to decide during the crisis whether or not to trust God; we will have already decided; indeed, we will only need to stand firm in what we already believe. That’s what you want to be able to do in the middle of a crisis. It’s too hard to think deeply during those times. You want to be able to stand firm in what you already believe.
Let us pray:
I’m praying from Jude 24-25:
24 Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever. Amen.