Even after many years of following Christ, I still have questions about suffering. I’m not sure I’ll get all the answers this side of heaven; but in the meantime, God has shown me something powerful in His Word in John 6 that has helped me while I wait.
In that chapter of Scripture Jesus had miraculously fed the 5,000 and people were beginning to follow Him as much for the free food as anything else. Jesus knew this and so He spoke to the crowd in John 6:26-69 saying, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Jesus tells them that entrusting our lives to Him is the only thing that God requires and if you read the whole story the crowd essentially says to Him: “Prove it by giving us more bread” And they remind Him that the great man of God, Moses was able to give the people manna to eat to prove that they should listen to him. And so, Jesus tells them, 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Jesus is trying to get them to think of spiritual things instead of physical ones. He is saying that in Him, “manna” has become man! Essentially, He tells them that what He will do on the cross must be taken in, and made part of our very being. Like eating food that becomes the source of life for us, so too His sacrifice is the source of life that lasts to eternity. But the crowd isn’t very perceptive when it comes to spiritual things – it’s hard for them to understand. Their minds are on their stomachs and so they start wondering if Jesus is talking about becoming cannibals – which of course He wasn’t!
At that point many started to turn away and leave, choosing to follow Him no longer.
I’ve often wondered: “Lord couldn’t you have spoken in a clearer way that wouldn’t have led to people turning away?” But I’ve come to understand that Jesus was being very intentional here because of what we are told next:
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
This is what struck me and strengthens me as I wait. There will always be things we don’t understand. Sometimes there are no immediate, easy answers to the things that trouble us. When that happens, we will be brought to this same choice. Will we quit – will we give up on Him? Will we shake our heads, throw up our hands, turn away, and follow Him no longer?
Or will we ask like Peter “to whom will we go?” Who else has the words of life? Who else loves us enough to die for us? Who else offers us His very Presence and the promise of life forever with Him?
I will leave you with this: I know with every ounce of my being, based on the Word of God and everything I have learned in my life to this point, that whether you understand God fully or not, you can fully trust Him. He loves you. He will never fail you or abandon you. He will give you everything you need for this life and the life to come. Trust Him.
May God bless you!