Wineskins Archive

December 10, 2013

Jesus Should Have Known Better (March 2012)

Filed under: — @ 11:25 am and

By Nick Gill

John 6 is one of the most amazing chapters in Scripture. No matter how many times we read it, something that happens there has the power to surprise us. All four gospel writers include the major event of this chapter in their re-tellings of The Jesus Story, but not like this. As a penman, my imagination depicts the writer of the fourth Gospel sitting down at his table and thinking, “Oh… is that the best you guys could do? No offense, brothers, but here’s the rest of the story.”

Jesus should have known better. What in the world did he think was going to happen, giving out food like he was God or something? Did he really think that filling their bellies would be enough to get them interested in some theology? Maybe one of the disciples convinced him that, “No one will care how much you know, Jesus, until they know how much you care.”

(Don’t get me wrong – there’s a solid principle there, as long as it is freed from the shackles of the assumption that you can buy your audience’s interest with some loot.)

Anyway, so the Messiah has been healing — can’t seem to help himself — and (predictably!) a crowd has followed him all the way from the little triangle where he has spent most of his time, the Bethsaida – Capernaum – Korazin triangle, to this hillside where he wanted to camp out with his friends and get some rest and maybe a little focused rabbi-and-disciple time. But the same unquenchable compassion that drives him to keep healing looks out at the crowd and sees sagging, dusty faces of people whose fervor has outstripped their practicality. In short, they kept following him even after they passed the point of no return – they can’t get back home before dark, so they’re going to be stuck here for a hungry night. Jesus won’t have that, so he does what Jesus does — whatever is necessary to solve the problem at hand, even if it messes up his vacation.

Next day, the crowd can’t find him, and the only boat that’s missing is the boat his disciples took! So they rush back to Capernaum to find him, and Jesus is pretty prickly about their interest in Him. So maybe he did know better about the whole “know-you-care” idea, but why get caught in their theological web? Surely he knows that these kinds of arguments never end well.

<blockquote>Jesus: You just want some bread! Quit worrying about bread, and work for what you really need!

Crowd: What can we do to make bread for ourselves?

Jesus: Believe in me, and you’ll have all the bread you need.

Crowd: What have you done for me lately? Moses gave us bread all day, every day – you only did it once. Why should we believe you?

Jesus: Moses didn’t give you bread — my father gave you bread, and he’s trying to give you more bread right now — the kind of bread that will really feed you.

Crowd: That’s what we’re talking about! Give us that bread!</blockquote>

So far, so good, right? Not so fast, my friend. John has a mini-theme where Jesus will do something that really confuses and upsets a Jew who should have understood what he was talking about (see Nicodemus), but follows it up with Jesus getting the response of faith that he desires from an unexpected source (see the woman at the well). Here in chapter 6, it’s the Capernaum challengers getting confused and upset, and the disciples who are the unexpected source of the response of

But Jesus should have known better if he expected that re-branding himself as the true manna would elicit an outburst of radical, joyous faith from the nation. You see, that’s how the whole manna-and-quail story started, but let’s take a peek at the rest of the story.

<blockquote>”We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic, but now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:5-6)</blockquote

lockquote>”And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why
have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.’ ” (Numbers 21:5) </blockquote>

Yeah, Jesus should have known better. That is… if he wanted the response we assume he wanted — the response we bend over backwards to get in our churches today. The last thing we want is for people to walk away — especially OUR people — the faithful attendees. Saying anything to offend them is perilous enough; if they start walking away, you’d better have your résumé updated.

Jesus, on the other hand, seems to have a take-Me-or-leave-Me attitude. Paul, too, seems to have a Take-Christ-or-Leave-Christ attitude, specifically in 2 Corinthians 2:15 – an attitude that is intentionally kept apart from a Take-Paul-Or-Leave-Him attitude in passages like 1 Corinthians 9:22 and 11:1. Several of Jesus’ lines of thought (new birth, eat my flesh, I and the Father are one), seem specifically crafted to move beyond the comforts of popularity and into the wild-and-scary realm of trust.

If Jesus expected to stay popular teaching like this … He should have known better.

On the other hand … maybe He expects US to know better.

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