Hard Living   6 comments

stormAs I said in my last post, I am stuck with God.  When Jesus got weird on his disciples (John 6), many of them left.  He asked his twelve, “Will you leave too?”  and Peter answered, “Where else can we go?”  Yes.  Exactly.  We’re in the middle of the ocean, freezing cold, living on bread, squatting on steel decks and the captain of the boat says, “Feel free to leave.”  And where would that be?  Trust me, we are not staying because we like it here.  St. Teresa of Avila once complained to God, “If this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few!”

As I ended my last post, this story in John came to mind, and I felt bad for not having Peter’s good attitude.  He answered Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.”  I heard Peter saying, “You’ve got it all–peace, joy, fulfillment.  Why would we leave?  We like it here.”  I was confusing ‘eternal life’ with ‘the good life’… spiritually speaking, of course–the delights of fellowship with God.  What was I thinking?  You want encouragement of the Biblical kind?  Acts 14 tells us that the apostle Paul was “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith,”  –what was his supportive message?–  “and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’”  What ever happened to “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”?

happy baby

Jesus’ message was loony: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life.”  These are the “words of eternal life” to Peter?  Everyone was stumped, and many left Jesus over this cannibal homily–“If we understand what he is saying, it’s a problem… and if we don’t understand what he is saying, it’s a problem.”  Simon Peter, for all his flowery speech, was just as baffled.  Had he known Jesus spoke of his own sacrificial death, Peter would have corrected the Son of God himself.  For Peter, this was the one thing the “words of eternal life” could not possibly mean–the cross.

I think in all his fog, Impetuous Pete spoke the truth after all.  There is nowhere else to go because these are the words of eternal life, even if it leads through more pain and perplexity than other roads.  Those who stayed with Jesus after this sermon did so in confusion, not clarity, but they found him worth trusting right through the dark.  Even Peter finally followed him to his own crucifixion.  That is the one serious problem with resurrection–you have to die to get there.



Posted January 28, 2013 by janathangrace in thoughts

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6 responses to “Hard Living

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  1. Jesus’ reference to eating and drinking of the flesh and blood of the son of man, was allegory meant to symbolize nourishing one’s self with the spirit and the word. It was extreme, and he caused an uproar. This parable is an example of the secrets of the Kingdom being given to reveal the truth to true disciples and obscure it from those who follow the crowds only (see Mark 4:11-12).

    I think Jesus would be sad hear of a disciple remaining only for lack of elsewhere to go. Perhaps I’m missing your point, but I feel Jesus wanted us to believe and trust, and to always pray for strength in that trust– not for us to be lemmings.

    I love that life is work and that I am given that as a gift. Experiencing everything between pain, sorrow and glorious elation is something that only the living are given. And I like to think that every emotion that courses through my body is a little piece of god letting me know he’s still there.

    • Maesha, I expect if we were lemmings, we would jump ship! The way of Christ is the way of the cross, which often means personal agony rather than days full of smiles and consolations. The way of truth and goodness is usually the harder way, not the easier way. Going deep is rarely comfortable. Those of us who struggle with depression know this too well. The way of Christ is also the way of life, the only way of life. If we could choose an easier path to the same end, I for one would choose it, but there is no easier path. We cling to Christ because he is the way and truth and life, but his way often leads through confusion, pain, and brokenness. We trust him to bring us through to a better place, even if that better place is not until the resurrection, and that is why we follow him. We trust his love through the storm. That is to say, the ship accommodations may be survival rations (for some of us, more often than not), but the destination is still worth it.
      p.s. I think most Bible commentators make a connection between this talk of Jesus and the Eucharist that he instituted at the last supper (his body and blood broken and spilt), so it is likely Jesus’ death is being figured in the sermon, and we know Peter rejected Jesus’ intimation of his own death.(Matt.16).

      • I meant that Jesus wouldn’t have wanted lemmings in that that he wouldn’t have wanted blind followers. He wanted people to trust his message and pray for strength to maintain that trust. Jesus never stopped anyone from asking questions, but did anyone ask? Anyways, I think we make the arguments too complex. Jesus wanted to offer people salvation through a belief in himself: the son of man, god in the flesh. He used some pretty powerful parables and even denounced their true meanings, near crucifixion, to weed out disciples who were not true. People may have been confused, and even angered, but that’s to be expected when you start to wonder if someone is going to offer themselves as a sacrifice. Why worry so much about what Paul thought? Are you listening to him, or to Jesus?

        I suppose I like to think of Jesus as more man than divinity– at least for his time on earth. Imagine a man whom would have been susceptible to all the human emotions and behaviours of someone on the verge of committing themselves to such a violent end. Kinda’ makes you want to flip tables and scream No! 😉

        Anyways… even in the coldest, wettest, darkest places in my heart, I find the smallest ray of sunshine and warm myself to it. I chose what that ray of light is. I am not unfamiliar with ‘digging deep’, emotionally and philosophically. I go to places where many would crumble. I know what it’s like to struggle with depression. But I chose to feel loved. And I chose to look around me at those who have it far worse than I. There’s something to be said about counting blessings. Suddenly life isn’t so horrible. In the end. I know some incredibly hurt people, people who have suffered unfathomable atrocities. I’ve learned that many of them found a way to live that doesn’t crush them or their faith. In fact, many of them are thankful and offer forgiveness to those who hurt them. Being out in the cold actually heightens our immune system. We *can* learn to “clap our hands if we know it”. We won’t even talk about whether modern medication would help.

  2. Hi Janathan, I would like to write to you personally. Could I have your email ID?
    – BK

  3. Thank you for your final sentence in this post…. “That is the one serious problem with resurrection–you have to die to get there.” This is so basic to following a crucified and resurrected master, and yet I get confused all the time (“God, why didn’t you answer that prayer that would have made my life so much easier???”). I will carry your words with me today.


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