“It is a hard teaching…”
“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ …From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (Jn. 6:60, 66).
There is an old adage in our culture which states, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Perhaps more adequately and appropriately said – at least in light of our above biblical text and many others like it – “When the going gets tough, some will take off running, in order to get away from the righteous requirements of God, just as fast and as far as they possibly can” (i.e., Jonah; see Jon. 1:1-3)!
This is nothing new. For example, Jesus said of those converted by the word, that many, “…when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word” would immediately stumble (See Matt. 13:21; all emph. mine ~ DED), and then went on to also address how “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches [would] choke the word” in others (Verse 22).
This age-old truth is also why the aged apostle Paul warned the younger evangelist Timothy, to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:2-4). Paul fore addressed, through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God Himself, that many people, because of “their own desires,” would turn their back on some of the sacred truths of Scripture in order to go live their lives in accordance with their own ungodly desires instead of His holy ones, which of course would eventually, eternally destroy them. AND; that they would not stop there but would then also seek out religious preachers, teachers, and leaders who would tell them exactly what they wanted to hear – both soothing their seared consciences and justifying their self-satiating sins – instead of teaching them the word of God which they so desperately needed to hear – that one word that could ultimately save their souls by identifying, challenging, and changing their destructive pursuit and practice of sin which had so successfully separated them from God in the first place!
And while we can find all the fault we want with God’s Old Testament people, lack of clarity was not their problem. They didn’t “beat around the bush,” “mince words” or make excuses to try and justify their desire to do away with listening to God altogether, but actually came right out and made clear their desires in no uncertain terms – and God knew:
“Now go, write it before them on a tablet, And note it on a scroll, That it may be for time to come, Forever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the Lord; Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get out of the way, Turn aside from the path, Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: “Because you despise this word, And trust in oppression and perversity, And rely on them, Therefore this iniquity shall be to you Like a breach ready to fall, A bulge in a high wall, Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant” (Isaiah 30:8-13).
As evidenced by the Scriptures, there were several responses the hearers made when confronted with some of the more difficult and life-altering truths of God’s word. People:
- Persecuted, punished, ran out of town, or even crucified the messengers of God sent to instruct them in these truths from God Himself (as was done to so many of the prophets, apostles, and even to Jesus Himself throughout the divine text and history).
- Threatened, got furious with, and beat those men up however they could for caring enough to share these life and soul saving truths of God (Acts 4:17-21, 5:33-40).
- Sought to damage and destroy their reputations through slander and falsehood because they couldn’t refute the tougher scriptural truths they brought (Acts 6:8-13).
- Hardened their hearts, covered their ears, and sought to eliminate those messengers of God by whatever means possible – and the truths they thereby brought – from their presence forever (Acts 7, 13:50-14:19).
- Ran to find another religious group of people where ear-tickling teachers awaited to assuage and accept their sin without any real repentance (Pro. 18:1-3; II Tim. 4:3-4).
But here’s the bottom line. The one thing that none of those avenues of action actually accomplishes is this: It doesn’t change the eternal truth they seek to teach us – not one iota (Ps. 119:89)! It doesn’t change the fact that just because we’ve somehow silenced or ceased to listen to God’s message, that it will somehow become null and void just because we either don’t, or won’t, allow ourselves to hear it. The word of God which these faithful messengers brought, is still what will judge us on the last day – whether we like it or not (John 12:48). We will still be without excuse before God, no matter how many we may seek to make now (Acts 17:30-31). And real love is really willing to say so (I Cor. 13:6).
So what must we do? We must understand that making Jesus Lord of our lives means seeking to do whatever He says, no matter how difficult (Lk. 6:46-49); and that if we are not willing to, then we neither belong to Him, nor do we love Him, according to Him (Jn. 10:26-28; 14:15). Let us always be His – a people of perpetual repentance (II Cor. 7:8-11)!