By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 19 2017 08:56AM
Some people just love to grumble and complain. A week last Wednesday I shared some grumbles with the Wednesday congregation. They were in the form of comments left at an American Wilderness area. See what you think: Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.
Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the areas of these pests.
A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed?
Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.
A MacDonald’s would be nice at the end of the trail.
Am I the only one who thinks that they were missing the point of being in a wilderness? When we were on our cruise I was astonished to hear people complaining. We spent most of our time marvelling at the delicious food and the wonderful scenery and the complete luxury we found ourselves in. We were like kids in a sweet shop. But we heard others: the scones were too small, the wine wasn't right, the waiter was taking too long. It seemed to me that while they were grumbling they were missing out on everything else. That's what happens when we grumble: we miss out on the wonder right under our nose. In our section of John today we find another group of people grumbling and missing out on 3 vitally important things. Let's look at John 6:41-51 together.
Just a brief reminder of the background. Jesus had fed the 5000+ crowd with just 5 loaves and 2 fish, leaving 12 baskets of leftovers. The crowd wanted to make him king so he slipped away into the mountains, only returning that night, walking across the sea of Galilee to his disciples who had already set off in their boat. Jesus took them to Capernaum, where the crowd caught up with them the next day. It was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to teach the people, and we're told in v59 that he did his teaching in the synagogue. Those who have travelled to Capernaum will know that the synagogue, whose 1st century foundations are clearly visible even today, is in clear sight of the shoreline, only a very short walk away, so it makes sense that this conversation happened there. But this little note from John also gives us a clue as to who Jesus was talking to. John calls the people 'the Jews' rather than 'the crowd' as we saw earlier, so we can assume that these are the religious Jews (because of course, everyone would have been a Jew, including Jesus himself). These religious Jews were grumbling. As we look at their grumbles, we will see 3 important things they were missing. The first one is in v41-42 "They said 'Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose Father and mother we know? How can he now say 'I came down from heaven'" In their grumbling they were missing out on who Jesus actually is. That's our first point.
In their grumbling they were missing out on who Jesus actually is. To really understand what was going on, we need to look back to what Jesus had already said. Look back with me at v38-40 " For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’ These are wonderful words and such a precious promise. Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise them up at the last day. It was reminiscent of the time God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole so that everyone who looked at it was saved from the deadly plague of snakes God had sent. It didn't matter who the people were, from the greatest to the least, all they had to do was look at the bronze snake and they were cured. And why had God sent the snakes? Because the people were grumbling! Grumbling brought a severe penalty, but God also provided a way of salvation. Look at the snake and you'll be saved. Here the way of salvation is 'look at Jesus and believe in him and you will be saved', whoever you are. But we're not looking up at Jesus if our heads are down and we're grumbling. The religious Jews were following the pattern of their ancestors, and rather than seeing the offer of life Jesus made, all they could see was Jesus the carpenter's boy. To them the message of salvation was a nonsense because they thought Jesus was just an ordinary working class man. In their grumbling they missed out on who Jesus is: God's son and their saviour.
They also missed out on what God was teaching them. That's our second point. In their grumbling, they missed out on what God was teaching them. This is v43-47. Jesus told them that God was taking the initiative. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them." and how does he draw them? v45 "It is written in the prophets 'They will all be taught by God'. It was one of the great promises made through the prophet Isaiah. Here was Jesus - God - teaching them. There were the scriptures - God's word - open and available to them for centuries. Taking time to listen to God draws us to him. v45 "Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me." But as my teaching friends know, you can be the best teacher in the world, but if the pupils aren't listening they are not going to learn. The religious Jews weren't willing to listen, either to Jesus or to their scriptures. They were too busy grumbling. And they missed out on the gracious offer of Jesus v47 "Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life."
This leads us on to the third thing the religious Jews missed out on: eternal life. Our third point In their grumbling the religious Jews missed out on eternal life. v48 "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever." There's a deep irony here. In spite of eating the bread Jesus had given them in the wilderness, these grumblers were obsessed with the bread Moses had given the people centuries before. But they had forgotten some key points: it wasn't Moses who gave them the bread, but God. And it was at God's initiative, after the people were grumbling. Plus, the bread only kept them alive for one day. Each day, apart from the day before the Sabbath, the people were to collect just enough for that day. Any they had left over went bad. Here Jesus was saying 'look at me, eat of me' and you will live forever. I am in a different league. In fact this whole chain of events worked together to show that Jesus was the fulfilment of everything that went before: the bread in the wilderness, the walking on the water as if it were dry ground, and as we will see next week, the sacrificial lamb who dies in the place of the people. It was all there, for those who would listen and learn. But the grumbling got in the way.
What gets in the way for you? Are your eyes cast down so you're not looking up at Jesus and seeing the one who has the power to help you? Do your own ideas and opinions stop you from listening to Jesus? Are you a grumbler who struggles to find the good in any situation? Take heart! Jesus hasn't given up on you. It was people just like you, and worse, that he was speaking to in today's reading, and he still offered them eternal life. Even if we come kicking and screaming, and that's the sense of the word 'draws' in the phrase in v44 "No-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them." Even if we come with a struggle, Jesus will welcome us. "Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise them up at the last day." Don't let anything get in the way of responding to Jesus.