This is a Hard Saying – Nana Yaw Aidoo

Nana Yaw Aidoo

In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel account, we see our Lord Jesus Christ deliver His “Bread of Life” discourse. Due to the figures that our Lord used in this discourse, some suppose He was talking about the Lord’s supper. Not so. Notice if you would that in the 47th verse, our Lord said believing in Him leads to eternal life, and also in the 54th verse, He said eating His flesh and drinking His blood leads to eternal life. But we know that our Lord taught elsewhere that there is only one way to eternal life (cf. John 14:6. Notice the use of the definite article). Therefore, unless in this discourse our Lord was teaching two different ways to eternal life, then it is the case that eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ is tantamount to believing in Him. All our Lord sought to do was to impress on the unbelieving Jews the necessity of believing in Him in order to receive life (cf. John 8:24) and not to teach about the Lord’s supper.

Our focus, however, is not on what our Lord meant by eating His flesh and drinking His blood but on the response of His auditors to His message. John noted that as our Lord taught, His auditors complained (v41 NKJV), murmured (v43), quarreled among themselves (v52) and were offended (v61) at His message. Their reaction to our Lord’s message is summarized thusly: “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (verse 60). The Jews reacted just like most people do when they hear a message they do not like. At this point, and with this kind of reaction to the message, many people would have beaten themselves up over a supposed absence of “tact.” “Church growth experts,” if they were present at this time, would have told our Lord, “Come on now Jesus! You won’t catch many flies by using this method.” No doubt some others too who are present in our time would have accused our Lord of insulting or verbally abusing His audience, if they were around back then.

What would our Lord do now? Would He change His message and probably preach love and grace or some “relevant” message? He would have to in order to get a positive reaction from the auditors of His message, wouldn’t He? No doubt some would have so advised. Not the Man who left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Pet. 2:21). He, in spite of all the negative reactions to His message, continued to speak the truth as forcefully and faithfully as He knew how, even to the point “…many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” (verse 66). That the audience felt our Lord was preaching a hard saying and that they were offended by His message in no way compelled our Lord to compromise His message or to change the truth of His message.

We can’t help but ponder the many negative reactions to the message (some of which, unfortunately, is heard from the Lord’s camp) that there is only one true church (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4), the church of Christ (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 16:16), which the Lord will save at His return (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 5:23) and that men are added to this one true church, by faith, repentance, confession of faith and baptism unto the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37; Acts 8:36-39; Rom. 6:3-4). “Are you trying to say all the other Churches are lost?” “Do you mean my grandfather who wasn’t baptized is going to hell?” “You are behaving like Pharisees.” “You have an identity crisis.” “All you do when you preach in public is insult others.” “You are preaching a 19th century message.” “If you continue preaching like this the church would not be relevant in the eyes of others.” “You are holding unto traditionalism.” “It is your church doctrine.” “The government would not call upon us if you keep on saying things like this.” Well did the wise man say, “…there is no new thing under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).

How great and many the lessons we can learn from the Man whose disciples we are. There simply is no excuse for insulting others under the guise of speaking the truth. We are told to put filthy language out of our mouths (Col. 3:8) and to let our speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that we may know how we ought to answer to every man (Col. 4:6). But let us not be self-deceived into thinking that cowardice, neutrality, and the changing of the message of God’s word is the way to go. Certainly, we need to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). However, before we can do it in love, we need to first of all speak the truth. It is written of the earliest of disciples that they turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6) with the truth of God’s word so much that they were spoken against everywhere in the then Roman world (Acts 28:22). Surely, they all didn’t lack tact if any at all? Surely, they weren’t all going about insulting people if any at all? What makes us think if we preach the same message they preached, we won’t get the same reaction they had?

God Almighty’s commission to Ezekiel is especially relevant in this regard; “And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear, or whether they refuse” (Eze. 3:11 NKJV). May we with the power of God’s word (Rom. 1:16), and without fear or favor, preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), whether it fills up a room or drives people away.

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