Wednesday, March 25, 2015

3/25/15 - by John Schroeder

The text for the day is from the sixth chapter of the Gospel by John. That chapter begins with Jesus feeding the 5000, after which he departs and hides himself. He was concerned that the crowd was going to carry him away and try to force him to be king. That evening, he does the whole walking on the water thing, and the next morning when the crowd found him on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and it was clear he had not used a boat, they got a little excited. The text for today is Jesus' response to this crowd:

John 6:26-40 (I have linked to it, please click the link and read it, it would take too much space to reproduce it here.

In the passage, Jesus seems to be teaching three basic truths that add up to two big questions:
  • That if we follow Jesus for material gain, we are not really following Him. (The whole thing about "you seek Me because you ate...but that is food that perishes.)
  • The good stuff comes from heaven (the whole manna discussion.)
  • Jesus is the source of the good stuff for us, but (circling back to the first point)we have to be serious about it.
The commentaries usually rush to point out concerning this passage that Jesus is establishing His bona fides as the Messiah - the whole thing where he is the source of the gift, unlike Moses who asked God for the gift, and that he is the source of salvation.

But there are two questions out this passage that fascinate me far more:
  • Jesus uses our motives for seeking Him as a determining factor as to whether or not we are really, genuinely seeking him. Most of us tend to think that it does not matter why we seek Jesus, just that we do seek him.  So what should our motives be?
  • Jesus implies that there is stuff far better than material gain. That's a real "Sunday School lesson" thing to say, but nobody in Sunday School ever told me what that really good stuff is.  Just what is it?
These are the questions I want to examine here, and as we do so, I think we will find they are deeply related to each other.

What Should Our Motives Be?

Jesus teaches much of this same lesson, in somewhat less harsh terms, in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 6:25-34, the very famous passage where we are told to consider the birds and the flowers and not to worry food and clothing. In verse 33 Jesus says, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

Let's bottom line this, our motivation should not be about ourselves at all.  Our motivation is to join God's Kingdom and do what is right.  Our motivation in to put someone else, God, in charge and to be good.  That has absolutely nothing to do with my desires.  My desires are to be in charge, not let someone else be in charge.  My desires are for what feels good, and all of us know that what feels good often is not what is right.

In the end, our motivation for seeking Christ should be selfless, not selfish.  That is a hard sell.  It is easy to get people to come to Jesus when there is something in it for them, but it seems like to get to the good stuff, we have to give up asking the question, "What's in it for me?"

What Is The Good Stuff?

So, if I am no longer asking, "What's in it for me?" then we can be pretty sure the good stuff is not what we think we need or what feels good.  If Jesus will, as he says, "give us what we need," as if we can take it for granted like the air we breath, then the stuff we think we need is pretty ordinary and hardly good at all.

The good stuff is when we "live righteously."  Living righteously is about both attitude and action.  It does not just mean, euphemistically,  "no smoking, drinking, and chewing" though that ends up being part of the deal.  It means being so wholly transformed that we no longer want those things.  That's what Jesus is talking about in the Sermon on the Mount when He talks about "lust in the heart."

See, right now, I don't think we can really understand what the good stuff truly is because we still desire the mundane stuff or the bad stuff.  This is not a substitution problem, substituting good stuff in our desires for bad stuff, this is about changing our desires, or perhaps eliminating our desires altogether.

Speaking as a science and math person we live in a world that is essentially Euclidean and Newtonian.  Without belaboring the point, that means where there are three dimensions that meet at 90 degree angles (a corner in a room) and when you drop a rock it falls straight down.  But our science has begun to reveal that there are different worlds that operate on entirely different principles, where there are 10 dimensions meeting at 90 degree angles and where a dropped rock "falls" sideways.  I can do the math behind such things and even I can't really get my head around them.

God, because He is so much more than we can possibly be, lives in a world that even our science cannot reveal.  It is a world that in some ways makes no sense to us, like a rock falling sideways.  That's where the good stuff is.  It is good beyond our capacity to really understand good - at least for now.

That said, when we do get the good stuff, we will most certainly know it is the good stuff.  Not only that, when we get the good stuff, the hard sell of not asking "What's in it for me?" won't be so hard.  The good stuff is so good that other people are going to take one look at us and  want to join the party.

But for that to happen, we need to stop asking "What's in it for me."  That question grounds us in this world.  Getting to the good stuff starts when we move from selfishness to selflessness.

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