by Steven Chan
9 March 2008
As we travel along life journey, and as we experience various challenges to our faith, some Christians may begin to doubt their faith. These challenges may come in the forms of disappointment with the behaviour of some Christians (such as noted in Gal 5:15: ‘bite and devour one another’), some teachings of the Bible which we may find hard to accept in our current community or environment (eg. as regards one’s ability to know the truth and that truth being absolute and not relative), or the constant and seemingly never-ending arguments among believers on many aspects of our faith (such as whether or how the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian), and such like. At such times, one may be so shaken that one may question whether one should remain in the faith.
We find a similar situation with those who were following Jesus when He was on earth. In John 6, Jesus had just fed the five thousand men with ‘five barley loaves and two small fish’ (John 6:9). Some of the people wanted to make Him their king. Others determined to follow Him. But Jesus chose to go to the other side of the sea of Tiberias, towards Capernaum. But the people followed Him. Jesus then said to them in John 6:26-27:”Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Jesus wanted them to go deeper in their faith and ground themselves on the foundational truth of who He was and the importance of doing God’s will so as to have everlasting life. The people were happy to follow Him because He could satisfy their felt needs – i.e. their daily food. But Jesus wanted them to grow their faith to understand the importance of doing God’s will so as to have the more precious promise of eternal life.
So, the people responded to Him and asked in John 6:28:”What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” – to which Jesus replied: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”(John 6:29). But the people responded by questioning why they should believe in Him: “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ “(John 6:30-31). These people had just been fed by Jesus in a miraculous manner and yet they asked, what work will you do that we may see and believe You? There are none so blind as those who refuse to see!
Then Jesus explained to them that it was God who enabled Moses to give their forefathers the manna from heaven and hence, they ought to place their faith in God and not in Moses. Then Jesus said to them: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) and in John 6:40, Jesus said to them: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” And “the Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” (John 6:41) They could not see beyond the physical. So, when Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53),His own disciples were offended or stumbled by His claim: “many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (John 6:60) Jesus then said to them: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (John 6:63-64)
The Bible then recorded one of the most disappointing events among those who had been following Jesus: “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (John 6:66). They experienced the miraculous feeding of the five thousand; it was fresh in their minds; yet they could not see beyond the miracle itself to the greater truth of Jesus as the Son of God. The truth that Jesus taught may turn some away from Him but He did not waver in declaring the truth. It is the Truth that would set men free (John 8:32).
Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:66-69) The reply of Simon Peter was an incredible act of faith on his part and one which demonstrated his logic or decision in wanting to remain a follower of Jesus. Peter asked: To whom shall we go? In times of disappointment when divisions occur among brethren, when some brethren chose no longer to walk with us anymore, we should do well to remember the statement by Simon Peter, To whom shall we go? Thou has the words of eternal life and we believe and know that you are the Son of God. Really, how can we jettison our faith in Jesus merely because some brethren disappoint us or some teachings of the Bible are tough for us to follow? What is the credible alternative? Some mystical Tibetan folklore? Be our own God? Join the denominations? Don’t we know the truth concerning Jesus as the Son of God and the fact that one must do the will of God in order to be saved – Matt 7:21? Nicodemus observed in John 3:2:”Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31). To whom would you go if you wish to have hope after this life?