The place to go in times of tragedy

Published 7:08 am Tuesday, November 21, 2023

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By R.A. Tea Mathews

 The man was a truly gifted teacher—a pastor who loved Scripture and encouraged participation at his Wednesday night Bible Studies. They were always a treat, and I loved going.

One evening, I asked a question, recounting Jesus’ startling words in the sixth chapter of John. He listened, waited a moment, and quickly went on with the lesson he’d prepared.

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This minister was my colleague and friend. I eyed him, knowing he wanted to grab his Bible. He didn’t believe the unsettling passage I had just mentioned.

I sat there wondering how he had missed the thrust of one whole chapter of Scripture. A fifty-something minister who carefully studied the Bible. I knew he had read John’s Gospel countless times, but he had read right over those disturbing words from Jesus.

And yet, this is one of the most priceless moments in Scripture and not to be missed.

John’s 6th chapter is remembered for the “Feeding of the Five Thousand.” The chapter opens with Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee. We know the Lord was more than a year into His ministry because John has told of two Passovers, which happened each spring. (John 1:13, 6:4)

As you know, many followed Jesus to see His miracles. That’s an important piece of the chapter. Here are the verses:

“…Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee … A large crowd was following Him, because they were watching the confirming miracles which He was performing…” (John 6:1-2)

When Jesus saw the crowd, He tested Philip, asking the disciple where to buy food for the crowd. Here’s the passage:

“(Seeing the) large crowd … (Jesus) said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread…’ (Jesus wanted) to test him, for (Jesus) knew what He intended to do. Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not enough…’” (John 6:5-7)

Philip failed that test.

He told Jesus it was impossible—that it would take over $12,000 by today’s wages. Philip did not see Jesus’ power. This is another important piece of the chapter. It foreshadows the test that is to come.

A third piece: We see Jesus. He fed the 5,000 with a boy’s two fish and five loaves of bread. (John 6:7-13)

The final piece: The people then said that Jesus was the long-awaited Prophet. “Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’” (John 6:14)

But did they mean it?

The crowd followed Jesus back across the Sea of Galilee to the seaside town of Capernaum. This is where Jesus tests them with His stunning words. The same words the Bible teacher on that Wednesday night could not believe were in Scripture.

Jesus told them He would feed them with His flesh. Not symbolized by bread. He said, “My flesh.” Look at the passage.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life…’” (John 6:53-54)

Remember, they had just said that they believed Jesus was from God. But how did the group respond to Jesus’ words? Here’s the passage:

“…many of His disciples … said, ‘This statement is very unpleasant; who can listen to it?’… As a result of this many of His disciples left, and would no longer walk with Him.” (John 6:55-66) 

The crowd was there for the party—the miracles, the signs, the wonders. They didn’t know the Lord.

What did Jesus do next?

“So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to leave also, do you?’”

 As I said, this is a priceless moment. “Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’” (John 6:67-68)

Peter knew Jesus.  

Peter continued, “…we have already believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6:69)

Peter wasn’t going off to find another Messiah. Whatever Jesus meant, Peter knew who this Man was. And Peter was sticking with Him. “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

Jesus would explain the troubling words that challenged the crowd, but not until a year later at the Last Supper.

“Now while they were eating, Jesus took some bread … He broke it and … said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And when He had taken a cup … He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood…’” (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24)

Those who follow God for the promises and hoped-for miracles may turn away when faced with a challenge, just as those in Capernaum did.

Know Jesus.

Know Jesus as Peter knew Jesus. Walk with Him every day.

No matter the tragedies you face, you will fall to your knees and say, “Lord, where else can I go, but to You?”

He will guide you. He will comfort you. He is your strength.

Know Jesus.