When Jesus’ Words Are Hard To Hear

Blausen_0329_EarAnatomy_InternalEarRead John 6:59-71.

Last post from the book of John we saw Jesus speaking of how he would give himself for the sake of the world using bread and blood as a metaphor. (see What Does It Mean To Feed On Jesus’ Flesh?)

Hard To Hear

He said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. But his disciples were having a hard time with what he was saying. His words were hard to swallow.

I feel the same way sometimes. Maybe you do too. Some of what Jesus says is difficult for me to hear. Jesus said: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father.” And, “…the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off…” And I haven’t even touched on the difficult Old Testament scriptures, an Old Testament that Jesus endorses. Sometimes I’m reading his words and I have to decide if I’m going to accept what he says as truth, and why. For what it’s worth, in this blog post, I’ll share how I think about it when I find Jesus’ words difficult to listen to. (Matthew 7:19-20, 7:21, 7:14, 18:8, and How Does Jesus View the Old Testament?)

The Ultimate Cold Case

The last post on God Running was about a second generation atheist and homicide detective named Jim Warner Wallace. He’s a cold case expert for Los Angeles County law enforcement. He’s one of the best in the business, so much so that he’s regularly invited to appear on news magazine television shows such as 60 Minutes and Dateline. According to Dateline broadcast journalist Keith Morrison, the folks at Dateline call Jim Warner Wallace “the evidence whisperer.” Wallace was a devout atheist who found it easy to mock Christians. The two groups of believers he worked with were fellow employees who identified as Christians but who couldn’t defend their beliefs, and, criminals who professed to be Christians. These two groups did nothing but reinforce his atheist world view.

But, eventually, Jim heard a pastor who talked about how intelligent Jesus is. This intrigued Jim because although he wasn’t interested in religion, he was interested in smart people. So he bought a Bible. And as he read his Bible he began to apply the same set of investigative skills he used when he solved cold cases, specifically forensic statement analysis. And what he found caused him concern, from an atheist perspective. The eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life appeared to be credible.

It was at this point that Jim says, he had to ask himself some difficult questions: Am I disbelieving the gospels because they’re not credible? Or am I disbelieving the gospels because I don’t want them to be true?

Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life are credible. And he became a Christian. (see previous post A Second Generation Atheist’s Take On The Eyewitnesses Of Jesus)

The Ultimate Expert On Mythological Literature

Another (former) atheist, C.S. Lewis, came to the same conclusion for similar reasons. Lewis, a man who read mythological literature in the original languages, the Chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, and one of the great minds in human history said this:

“I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage – though it may no doubt contain errors – pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the 2nd century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read.” –C.S. Lewis

Fleeing The Hospital Before Surgery

When my nine month old grandson was just about to go into a radical major surgery to repair his skull at Phoenix Childrens Hospital he was in the arms of his mother Charise. But when the doctors came to take him, Charise turned away and began to carry him out of the hospital. She didn’t like what they were saying. But ultimately she changed her mind. She realized that although she didn’t like the words of the surgeons when they described the procedure, their wisdom was on a different level than hers. I don’t like to imagine what my grandson Andrew’s life would have been like if Charise had decided not to listen to the surgeons, because Andrew’s cognitive function was at stake.

Who Should I Listen To?

This brings us back to our passage. The disciples couldn’t stomach what Jesus was saying. “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” They said. (John 6:60)

When Jesus heard them complaining he responded, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (John 6:61-64)

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:66-67)

Simon Peter said, “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.” (6:68-69)

When I hear difficult words from Jesus I find myself in the same place as the cold case homicide detective.

I find myself in the same place as C.S. Lewis.

I find myself in the same place as Simon Peter.

I have found the scriptures to be credible. I have already believed, and come to know, that he is the Holy One of God. As soon as I find myself in that position, I have to recognize there are words from Jesus that I won’t agree with or understand, but I also realize he’s on a completely different level than I am.

Who shall we listen to?

To whom shall we go?

Jesus has the words of eternal life.

You might also like: Smurfs and the Genuine Seeker of Truth, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the Gospel Accounts, How Does Jesus View The Old Testament?, Why I Struggle With The Old Testament

References and Resources:

J. Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, David C. Cook, 2013

Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids/Cambridge, U.K., 2006

Textual Criticism Science On The Web

C.S. Lewis, Wikipedia

Jesus Christ in Comparative Mythology, Wikipedia

History News Network

Timothy Keller Podcasts

Image by Blausen.com staff. “Blausen gallery 2014“. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine.DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 20018762. Own work

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