When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”
We have a great lectionary bible study at St. John’s. Every Thursday at 10:30am a dedicated group gathers to pray for one another and then read and discuss the four lectionary readings for the week. The group was started with a simple suggestion, and has grown to become one of the most life-giving teaching ministries of St. John’s.
The group is made up of both members from church, and from other churches throughout the community. With such a diverse background in church experiences, we have come to grow in faith by learning from other traditions, as well as our own.
A few weeks ago, after reading through the week’s Gospel section, one of our most faithful attendees threw up her hands and declared, “How can anyone do all this stuff?” I think that after weeks of hearing Jesus’ commands to the disciples, she was overwhelmed by how much is expected of discipleship and how consuming it can really be.
Her question is one that Christians have been asking themselves since the very first disciples. After a particularly long discussion on being the bread of life (John 6), the disciples throw up their collective hands and say, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”
In our contemporary culture, many of us want grace without expectation, we want to leave church on Sundays feeling good about ourselves, and we are ready to commit so long as the commitment is limited. We, like the first disciples, are confused by Jesus’ words when we are asked to start living accordingly. We feel good about sacrificing our time at the Food Pantry, but we refuse to forgive that person in our pew who started a hurtful rumor. We feel good about seeing children in Sunday School, but are easily annoyed by the cries from babies during worship. We feel good about the scriptures that affirm our lifestyles, and use other passages to persecute and oppress those who are different according to our world view.
Jesus’ teachings are difficult, and ask us to sacrifice nothing short of our very lives. But Jesus also offers us something greater than any political promise, social status, or monetary moment; Jesus offers us eternal life.
What teachings do you struggle with? Where do you need support in following the call to discipleship? We can grow in faith by joining bible studies that allow us to wrestle with difficult teachings in community. We can grow in faith by reaching out to the seasoned Christians in our lives and seeking their advice. And we can grow in faith by bringing our struggles to the Lord, and praying for wisdom.