"Lord, to whom shall we go?" (John 6:60-69)
My cohost on my podcast, Let the Bird Fly!, likes to argue that John’s is the best Gospel. I personally argue for Mark and have written a little about it. It’s all in good fun, of course. We like all the Gospels. That being said, it’s hard to argue against John 6 as one of the most colossal chapters of Holy Scripture. Does any other chapter give us so clear a view of our Savior? He’s loved for His miracle, hated for His words. He’s spurned for His humanity, questioned about His divinity. He’s surrounded by crowds, asks the handful that remains if they will leave Him, too.
Sought out and then forsaken, loved and then hated, listened to and then not heard, praised and then grumbled about. This is no easy Jesus to come to grips with, no easy Jesus to follow. This is the Jesus Whose path to the promised land is filled with bumps and bruises, with hills and narrow gates. Yet, just as the Jews had two choices, true God or no God, the Christian has the same, true Jesus or no Jesus.
By nature we want any Jesus but the true One. We all prefer the pretty boy Jesus, perhaps. You know, the one who looks like a god. The one to whom everything comes easily. The one whose luck and luster rubs off on His friends. We like the motherly Jesus, Who remembers your birthday, packs your lunch, gives you a hug when you feel down, and tells you you’re special no matter what. We dig the buddy Jesus, who wants to hang out and have fun and laughs at our foibles. We want the Jesus who never says anything much deeper than we’d expect from a toddler or Internet celebrity, but is entertaining to watch or hear. We want the Jesus who says, “That’s ok.” We want the Jesus who winks and nods, high fives and never questions. We want the Jesus who speaks easy answers to doubt and not hard answers to faith. We want, at least once in a while, to have Jesus just relax, just chill, just... you know, stop being so Jesusy!
Above all, we want the Jesus who fits our narrative, not the Jesus who writes His own, even if it is for our good.
Jesus, however, isn’t an idea—He’s a person, a real person. For that reason, the only Jesus is the Jesus before us today, Who faced hard times, said hard things, preached an often hard and narrow road. We get the Jesus, Who like a bad guest in our flesh, offends. We have a Jesus who speaks to faith, and not to reason or emotion, although faith will eventually take both captive as well.
What’s up with that?! No fair! No fun! But nothing is fair or fun about the innocent and righteous Son of God dying on a cross for the sin for which we are guilty, for our unrighteousness. Who said the Christian life was fair? Who said the Christian life was always fun?
“Hard words”—that is what the crowd says Jesus speaks. Hard words. 'Hard' here means obstinate, scandalous, and offensive. He offended them. He scandalized them. They couldn’t take His speaking any longer. They’d eat His bread but couldn’t digest His words. They’d sit at His feet but wouldn’t hang on His words. Yet Jesus had no choice. He was obstinate. He was hardened. He was hardened in love. There was no path He would take but the one to the cross. There was no answer to their questions but the hard one.
God hadn’t made it a hard answer. Sin had. And, for sin to be silenced, the only answer was in Jesus’ flesh and blood, was at the end of this road to Calvary and the new and better garden of the tomb from which new life would be created. Hard words are all Jesus could speak, hardened in His desire to save you, and hard words, even though our doubts would tell us otherwise, are the only honest ones when it comes to matters of sin and death, life and salvation.
“Lord, to whom shall we go, for you have the words of everlasting life?” Hear these hard words of our Savior hardened in love and obstinate in grace. Treasure them, even when they seem perplexing. Rest in them, even when the answer is hard, or slow in coming. The Christian life is not always fair, is not always fun, is not always easy, because it is the Christian life, built on Jesus Christ—but, unlike everything else, it is free life in a world given back to us by grace.