In John chapter six we have the record of one of the most notable miracles performed by Christ: the miracle of the banquet. Five thousand men plus women and children were fed by multiplying five loaves and two fish. That miracle was not ultimately about physical bread and fish and the meeting of physical hunger. The purpose of that miracle unfolded the next day.
The miracle of the bread was designed to set the stage for the Lord’s teaching on the true bread that was sent down from heaven. That true bread was Christ Himself and apart from eating his flesh and drinking his blood it was impossible to have eternal life.
The crowd was interpreting this teaching in the context of physical reality and was horrified with what they heard. They were oblivious to the spiritual reality of what Christ was presenting. Several translations have it that they were offended at His teaching.
For several weeks the Holy Spirit has been dealing with all of us about this business of the heart. The whole goal of Christian discipleship is the formation of the heart of Christ in the believer. And the evidence that the heart of Christ is being formed in us is found in a couple of issues: 1) How offendable is my heart? 2) When offence comes (and Jesus said it would) how do I handle it?
A couple of weeks ago we looked at Proverbs 18:19 where we found a truly amazing statement about the offended heart. It gives us a picture of the heart we do not want to have, and yet if we ignore the truth that is there we will never effectively deal with this issue of heart offence.
I closed that message with a lengthy series of questions- questions designed to help each of us assess the present state of our own heart. There are two questions I deliberately did not include then because I had no time to deal with them. But some of you have come to me suggesting that these very questions need to be considered. I mean this from my heart: I appreciate your insight and attentiveness. Those additional questions are these: 1) How well do you do with rules? 2) How easy is it for you to trust?
I hope to get back to those questions next Sunday. Those questions are vital. If your heart cannot trust it is due to deep woundedness usually related to the abuse (or perceived abuse) of authority.
But for this morning I want to remain in John 6 and deal with this single issue: The progression of offence. I want to draw your attention to three verses of scripture. Jn.6:41,52 &66>The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”
It is almost always true that the first thing that happens when the heart is offended is we have an internal sense of hurt. That is the critical point to deal with the offence. If we fail to do so the hurt begins to produce fruit and with that fruit we are looking at the progression of the offense.
Let’s begin with that point of internal hurt. In some of the notes on John 6 I came upon the following statement: The essential point is that they measure Jesus by their own expectations....and that on this basis they criticise Him, and begin to express dissatisfaction...
The starting point of almost all offence is failed (or at least a perception of failed) expectation.
Yesterday Christ worked a miracle in the physical realm and met their physical need with physical bread. Guess what their expectation was when they all gathered around Him the next morning. In fact Jesus made it clear at verse 26 that they didn’t even seek him because of the miraculous sign; they sought him for the single reason that they ate the loaves and were filled. They were thinking physical need and physical bread; Christ was teaching spiritual need and spiritual bread.
Their expectation was limited to the physical realm. Christ was calling them into the spiritual realm.
They could not transition from the physical to the spiritual and therefore the teaching of Christ made no sense. And because their expectation was built upon their physical senses their view was that Christ failed to meet their expectation. The truth is he did fail to meet their expectation because he wanted to move them from a mere physical expectation to an expectation relevant to spiritual reality.
It was at that point that offence entered their hearts; they felt hurt, betrayed and cheated. Failure to deal with the offence at that point leads to this: The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him.
From the original language the word ‘grumbling’ means: ‘to say anything against in a low tone; of those who confer secretly together.’
The next step in the progression of offence is this: (52): The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
The word ‘argue’ means:of those who engage in a war of words, to quarrel, wrangle, dispute.
What we need to see here is a progression of intensity. What begins as a low tone in secrecy becomes an open, intense and aggressive war of words. At this stage of the offence all reason becomes clouded and there is no objective rational; all we have is what I call the ‘insanity’ of emotion and feelings.
This brings us to the third step in the progression of offence: (66)After this, many of His disciples drew back (returned to their old associations) and no longer accompanied Him.
Many translations note that they went back to their old associations. Primarily this means that they returned to the structures that supported their offence. I have seen this hundreds of time over the years of my ministry.
Progression of offence: 1) a perception of failed expectation; 2) the nurturing of hurt around that failed expectation; 3) grumbling (the low tone complaints in secret; 4) an open war of words; and 5) separation and breaking of relationship.