I love the Gospel of John. It is by far my favorite Gospel account.
Today, I was reading John chapter 6. In verses 28-29: “Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’”
Stop right there, Jesus. I’ve been going to church (or the temple, or mosque) my whole life. I’ve been told that God wills a lot of very difficult things, all of which are hardwork. I just want to know how to do those works. Now, you are trying to tell me that “God’s work” for me is to believe in you? Whaaat?! That’s not my understanding at all. You must be mistaken.
Keep in mind, a lot of amazing stuff goes down in John chapter 6. Jesus feeds the Five Thousand. Then Jesus walks on water…. But, what stands out most to me is that twice here, we read about people complaining in response to Jesus’ words.
In verse John 6:41, it’s his fellow religious brethren– the Jews. Then, in John 6:60-61, it’s Jesus’ own disciples doing the complaining in response to Jesus’ statements about being the bread of life. (The teachings of Jesus that becomes the Christian Sacrament of the Eucharist is first laid out in the verses before).
You know, if I was Jesus, I’d have had it up to here at this point. Turns out, Jesus was feeling the same thing…
John 6:61 — “But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you?'”
It was offensive to many of Jesus’ followers, and many turned away, until only the twelve remained (v. 67)
I look at the state of the American Evangelical Church today. How so many groups are so quick to take offense at the slightest disagreement or accusation of wrong doing. I wonder, how many could handle John’s offensive Savior? The Christ that cares little about our human need to feel in control? The One that doesn’t apologize for speaking the Truth as He hears it from God?
In commentaries I’ve read on this chapter, the general theme is this: people don’t like it when God doesn’t act or speak to us the way we think He ought to. We hate that God works in unexpected ways, or uses unexpected people, and takes us off guard. Our collection of beliefs held are challenged by Jesus, at every turn! And He doesn’t even say sorry for doing so!
I’ll admit it, I like the offensive Jesus. He is always keeping His followers guessing, and forcing them to reorder their priorities. For those that believe God is a God of order– I just don’t think so. Not in the human way of thinking about order…Jesus took complaints and accusations of blasphemy in stride. He did His thing (which was really God’s thing) irrespective of personal comfort. And God’s will was done.
In our time and place, it is so very easy to offend others. Maybe it was the same in Jesus’ time, but either way, living in the radical Love of God is going to offend someone. Deal with it.