“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – I Cor 1:18
The Gospel according to Jesus’ claims is exclusive. This is what our world hates. The Gospel, the greatest love story of salvation ever told is beautiful and benefiting (Jn 3:16). However, the beauty and benefit of the Gospel is not without its offence. The reflection is that, ‘the primary reason the gospel is offensive is because our hearts and minds are centred on ourselves.’ The Gospel means confessing we are sinners (Rom 3:23). The Gospel means confessing we cannot do it ourselves. The Gospel means confessing that we need Jesus as our Saviour. The Gospel becomes offensive because it means laying down our pride and looking to Jesus Christ for salvation and trusting Him to take away our sins and set us free from the bondage of sin. Remember, the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).
The Gospel’s offensiveness is no longer something we read in Scripture; it is offensive in our everyday life. In our post-Christian world, we have to make a choice: to believe or be offended. To make the choice, there is always tension. When we are confronted by the truth of the Gospel, especially with the scandal of God’s amazing and self-giving love, we face a profound tension that will lead either to offense or belief.’ This tension holds within it the beautiful possibility of remaining faithful.
The trouble with the Gospel reading from John 6:55-69 is that, it is exclusive, hence, it offends many people, including the disciples. Despite the offence, the people still want the miracle but not the Master of the miracle; they want the bread, not the Baker of the bread. John tells us in verse 61 that the disciples complained about Jesus’ exclusive teaching. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, they complained and grumbled. Jesus knows they are finding this teaching to be very difficult and intolerant. He asks them, “Does this offend you?” The disciples were offended by Jesus’ teaching. Beloved, to be honest, how often, does the hard truth of the Gospel of Jesus offend you?
2000 years ago, the disciples were offended. According to John 6 in verse 66, “Because of this, many of His disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” The exclusive truth Jesus spoke was offensive. The people simply couldn’t accept it. Jesus then asks the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” This is the tension we all face, to believe and trust Jesus or be offended and redefine the Gospel. Positively, the tension helps our faith just as the tension for Simon Peter was the beginning of deep faith. Simon Peter in response to Jesus’ question answered, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69). The Church, nations, and our leadership are faced with Gospel of abiding and reliance on the very body and blood of Jesus. The question is, are we finding it very hard and offensive to accept, abide, and believe the Gospel? Peter found himself abiding in Christ, hence helping us to know that before the gospel can be beautiful and benefiting, it offense must do its work.
Jesus’ words were “hard” for the people to hear because they wondered how Jesus, Whose parents they knew, could make such claims about Himself having come down from heaven (vv.41-42). Jesus’ exclusive claims continue to offend many today. Some of these claims include: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. (v. 51); whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life? (v. 54); My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink? (v. 55); whoever feeds on Me, he also will live because of Me? (v. 57). These words remain very “hard” for some people to hear coming from a fellow human being claiming to give people eternal life or the consequence of unrepentant sinners in hell! The Gospel remains offensive to many today as they debate and view Jesus only according to “the flesh” (that is, a relationship with God based upon Jewish nationality).
To overcome the offence and the sin of unbelief, we are called to view Jesus by faith, believing, confessing and trusting Jesus as the only Saviour, Messiah sent from God (Jn 3:16). The main issue at stake today when the Gospel becomes offensive is how we deal and obey God’s Word. Jesus came in accord with God’s written Word. We have no excuse for not obeying God’s Word if we truly want to follow Him and abide in Him. Since Jesus came in accord with the written Scriptures, as His followers, we are called to remain and view Him in ‘faith on the basis of those Scriptures—not on the basis of your own ideas and desires.’
The Gospel says, “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.” What happened 2000 years ago is happening today, many church goers are turning back and no longer walking with the Lord, in the light of His Word. Because of unbelief, taking offence at Jesus, a glory He should shed on our ways has become gloom because we fail to do His good news and will. Preaching and hearing Jesus’ teaching only from a human perspective causes and promotes spiritual and church shut down.
The response of the disciples to Jesus points to a faith in a physical existence in the world to come eternally. The disciple 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.” The disciples recognized Who Jesus was by faith, hence their abiding and dependence upon His Word for eternal life. God’s Word for the disciples 2000 years ago remains the means through which the Holy Spirit creates faith and empowers people for obedient and holy living. They did not shot down at the mention of the name or at the sound of Jesus’ teaching. The Gospel is not just offensive to the lost; it is offensive to human nature based on our choices and values. Indeed, the Gospel can be difficult to our natural, scientific and secular sensibilities. Offence to the Gospel is rooted in ignorance, pride, self – sufficient and self-centredness, seeking to find a way out through pity and superiority. To stop being offended by the Gospel, we are called to repent in order to truly understand and apply it.