The world loves a good scandal. There’s something about hearing the latest gossip that causes our mouths to water, our ears to tingle, and our hearts to skip a beat. The up-and-coming politician said something he shouldn’t have. A coworker got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Charlie Sheen was seen in public – sober!
Scandalous news travels fast.
Jesus was fond of saying scandalous things. I think that was one practical reason for his popularity. Certainly people were encouraged by his teaching. The Bible says he taught with authority and that people enjoyed listening to him speak. But He was also prone to point fingers at the religious leaders of the day and say outrageous things about how you should conduct business, build a marriage or live your life. The disciples found this challenging. I think there were times the crowd found it amusing. But the further into Jesus’ ministry we go the more people began to realize that some of the the scandalous things He said were either directed at them or more difficult than they were willing to accept.
John 6 is a perfect example of this. A crowd has gathered. Jesus has miraculously fed them, now he’s teaching them once again. He’s talking about the Kingdom and eternal life. So far, so good. Everybody wants in the kingdom. We all want the happily-ever-after of eternal life. But then Jesus says something scandalous.
“Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” – John 6:63
Eat my flesh. Drink my blood…Ewe.
Let’s be honest – from this side of the cross most Believers understand this verse. He’s talking about the sacrifice he’ll make in order to secure our salvation. He’s leading into the bread and wine, the symbols of the Lord’s Supper. Nothing scandalous here. But read the passage. Imagine yourself sitting in the crowd listening to the message. There’s nothing there to indicate he’s speaking figuratively. No where does he suggest, “By the way, I’m talking about symbols here.” Instead he paints a picture that really is a bloody mess. How would you respond?
John 6:66 is one of many sad verses of the Bible. It tells us the crowd’s response, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with him no more.”
I think the same thing happens to you and me. It’s the comfortable scandal Believers struggle with all the time. We come across a passage of Scripture or hear someone preach the Word. God clearly speaks, “Do this,” or, “Don’t do that.” And we respond exactly the way the crowd did, (John 6:60) “This is a hard saying who can understand it.” And we turn back from following Him.
It makes sense that we would. Eat my flesh, drink my blood – that’s just crazy talk. Surely he didn’t mean it. But he did. And he means it when He tells us that marriage is sacred, faithfulness to our spouse significant. He wasn’t kidding when He told us to love our enemies or forgive those who hurt us. That part about sharing the gospel wherever we go – He really really expects us to do it. That’s our comfortable scandal. Some people have learned to sit comfortably in a worship service, hear the Word boldly taught, then casually dismiss the conviction they feel to follow Him wherever He may lead. It begs a question.
How far are you willing to go? What are the limits of your faith?
Let’s stop here for now and give those questions time to soak.
There are four things that distract us from faithfully following God. Four things that limit the depths of your faith. We’ll take a look at those next time. We’ll also see Peter’s amazing response and discover how his response can become yours.
Pray through this now – how far are you willing to go to faithfully follow God? What are the limits of your faith? What comfortable scandal are you living in today?