The escalation: Putting Faith to the test. (Part 2)

If you ever choose to become a teacher or a professor, it is a good thing to remember what it was like to be a student. I remember being completely lost in some classes. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the problem was that the subject matter was presented as a series of “facts” whose only connection to each other was chronology (that is, when they happened). If you have a good memory, you may be able to remember them that way; but do you actually know them? Not really. Knowledge only comes from the full story, from the interdependence of the facts: how one can be derived from another, how they support each other, and how, together, they compel us to reach new conclusions. Context is everything. This is especially true in the Sciences; it is also absolutely true when reading the Bible.

We are in the middle of the 6th chapter of John’s gospel. Jesus has just revealed who He is and what His mission is to the crowd that witnessed the miracle of feeding the 5000. But they missed almost all He said. The only phrase that they latched onto was the one that they thought gave them an easy way out. They did not want to believe on Him and so they picked one phrase out of context. Not much has changed in 2000 years.

Jesus said:

John 6:37-40 All that the Father gives me shall come to me, and him that comes to me I will not at all cast out. For I am come down from heaven, not that I should do *my* will, but the will of him that has sent me. And this is the will of him that has sent me, that of all that he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up in the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son, and believes on him, should have life eternal; and I will raise him up at the last day.

And their reaction was:

John 6:41-42 The Jews therefore murmured about him, because he said, I am the bread which has come down out of heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we have known? how then does *he* say, I am come down out of heaven?

This is one of those cases where if the blunder were not so sad it would be funny. Of all the things to complain about, you would think that a man claiming to be bread would be first on the list. But, of course, human beings have used simile and metaphor since language was invented. We all understand that people use figures of speech to highlight the context in a conversation. So, if this man was not a lunatic, then, clearly, he used the word “bread” in a figurative sense: as that which nourishes us, that which we need to preserve our life. In Jesus’ context, it is that which we need for eternal life.

Surely, that kind of bread could only come down from heaven.

So, the real point of contention – the krisis – should be: Is it possible that this man can have the power to give us eternal life? To answer that question, we would need to listen to what he has said and analyze it all in context. That is the only way to discern truth.

But that takes effort. It requires that we think. It is easier to fight a straw man that we build ourselves.

Let’s look at what Jesus just told them:

  1. It is the Father’s will to bequeath eternal life on every one (without regard to birth origin, or citizenship, or position within society.)
  2. There is only one qualification required to get this eternal life and it is that, when that person sees the Son, they believe on Him.
  3. The Father has given the Son the authority to deliver this eternal life. And so, it is the Son who will raise all such people at the last day.
  4. And this resurrection into eternal life is guaranteed because it is also the Father’s will that any that put their lives in His hands will be forever protected in the hands of the Son. He will not lose any one of them.
  5. To accomplish this will, the Father chose to send His Son from Heaven down to Earth, and the Son accepted that mission, to honor in all things His Father’s will.
  6. And this plan covers the whole history of humanity. Because all who have ever turned to the Father for help, the Father in turn will pass on to the Son, so that they may receive this eternal life. And the Son will not reject a single one.

Granted, point number 5 strains the human imagination: How does God send a person down from heaven? But if I want to challenge that, then maybe I should have some facts to back up my doubts. No one in that crowd was present when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. All they know is that he was raised by Mary and Joseph, right in their neighborhood. How do they know there was no miracle involved in that birth?

The answer is: they do not know. All they have are their assumptions, their suppositions; some of them salacious, given that there was a story about Mary having been pregnant before marrying Joseph. But they have no evidence to contradict Jesus’ statement.

You might say, “But who ever heard of someone coming down from heaven? That kind of thing doesn’t happen in the real world.” Yet, we have to remember that to those people, the “real” world was not limited to the physical, the material. Most of the people in that crowd believed the Scriptures: and those Scriptures spoke about Elijah being taken to Heaven and about Enoch who walked with God and then was not. If God is willing and able to do such a translation from Earth to Heaven, in that worldview, why could He not do the reverse?

Furthermore, remember that those people who were expecting the last days to come as prophesied, expected Elijah to reappear from heaven before the coming of Messiah.

So, if their belief-system could have allowed for such a miraculous event, why did they nitpick it?

The answer is: They were not objecting to the event. They were objecting to the idea that such an event would bring to them a man like Jesus: possibly born of sin, an ordinary laborer, a carpenter… who was no longer earning his living by his hands, but instead travelled around the country preaching and living off the support of those that followed him… a friend of sinners and tax-collectors whom the religious leaders derided. “Surely, this is not the kind of man that God would send from Heaven.”

That was their real objection.

The problem with unbelief is that it is indefensible.

Jesus doesn’t bother to argue with them about the point they are nitpicking. Because by the very fact that they are trying to argue that He could not have come down from Heaven, they are claiming that they know something about Heaven. They are trying to take the “high ground” and claim that they are on God’s side, that they are helping God by judging this impostor.

And it is that presupposition that Jesus challenges:

John 6:43-45 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, Murmur not among yourselves. No one can come to me except the Father who has sent me draw him, and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every one that has heard from the Father [himself], and has learned [of him], comes to me;

Remember point number 6 above… Anyone that has turned to God the Father for help will not be rejected.

Psalm 51:17 (NIV) My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

And since it is the Father’s will to save humanity – to bring His family (all of us) back to Him – then, it is His will to give them all eternal life. And since the Father has decreed that that eternal life can only be had through the Son, then the Father will make sure that all those that came to Him will likewise, unerringly, come to the Son.

This is Jesus’ logic by which He is also, simultaneously, disputing the accusation of the religious leaders that He was doing miracles by the power of Satan. Jesus is not using the powers of darkness to trick or beguile people into following Him… because no one could come to Him unless the Father drew them to Him.

Why does it take the Father to draw us to Jesus? The answer is right in front of us in that exchange between the crowd and Jesus.

Do any of us think that we are more righteous, more logical, more sensible, more even keeled than the people in that crowd?

Humanity has not changed much in 2000 years. They were like us. We are just like them. And just as they were offended at Jesus’ claim to have come down from Heaven, we get offended at a whole host of things that God says and does. Just as they knew what the Scriptures said and yet did not want to spend the effort to reason through Jesus’ words, plenty of us today know what Scripture says but we find it too much trouble to listen when it rebukes our life choices.

No one can come to me except the Father who has sent me draw him…

This verse has been taken out of context for centuries, and made to look like it implies that God chooses who gets saved and who gets condemned. But if we take in context all that Jesus has said so far, it couldn’t possibly mean that. Did Jesus know that that verse could be taken out of context? Yes, sure, which is why He explains this Truth from every angle possible, concluding with:

Every one that has heard from the Father [himself], and has learned [of him], comes to me;

Those that come to Jesus, come because they have listened to the Father. And in that supernatural conversation, the Father’s Truth has set them free… No longer enslaved to the lies we tell ourselves, no longer enslaved to the urge to be offended at what the Truth has revealed about us, we are able to open our eyes and repent. And once we repent, we can see the Kingdom of Heaven, right there before us: in the person of Jesus.

Jesus’ answer to their nitpicking is to challenge the very foundation of their claims. They want to claim that they are on God’s side, and Jesus’ reply is essentially telling them:

“What God are you talking about? Because if you and I are talking about the same God, this is the God that cannot be mocked. He is in control. He knows every heart. And He is the One that promised that everyone would be able to hear and understand His voice:

And they shall be all taught of God…

“So, the burden of proof is back on you… How do you prove that you are on God’s side? Surely, if you are, you heard His voice. Show me, from Scripture, how your unbelief is justified.”

When Faith is put to the test, it passes.

It is unbelief that always crumbles in the face of the test.

What Jesus are you talking about?

This same rebuke applies to us today. Many of us claim to be Christians. Many of us use those claims to attack others, to justify anger and even hatred; even though Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount condemns such an attitude. Some might respond that Jesus was angry on occasion – like with the money lenders and sellers of doves at the Temple. But that would be to take those occasions out of context. It misses the point that Jesus chose to die on the cross for the very people he chased out of the Temple.

If I take His life in context, I must face the question: “Am I willing to die to save the life of those I am so loudly lambasting?”

If I am not… I truly should wonder, What Jesus am I talking about?

And that is not the only way to take His life out of context. There are many who say they admire Jesus, and hold Him up as the epitome of Love. But if He is the paragon of all that is best in humanity, if His life demonstrates what our world needs most, then shouldn’t we be called to imitate Him? Surely, that way we too would make a positive impact on our world.

Yet, in the Sermon on the Mount He told us that He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them. And we all know what that first Law of all Laws is, the first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Seems plain enough, doesn’t it?

Why then do we insist on becoming our own gods? Why do we insist on claiming that we can invent the meaning of Right and Wrong? Why do we proclaim that I have my truth and you have your truth and they are all equally valid?

If I really think reality is whatever I say it is, and you can do the same, then we are all gods. And there isn’t only One, whose will we live to honor. Yet, that is how Jesus lived, honoring the One Father with His life and with His death.

Is that the Jesus we are talking about?

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