Today’s post is the final post in this series looking at questions people asked Jesus. For an index of all the posts in the series, including last year’s posts on questions Jesus asked people, please click here.
Over the last month or so we have explored several questions people asked Jesus- and the few I have selected to dig into are only a small sample of the many questions we find recorded in Scripture. There are questions of confusion, questions of seeking and genuine interest, and questions with ulterior motives, looking to test Jesus or discredit him.
Today we come to John 6, a chapter which is full of questions. I want to focus on the final one, but the others help to set the scene for that question.
The chapter begins with Jesus teaching the crowds. The people have been listening to Jesus all day when the disciples spot a problem- the people are hungry. They begin to look for a solution, but food is in short supply so Andrew goes to speak to Jesus: “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:9 NLT)
Jesus miraculously multiplies the food and, once the crowd has been satisfied, he goes off to spend some time alone. The crowd see Jesus’ disciples take the only boat so, assume he is still on that side of the lake, but the next morning they find him on the other side and ask, “Rabbi, how did you get here?“ (John 6:25 NLT)
Jesus tells them they should be spending their energy not on seeking perishable things like food, but on seeking eternal life, and they respond, “We want to perform God’s works too. What should we do?“ (John 6:28 NLT)
As Jesus continues to teach the crowd, he tells them that he is the Bread of Life and says that he has come down from heaven. Their next questions are full of confusion: “Isn’t this Jesus, son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, “I came down from heaven?” (John 6:42 NLT)
When Jesus follows this up by talking about how the bread is his flesh and people must eat it to live forever, it only gets worse: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52 NLT).
The crowd are clearly struggling to understand, and even some followers of Jesus are finding it tough, saying, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” (John 6:60 NLT)
Eventually some of Jesus’s disciples give up and walk away, deserting him. Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks if they are going to leave too, and Simon Peter responds with the final question of this chapter:
“Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68 NLT)
Peter is often known for speaking without thinking and putting his foot in it, but here I think he gets it exactly right.
There are always going to be things we don’t understand about Jesus. Even as people who have committed to follow him, there are going to be times when we don’t understand what he is doing, when we can’t see him working in a situation, when his words or actions confuse us.
There will be parts of the Bible we struggle to understand, or maybe that we don’t really like. There will be times when our prayers seem to go unanswered for no good reason, and we just can’t understand what God is doing.
The question is, how do we respond in those situations?
Do we look to understand every single detail before we will submit to God and move forward, or do we accept that God is God and we are human, and so there will always be certain things we don’t understand?
Like Peter, can we hold to the truth we do know in the midst of the uncertainty over all we don’t know? Can we trust what we know of God’s character- his goodness, his love, his faithfulness- even when we can’t understand his actions? Can we acknowledge that we are better with him than without him because he is the source of eternal life and our only hope?
That’s not to say we shouldn’t ask our questions or seek to understand more. Questions can be a great way to deepen our faith and our understanding, and I think God welcomes our questions, but let’s make sure our questions are driving us to God rather than away from him, and let’s hold on to the humility to accept that certain things are beyond our knowledge, and we don’t have to know it all!
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
(1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT)