Despised and Rejected - John 6:60-69
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Despised and Rejected
When I was growing up, I was one of those weird church kids. I went to public school, but being a pastor’s kid - I was marked for weirdness from a young age. But my whole life, I had an overwhelming desire to fit in. I wanted to be one of the cool kids. I wanted to be normal. I wasn’t embarrassed about my faith. I loved my church, I loved God - and most of my very best childhood memories are somehow connected to this thing we do on Sunday mornings. And yet I always wanted to fit in. I didn’t want to be one of those “weird” Christians. And PASTOR’s kids, well that was like another level of weirdness. I went to camp one time, and I was hanging out with some kids my age, and we were sitting in those camp chairs, in a circle. One of the kids I knew before I got there casually mentioned that my dad was a pastor, and across the circle there was this girl and I’ll never forget, she sat up in her chair and said, “YOU’RE a pastor’s kid?!? But you’re so normal!” That was probably my favorite compliment that I had ever received in my 14-15 years of life at that point. You’re so normal [big relieved sigh] Oh good. I’ve got everyone fooled. I’m normal. I’m not like one of those weird Christians. I fit in. I might actually be able to trick some people into thinking I’m cool. In fact, if you look at my life - you can barely tell I’m a Christian at all. [pause]
Today we’re continuing our study in the Chronological bible. If you’re joining us for the first time - that’s awesome. As a church, we have been reading through the ENTIRE bible in a year. And I try to say this every time, but one of the beautiful things about the Bible is that you can jump in anywhere and still learn something about God. The more you study, the more you read, the more you get out of it - the deeper levels you can find, but even jumping in right in the middle you still catch sight of something beautiful. We have followed the story of Israel into slavery and then out of slavery, into the wilderness and then out of the wilderness, into exile and then out of exile - and God never left his people, and now at long last we are finally into the story of Jesus. And one of the first things we see about the story of Jesus - is that he was not embarrassed to be an absolute weirdo! Let’s take a look.
Chapter 6 verse 22 tells us, [read v.22-27]. For a little backdrop, Jesus just preformed TWO major miracles. First, he fed 5,000 people with one little basket of fish and bread - THEN he walked on water to get to the boat with the disciples. So we open up in verse 22, and everybody wants to know where the guy who can do the cool miracles is at. You were over there, and there were no boats - but now you’re over there. What is happening. And Jesus responds, “look, you’re just excited because I fed you - you’re excited about the miracles but you’re actually missing the point.” What he means is that the miracle is not the point. He is the point. He is showing them that he’s the son of God, that they should believe in him - but they’re just so impressed with the catering. It keeps going down in verse 30, [read v.30-31]. First off, can we just talk about how rude that is?!? Their first thought, “oh you’re the son of the most high God, sent to provide salvation to all of humanity? What can you do? Can you juggle? Show us a trick savior man, impress me and maybe I’ll follow you.” There’s so many people in the modern world who say, “I would believe if God proved to me that he existed.” I just need evidence to believe in God. And when I hear that I go, “mmmmm… probs not?” Because actually we’ve tried that before, and even when the evidence is right in front of their face - show me more. What can you do, what can you give me? Moses gave us bread, what’s your offer?”
So verse 33, [read v.33-35]. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” Now he talked about Moses again, and if you don’t know that story - back in the old testament, there was this time when the people of Israel were out in the desert and they had no food. And they were scared they were going to starve, and so God provided bread every morning. Israelites would wake up and the ground would be covered in this substance they called “manna” - we don’t know what it was, but it was sort of like bread. For years God fed the Israelites like that, with manna from heaven. But there was something important about the manna. You couldn’t save it. If you tried to gather up extra, it would go bad the next day. You only got enough for the one day, and so the people learned to depend on God. So when Jesus comes in and says, “I am the bread of life” - he’s playing off their memories of how their ancestors depended on God. There’s a shift - you don’t need manna, you need bread - and then he points at himself. I am the bread of life. This is actually the first major thing I want you to grab from the text today. Christian growth means moving from manna to bread. Maybe you started out with a manna approach, you only cared about Jesus because of what he could do for you. You believed enough to benefit, but leaning on the bread of life means we look past the miracles and start to see the one behind it. We start to realize that the miracle is not what we need, Jesus is what we actually need. Christian growth means moving from manna to bread.
But not everybody is on board, verse 41, [read 41-42]. Alright, now I’m going to teach you a little greek today - not because you need it, but because it’s amazing. It says they began to “murmur in disagreement” and that verb, that word in the original greek language is guggusmoo. Isn’t that just the best word? Guggusmoo. It basically means “grumbling, complaining” and so if you ever have a friend or in my case children who don’t want to eat their vegetables, you can tell them, “hey, stop you’re guggusmoo-ing.” But here’s why it’s important. Jesus says “I am the bread of life” and people start grumbling, *grumble, grumble guggusmoo grumble* - and this becomes the first step in a progression of weirdness. Jesus keeps pushing. He doesn’t back down, he doesn’t hedge, he doesn’t try to make it easier. In fact, he doubles down. Verse 43, [read it]. Stop your guggusmoo-ing. Jump down to 47, [read v.47-51]. Oh-ho! Jesus takes it further, the bread of life is not just what you need right now, but also what you need for ETERNAL life. And that doesn’t make anybody feel better. People start arguing. And that final sentence, in verse 51 - [read v.51b]. Just a little bit of advice, if you don’t want to weird people out - don’t use the word FLESH, like, ever.
So catch the progression here. I am the bread of life - grumble, grumble. No seriously, this bread is my flesh - [blanch]. [read v.52-55]. Do you see why one of the early criticisms of Christianity was a misunderstanding that they were like cannibals? That’s such a weird thing to say!! Jesus just used the word flesh four more times! It’s like he’s not even trying to be normal. Now we know what it means, right? He’s talking about the cross and communion. His body is broken and his blood is poured out on the cross when he dies. And we eat the bread, his body, to remember his sacrifice on the cross which we need if we want to have eternal life. We know NOW what all the stuff means. When he says “eat my flesh” he doesn’t mean “chew on my arm” but rather accept my sacrifice on the cross. We know that, but I can’t imagine what it was like to listen to this for the very first time. And the people have moved from grumbling to arguing, and then there’s one more level. Verse 61 it says, [read v.61-62]. And then we jump down to verse 66. [read v.66-67]. Picture this. We went from crowds of thousands. Everybody likes the magic miracle man who gives them what they want. But when he starts telling them what they really need is not miracle catering but what we really need is Jesus’ blood on the cross - the people start to leave. One of the bitter truths of our world is that sometimes people will walk away from the good things they need. Just because it’s right doesn’t mean people will want it. We see that when we see that Jesus was despised and rejected.
Then he turns to the disciples and asks, “are you also going to leave” - and then hear this amazing response, [read v.68-69]. Peter says, “where would we go? You’re the guy with the actual answers. You have the path to eternal life.” [pause] I wish there was something I could say that would help drive home the impact of Peter’s blunt honesty. And I want to emphasize that the disciples didn’t know more than the other people who left. The disciples were JUST as confused as the crowds, especially Peter. That guy NEVER knew what was going on. All they knew was that this person, this God in flesh, son of God thing - he is the source of life, he is the source of the answers that our very soul aches for. And that’s worth all the weirdness Jesus might throw our way. It’s like that ol’ GK Chesterton quote, “Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it.” That’s not quite how he said it, but you get the idea. Sometimes sticking with the truth is not popular, it’s not convenient, it’s not always fun. But we stick with it because it’s the TRUTH. Where else would we go to find eternal life?
See, here’s the thing - couple of weeks ago we talked about the different levels of faith. Level 1 faith is where we say, “I believe enough to benefit.” That’s manna level faith. I believe because I am being fed, I am benefitting from it practically today. But Peter is not benefitting. Everybody is leaving! All the cool kids are going home, and yet Peter stays. Why? Why would he stay? What would make it worth it? What would make following God worth it, even if I don’t get my miracle? In fact, let me show you something crazy. Not only did these disciples NOT benefit from Jesus. They did not become wealthy or famous - in fact, every single one of them died a horrible tortured death. One guy, ONE disciple got exiled to an island and died of old age. Two are described in the Bible, but the rest are described in other historical documents. Accounts vary but Thomas was speared, Andrew and Peter were crucified, James was killed by the sword, Matthew was burned or stoned - we’re not sure, Jude was killed with an ax, Paul and Matthias were beheaded - it goes on and on. These men did NOT benefit in this life from knowing and following Jesus. So what was it? What would push these men to live their lives following Jesus if it didn’t benefit them? And these weren’t random accidents or mistakes. All of them could have avoided death if they did not follow Jesus. But they didn’t want to avoid death. That’s level three faith, “I believe enough to give my life.” Paul writes in Philippians, chapter 1 verse 29, [read it]. These guys considered it a privilege to suffer from following Jesus. You know I was running a wedding a while back, and we were at the rehearsal. And we had everybody set up, and the bride and the groom were practicing their vows. And it’s sort of a “repeat after me” situation. And the groom went first, and it was the bride’s turn. And I said the classic words for the vows, “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, til death do us part” - right? And the bride, made a little joke she said, “for better or for worse, for richer or for richer, til death do us part.” And it was a funny moment in the rehearsal, and she said the right words on the actual wedding day - but I think about that sometimes. Not a lot of newly weds are planning for worse, they’re not planning on “poorer.” And I think about this moment with Jesus - what would make these men follow Jesus even when everyone else leaves. Follow Jesus even if it makes life worse, even if it leads to their suffering or even their death?
But of course the answer is in the text. John chapter 6, verse 63 [read it]. The very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. And this is the to understanding all the strangeness - Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of your life and he is everything you need. I used to really cringe when I would hear people say, “Jesus is the answer to everything” or “Jesus Christ is all you really need”. But the longer I’ve been a Christian, and the longer I’ve been a pastor - the more I am realizing the truth of that statement. Letting Jesus into your life is the only way we can achieve true fulfillment. Nothing else matters - he is the only thing that can bring us contentment and satisfaction and peace in our troubled hearts. There’s this unbelievably cheesy line - I think there’s even a song about it - “There’s a God shaped hole in all of us.” And it’s hard for me to say it without rolling my eyes, because it feels like it’s a phony platitude - like the dumb stuff you say at a funeral because you have no idea what to say. But what I have realized in my walk with Christ, and what the text is showing us today is that there actually IS a God shaped hole in all of us. Jesus fits into our life like a missing puzzle piece where suddenly the picture finally starts to make sense. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment and everything you need.
The good news this morning is that only God can fully satisfy you. God satisfies your soul. You see, each of us is born incomplete. We have this itch. A dis-satisfaction in life. And it comes out in our lives in different ways - sometimes it’s depression - we’re hollow and sad because we’re not complete. Sometimes it’s ambition - we’re driven and we’re aggressive because we’re searching for that thing that will complete us. Sometimes it comes out in our life in a long series of distractions - we jump from hobby to hobby, job to job, the latest streaming program or technology or drama looking for something that will distract us from this uncomfortable feeling of incompleteness. But the truth that Peter and the disciples found was that what each and every one of us is searching for is Jesus Christ. Come what may, Jesus is what we need. Nothing else matters. God, and only God, satisfies our soul. He gives us rest in the place inside where we didn’t even realize we were tired.
Here’s a teaching that I realized a week ago, and it is shifting my entire world. The vices of our world, the sins, the things people do that are evil or wrong - they are manifestations of a soul that is starving. You think about all the things you can accuse someone of, “You eat too much, you drink too much, you have sex with too many people” - but what I’m realizing is that most of the time it’s not about food, or alcohol or even sex, it’s about the hollowness that we feel because we are incomplete. Sin is the desperation of our attempt to find something in this world that will satisfy us other than Jesus. And honestly, it has been shifting the way I look at people. A lot of times when I see evil in the world - it used to make me so angry. When people break the rules or do something they’re not supposed to do - but now it just breaks my heart. I don’t see a bad guy, I see an incomplete guy - searching in the wrong places for the one thing that will satisfy his heart. But there is contentment, completion, wholeness to be found in the presence of Jesus. The disciples say, “where would we go? You are the one who’s words give life and spirit.” There is nothing else. There is nowhere else to go - because with you Jesus our hearts are finally at peace.
At this point in the sermon, I always ask the question - alright, so what? What do we do with all this? Jesus drives away the crowds by telling people that he is the bread of life, using the word “flesh” too much and trying to show people that what he is offering is more important the food we eat every day. Jesus is the one thing that can satisfy us and the people around us - but how does that matter? How are we going to change our life with this information? Well it’s pretty simple - I have two challenges for you today. First, I want you to put on the posture of Peter. Think about how he approached Jesus. Did he have all the answers? No. Did he understand all the mysteries and all the deeper meanings? No. Was he there for the free food and the crowds? No. All Peter knew, all he had was trust in the one who gives eternal life. Maybe you’re here today and you’re at a level 1. Maybe you’re not even there! Maybe you’re just taking a peek at this whole Christianity thing and you’re wondering what it’s all about. And wherever you are, that’s okay - we all start somewhere. It’s not a crime to spend time in the shallow end of the pool, but that’s not why we put on the bathing suit. I want to invite you into the deeper waters of God’s grace. There is wholeness, there is completeness and it is ready for you. Put on the posture of Peter. Give it all to Jesus, put your trust fully in him - let the Holy Spirit start working on your heart to start to build contentment in your life. Put on the posture of Peter.
Then my second challenge for you today. We have the truth - right? We have knowledge of the one thing every single human life needs, the secret of true and lasting fulfillment and eternal life. My second challenge for you today - you have the truth, so don’t be a jerk about it. Let me explain. Jesus was despised and rejected in his life. He didn’t give people the show that they wanted, and so the massive crowds abandoned him. BUT sometimes people in the modern world use that situation as justification to be a jerk. It looks like this - a christian knows the truth about Jesus, they look at a non-christian and they get in their face and say, “you’re a sinner! You’re a bad sinner and you should feel bad.” And when Christians act like that - nobody wants to talk to them anymore. They become despised and rejected, and here’s the kicker then they say, “I’m just like Jesus. He was despised and rejected too.” You’re not like Jesus, you’re just being a jerk. The truth is not a baseball bat that we swing at our neighbor’s head, the truth is a morsel of bread that we offer to someone whose soul is starving. You have the truth, don’t be a jerk about it. Instead I want you to think - how can I be more effective in showing this truth to my neighbor? How can I make the bread of life look delicious to my neighbor? Jesus gave us the secret to that as well. The answer is love. Simple acts of kindness and love break up the ground in our relationships, it tills the soil so that it’s ready for the seeds. My first challenge is that I want you personally to take a step closer to Jesus, a step closer to fulfillment. But my second challenge is that I want you to start thinking about your neighbor. How can you love the people in your life, prepare the soil of your relationships with small acts of kindness, so you can tell them about the bread of life as well.
When I was a kid, I was thrilled anytime somebody said, “YOU’RE a pastor’s kid? But you’re so normal!” I wanted to fit in. But I look at this story. Where Jesus INSISTS on being a weirdo. He insists that people move beyond manna, beyond the flashy miracles to receive the true bread of life. I think about the people around us who don’t know Jesus - and they’re trying so desperately to fill the void with whatever vices and distractions the world has to offer. And I realize that maybe “fitting in” isn’t the most important thing. Maybe when you have the truth, when you know the good news - the most important thing is loving people so they will listen. Let’s pray.