More than once Jesus’ disciples threw up their hands and said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6.60). Have you ever said something similar when you encountered a bracing section of the Bible?
Actually, we silently protest the hard sayings of Jesus more easily than his disciples. We open our Bibles in the privacy of home, and we have complete control over what we select to read or what we choose as fit for reflection. After all, Jesus is not physically there speaking to us about the things we need most to hear.
So, when our eye falls on something tough that Jesus said, like “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54), we start scanning for something more cheerful to brighten the day. Over time we get to know the soothing parts of the Gospels, but the hard parts are like a forbidding land our feet hesitate to enter.
Jesus knew his disciples were grumbling about what he had said and that some had even turned back. You might think Jesus would try to reassure his disciples to keep them in the fold, but you would be wrong. Instead, he challenged the Twelve by saying, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67). No spin control. No soft words from a media consultant.
Peter responded to the challenge with frankness, “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Peter speaks to us down the centuries. He says there is no turning away from the hard sayings of Jesus, because they are the words of eternal life. And he reminds us that to turn away from Jesus’ words means to turn away from Jesus himself.
How do we proceed? I recommend this spiritual discipline for the next month: spend time studying the Bible verses you like the least. Pray about them, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all the truth. You may find this to be a hard saying. So be it.
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.