John 6 – Verse by Verse

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After the feeding of the 5000, Jesus returns to Capernaum.  There, in the synagogue, he declares himself to be the bread of life.

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Lord, to whom shall we go? – John 6:66-69

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

If you have walked with Jesus long enough, you are familiar with this problem.  People hear things, experience things, do things, or maybe someone does something to them.  The end result is just as in John 6:66.  

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

Whatever the reason, this is a sad outcome.  At its root it is an expression of unbelief, of a lack of trust.  There is a way in which it belittles Jesus, his identity as God and his work on the cross for us.  It is saying that you, Jesus, are not big enough, nor is your cross effective enough to resolve this issue.  It is saying that my inability to understand why you work the way you do gets the final say.  There is nothing you, Jesus, can say or do to persuade me otherwise.

If we could see the big, eternal picture, we would know that this response would border on insanity.  However big our problem is, however difficult to understand, however wicked the forces that have raged against us, however cruel the attack, Jesus is bigger still and his cross provides the ultimate victory. 

Through faith in him we will eventually rise above the battle just as he rose from the grave and conquered death.  In eternity we will hear remarkable stories of incredible evil experienced by weak but trusting saints.  And the end of each and every one of them will be along the lines of, “But that is over now, and we have found everlasting joy in the presence of our Savior.  The cruelty of the battle that almost ended in utter defeat only makes the victory sweeter.  He rose, and he reigns forever and I am one of his.”

May our response to Christ when we don’t understand what he is saying or doing ever be,

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 9:23-24

The interaction between Jesus and the father of a demonized boy is highly instructional.  

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

Heavenly Father,

We know that you are all-powerful and all-good.  You deserve every bit of faith and trust that we can give.  Sadly, however, that faith and trust is still sometimes sorely lacking.  We believe and yet we don’t.  We trust you, but not completely.  We have faith, sort of, but it wavers almost uncontrollably.

We believe, Lord; help our unbelief!  If the faith we have is no more than a mustard seed, please respond by moving the mountains that we face.  It may look as if our chances and hopes are dismal, but they are no worse than the hopes of this father with the demonized son.  Our challenges are no greater than those of the disciples on the Saturday after Good Friday when your body, Jesus, was still in the tomb.

Please act, Lord!  Please hear our prayer!  Please pull us up from the depths of our unbelief, doubt and despair, and teach us to trust more fully in you.

It is in your name we pray,

Amen.

(Un)Belief – Mark 9:23-24

Jesus has just come down from the Mount of Transfiguration with three of his disciples.  Now he finds the other nine stuck in a situation for which they can do nothing helpful.  It seems a father has brought his son to Christ’s disciples.  The symptoms the boy exhibits are similar to epilepsy, but are actually caused by a demon,  When the father asks Jesus if perhaps he can help, the following interaction ensues.

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

Isn’t this where we so often find ourselves?  We believe Jesus has the ability.  We pray to God, knowing he is all-powerful and all-good.  And still we doubt.  Our faith falls short.  We lack something in the area of true belief.

Eckhard Schnabel, in his Tyndale NT Commentary on Mark, describes the man, “He acknowledges his lack of faith, which is not an unwillingness to commit to Jesus’ power but an inability to believe in the face of immense odds, given that the nine disciples were unable to heal the boy.”

The reassuring thing is that this admission on the part of the father, “I believe; help my unbelief!” turns out to be enough of an expression of faith that Jesus heals the son.  The demon doesn’t come out without a fight, but it is a fight that Jesus cannot help but win.

We need to be willing to express our faith in Christ and the lack thereof.  Our belief and unbelief which somehow coexist in our torn and divided hearts.  It is not a rejection of Jesus so much as a wavering acceptance with a desire for the waves to calm down.  The doubts of the saint and those of the skeptic are of a different species entirely.

We believe Lord, help our unbelief!  And help he will.