Jesus had just delivered what we now refer to as the Bread of Life discourse. The conclusion was, “Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54). Many of his followers found this offensive and questioned if anyone could accept it. Jesus response was not to restate his point in softer language but to give them what one might call a you-haven’t-seen-anything-yet answer. If his teaching on the bread of life was offensive, then how would they handle his ascension into heaven (John 6:62). He added that some of them didn’t really believe and it was because the Father had not made it possible. At this point many of his so-called followers abandoned him.
What does this tell us about Jesus that is relevant to how his followers today should conduct themselves? One thing is that he would not bend the truth in order to gain or maintain a following. Perhaps the greatest weakness of the contemporary church is its willingness to adjust the message (at least, the way it is presented) with the hope of gaining numbers. That would have been foreign to Jesus. I believe he would applaud Justice Scalia who counseled, “Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”
Jesus’ reaction to his followers taking offense was not to find a way to bridge the gap caused by truth. While his apparent lack of concern at the moment could be questioned by some, there comes a time when we simply hold truth to be true. I am not suggesting a belligerent defense but a simple acceptance of the fact that truth by its nature rules out falsehood. Could that be embarrassing? Certainly. Could it separate? Yes, but that appears to be acceptable as long as it isn’t the result of an unwise and contentious defense. When it comes to proclaiming what God has done in Christ for sinners, it is the same as it has always been — tell the story openly, clearly, confident that it is now God’s responsibility to speak to the heart of listeners. No one is brought to Christ because of what we do. Our role is to proclaim the message; it is God who draws sinners home. I believe this is the model Jesus left for us.