Text: John 6:60 “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” Vs. 66 - ‘From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.’ ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’”
When was the last time you attempted to share a funny experience at work with someone who wasn’t there and all you got for your troubles was a blank stare? Didn’t you at first automatically assume the hearer didn’t understand you so you tried to explain again? On about your third attempt to create at least a smile on the other persons face did you give up?
What did you say?
“I guess you just had to be there.”
Mandy and I traveled to Kalamazoo a few weeks ago to attend the Buck-skinners Spring event. People dressed in period costumes from the Revolutionary War up to The Civil War - And every item you can think of to compliment their reconstruction of those eras was for sale. (French priest complimenting her on “looking much better now.” When she asked what he meant by “looking better now,” he replied “I noticed you missed Mass this morning and assumed you weren’t feeling well.”) When we left, my question to her was “How would you explain to someone what this place was like?” We both agreed “You would just have had to be there.”
Some things just don’t translate do they? Each of us has something we have done, or had done to us, or something we have heard or discovered or seen that simply defies our attempts to share it with others. Maybe it was your first new car, or a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe it was the success of the chemo, that spared someone’s life, or the loss of a loved one when it wasn’t so successful. Others just don’t seem to get as excited about it as you are and it can be very frustrating. I remember when my daughter was born. She came into this world around 6:30 in the morning - A time when the world was just beginning to awaken from its nocturnal slumber. After seeing that she and her mother were okay, I couldn’t wait to get to town and share my good news with all those I knew would be entering the restaurant about now. Who do you suppose I ran into first? Carson Ackley. Now for those of you who may not know Carson and his lovely wife Phyllis, let me just say they were, and she still is, I’m sure, members in good standing at the Catholic church. I saw him entering the restaurant before his first cup of coffee and was so excited I called out from half a block away - “Carson, Carson, I’m a Daddy. My wife just had a baby………” Before I could go on he turned to me with his pipe in his mouth, still unlit, half opened eyes, body bent a bit at the shoulders, and said, “Big Deal! I got twelve of ’em.”
Some things just don’t translate.
I was pondering such things this week while meditating upon a particular Bible passage. I thought about how casually we often read upon the pages of God’s Holy Word, - Monumental events - Supernatural events - The actual words of God and Jesus - The accounts of those who have entered into and experienced the Holy…….
I remember thinking/praying “Father how do I, in my preaching and teaching, help people separate in their minds the truth of Your Word from all of the other “words” advanced by human thinkers? How do I “translate” your Word for my listeners?” For those of you who witness or teach others by appealing to God’s Word, it may well be the hardest thing you have to do. I watch in disgust as movie stars, rock stars, and man-on-the-street interviews expose their lack of understanding concerning things of God, and ignorantly brush it all off by quoting some early or modern humanistic thinker. Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Sociologists, Politicians, Talk Show Host’s………. these are the high priests of our day, and their limited insights and philosophies are treated as holy writ.
Why? Where do they get their support base? I’m afraid that in too many cases it comes from that vast segment of our populace who just can’t get the Scriptures to translate so they throw it all away and go find someone teaching something they can understand. Did I mention there are far too many Christians numbered amongst their followers? It’s true. Sad, but true.
Now, please do not believe this is some new phenomenon - something new spewing up from the bowels of Hell, simply to confuse the issue. This is an old ploy. It’s been around forever. You know why? Because it’s so effective. The World, The Flesh, and The Devil don’t really need to be very creative in their attempts to confuse human beings. Christians should have learned long since, the spiritual release of God’s Kingdom power into our world and into our lives only comes when we combine our faith with God’s Word. But Western educated folks don’t like that. We want to understand. We must understand. And if we can’t understand we will go looking for something else that we can understand.
Do I need to say it? The reason many of us are living so far below our spiritual potential………. The reason Satan seems to winning the battle for the hearts and minds of young and old alike………… The reason our prayers dribble off our chin and are simply absorbed by the earth beneath our feet, and God’s Church goes a-begging, is because we are trying to mix a modern concoction of Christianity that includes a pinch of this religion, and a dash or that philosophy, and a very large dose of human logic and reason, (Things we can understand) garnished with a few spears of Biblical Christianity. We cannot have faith - mountain moving faith - life transforming faith, - healing of body and soul faith, - demon routing faith, - if we don’t believe God’s Word or if we have adulterated it with anything else, in our attempts to understand it first.
You see, Jesus’ original hearers had this same problem. In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John we read how in teaching the people He referred to Himself as “having come down from Heaven.” He identified Himself as “The Bread of Life.” He taught that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”
Those who first heard Him make such claims were aghast. In verse 42, we read of their indignation. “Who does this guy think he is? We know his father, Joseph and his mother. We know where he grew up, we know his people………… and now he’s trying to get us to believe He actually came down from Heaven.” Yeah right. And what about all this blood drinking, flesh eating, Bread of Life business? And the Bible records “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Some things just don’t translate - do they?
Alright then, let’s bring it all down to our day. To you and me. If those who actually heard Jesus speak couldn’t make sense of his words, what makes us expect that we will two thousand years after the fact? Do we live in some special dispensation that allows us to understand the hard sayings of Jesus when those first century folks could not? No……. We just think we do.
Our Christian faith and the benefits it accrues to our world and to ourselves personally is still accessed by faith alone and not our understanding or logic. When those first century disciples heard Jesus holding forth on eating His flesh and drinking His blood, they walked away concluding His sayings were too hard too understand. And now watch what Jesus says concerning them in verse 65 - “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
Did you catch that insight into spiritual things?
Let me add another example from Scripture…… In Lk. 24, we read about The resurrection of Jesus and the confusion it caused the Apostles. In verse 36 we read “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ’Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ’Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see, a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ Verse 45 - Then he opened their minds so they could understand Scriptures………..”
And, then just one more……… I Cor. 2:14 - “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
(I hope I’m not getting too heavy this morning - I truly believe it is absolutely essential to hear what God is saying about our walk on earth, lived in the Spirit).
The key to unlocking God’s Presence and Word and Will in our lives is found in John 16:12 - (Jesus speaking) “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”
Let me ask you this……….. How many times had you heard the gospel message before you responded to it? How many times had you read about your inability to save yourself and God’s free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus before it registered with you? If you are like most people you are probably thinking it took years and many different times of reading and hearing. Why is that, do you suppose? I suggest to you this morning, on the basis of God’s Word, that the reason it took so long was because initially you came to this book leading with your intellect, as it were. One day God opened your mind didn’t He? You know how I can say that so confidently? Because I know if we were to think about it…… it still doesn’t make any sense to our minds when we consider the virgin birth, or the crucifixion, or the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, does it?
Without the Holy Spirit, - Without the Third Person of the Trinity - Without God’s presence in our world today, we would be no more capable of grasping eternal truth than were those first century seekers.
Building upon our initial premise that “some things just don’t translate,” then, let me say this…….. NONE of God’s Word or present day activities will EVER translate unless we too have our mind opened.
This Book, and the words of this Book, have been called simply a history of the Jewish people and the beginnings of Christianity. This Book has been referenced for its Poetic value. I have heard it called a Book of myths and legends. In fact, most of the world thinks of the Bible as anything but
God’s revelation of Himself to humankind. And did I mention that far too many Christians believe the same? Oh, they would protest mightily were someone to accuse them of it, but our lack of respect for the truth contained herein, and our casual approach to things spiritual, our modern form of lassiz faire Christianity, proves other wise.
In Mt. 16:13 we read, “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked, ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.’”
Did you catch it? “This was not revealed to you by men, but by my Father in heaven.”
Did you get it? “When the Holy Spirit comes he will lead you into all truth.”
Can you comprehend this much? “The natural man cannot receive the things of God, for they are foolishness to him because he cannot understand them
And they are spiritually discerned.”
The crying need of the Western church today is truth revealed. Men and women who “have had the eyes of their heart opened to eternal verities.” I’m not calling for less study. I’m not saying we should completely ignore logic or reason. I AM saying that these should ALL be subordinated to the wonder working power of God’s Holy Spirit, who can make sense where we see no sense. Who can enable us to comprehend the incomprehensible. Who can show us the unseen - Allow us to hear the inaudible. Who can lift us up beyond the mundane and cause all earthly things to pale in the light of the sublime.
Have you walked with Jesus as He walked some dusty, first century road? Have you sat in the crowd on some grass covered slope, listening as the Master held forth? Have you seen the blind recover their sight, or the lame walk or the dead rise to life again, when Jesus touched them or spoke a word against their condition?
You can……. You know. If you will enter in to this Word by faith and allow it, God’s Holy Spirit will take you places you have never been before.
Have you watched in agony as our Lord was beaten, and scorned and finally nailed to a cruel cross? Did you struggle with the meaning of it all? Were you there when the news came that He was Risen? Have you seen the empty tomb?
You can……… You know. If you will enter in to this Word by faith and allow it, God’s Holy Spirit will bring you to that time and place where your reason and your logic can never bring you.
Did you see Him after His resurrection? Did you touch His hands and His feet? Did you see Him rise up into Heaven? Can you say as did the first martyr of the Christian faith, Stephen, ‘Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’
You can…….. You know. Indeed, I would say if the Church of Christ is to survive beyond our present generation, enamored as it is with the reasonable and logical, the technical, the modern, the “new and improved,” we must see and touch Holy things.
Your mind alone will not bring you there. Reason and logic have their place, but they are not in the forefront of our Christian experience.
Jesus has ascended into Heaven. The Holy Spirit has been sent into our world. All He is waiting for is our confession that without Him there well be no understanding. Without Him there is no power. Without Him there is only confusion and insipid Christianity.
If you want to see personal growth and spiritual maturity……… If you want to see the Gospel message going forth from this place in all of its power. If you want to see men and women, boys and girls, presently enslaved by this world, set free, born anew, saved for all eternity - If you want to see Satan’s power in this area broken. If you want to see God’s Kingdom come and His will being done………. - Then begin today confessing your inability and His sufficiency.
Pray with me………….
Our Heavenly Father, we have spent so much time trying to comprehend and make sense of things spiritual. We seem to have the attitude that if we will but apply ourselves more, get more education, call forth greater diligence, THEN we will be able to do what no one else has done. “Translate” the spiritual, as it were. Father, we confess that some things just don’t translate. To know and to experience some things we “just have to be there.” Our mind can only take us so far. It can never take us into the Holy.
Spirit of the Living God, this morning as we humbly bow before You, hear us as we confess our powerlessness. Note the many weeks, months, and years we have given to our struggle to understand and enter in by our own means……….. And then Lord God, in Jesus name, forgive us, we pray.
Spirit of Jesus, come we pray, ………. Come this morning and enter every troubled breast. Come and bring to each of us gathered here today that insight, that revelation, that life transforming experience that is your Holy Presence.
We will not hold any longer, preconceived ideas about how you must reveal your Presence. We will no longer, try and force your Person or activities into our poor abilities to understand. Have Thine own way Lord.
Holy Spirit I receive you this day as my counselor, my guide into things spiritual. Convict……… Convince……… Edify…….. Exhort……… Comfort………. Translate the untranslatable.
Father, we are a new people because of our confession and commitment this morning. We stand available to You as you lead us in new and exciting ways. Thank you for send us Your Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit thank you for being here to lead us, to guide us, to live right inside us.
In Jesus name - Amen