23 September 2013

Encountering Jesus - To Whom Shall We Go?

I'd never seen, in person with my own two eyes, the results of a forest fire until we traveled out west this past summer.
I had, however, seen a forest burning, up close and personal.

Just a few months earlier, while taking a break over the Christmas holidays and camping for a few days in a wild game reserve in Niger, we actually drove through an area where they were doing a controlled burn as part of the park management. (I should probably add that said behavior would never be allowed in the States, so I'm not recommending it. ;-) ) For one short stretch of road, the fire burned on either side and right up to the road. It was only 10-15 feet, but the heat in those few seconds was phenomenally uncomfortable - and that - speeding through while sheltered in our Land Cruiser.

The desolation where fire blazed a path... yet lush growth flourished right on the edges of those grim paths... simply amazing! And where fire had destroyed just a few years previous, trees were rejuvenating, green was appearing and new growth was happening.

I enjoy the Lion King movies (one of Tim and my first date's was to see the original Lion King movie)... Here's what Simba has to say about fire: "Fire is a killer. Sometimes what's left behind can grow back better than the generation before... [swipes paw over dust to reveal a small plant] ...if given the chance."

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

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 have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) After this, Jesus went around in Galilee.(John 6.60-7.1)
Jesus stated some pretty amazing, hard to comprehend, challenging and downright difficult things. And just as fire races across the land destroying all but the hardiest, most deeply rooted or sheltered in its path, so too blazed these teachings of the Lord. Even many of those who had previously committed to following Him lost their vision as they learned that the Savior wasn't who they were making Him to be. That was the challenge in those words: all that they felt they'd been accomplishing in self-strength and self-striving was worthless. Only that which the Father enabled in His grace and mercy, by faith... only that counted in the eternal economy.

Many did not continue with Christ as a result of those words. Many turned back to whatever it was they were doing and leaning on before. 

I wonder what the human Jesus felt at that moment? Rejection always hurts, so even though He knew and expected - I believe He fully felt the rejection and the hurt.

I've also often wondered what it was like for Him as fully God and fully man. As He restricted His own "access," if you will, to His divine nature to live a totally and fully human experience, did that mean in His self-limiting, He truly did not know the response to the question He then asked the original twelve: 

"You do not want to leave, too?" 

Peter responds. He could have simply said, "No. I don't." But he didn't. He didn't actually even answer the question Jesus posed. I've been thinking about Peter's response all week. He answers Jesus' question with another question. He doesn't say, "Oh no, Lord. We could never want to leave you..." or "How could you ask that?  Of course we still want to be with you and follow you." It makes me wonder if the thought didn't at least flit through the mind of Peter that, "Yeah... we want to leave too, but..." 

I find comfort imagining that might be the why behind Peter's question to answer Jesus' question ~ simply because I know I've had thoughts that certainly follow those lines. Questions like: Is Jesus really Who He says He is?  Is there really anything after this life? Why have I devoted my life to this?..., etc. Peter's response indicates to me a desperate choice to cling to Jesus, simply because there was no other palatable alternative... which is a trail I've meandered much the past year. If Jesus wasn't everything He was claiming - nothing was lost. But if He was... then eternity hung on the balance of that decision. 

After Peter lays his faith choice out there on the table... Jesus reminds Peter that true as Peter's claim may be, he was also specifically chosen and called out by the Lord.

So yes, belief is 100% God enabled. But is is also 100% an intentional choice that men can make, on which they can decide to stake everything. In my mind, that is almost as unfathomable as God choosing to contain Himself in human flesh.

 this week's gratitude list
(#'s 4204 - 4226)

a more normal week coming up

coffee and conversation with a sweet friend for her birthday

daddy-double-daughter date... lots of smiles and fun

finally... finally... after moving from Africa, traveling and camping for 5 weeks on two different continents... the laundry room is back under control

amazing catches in a Sunday night football game

more beautiful and new-to-me songs at church on Sunday

freshly mowed lawn

watching woodpeckers in the tree right outside the picture window

conversations with littles about Fall... 
and their thankfulness that it is called "fall" instead of "drop"

planning little girl group birthday parties

Pow-wows at school... in costume and everything

W. African peanut sauce and couscous... boy, do we miss that stuff

Tori making cupcakes of her own initiative

lovely smelling birthday package from a dear friend arriving with the mail today!

growing third grade boys... and finally un-storaging the pants that aren't too small

working on my recipe box

dehydrating shrooms

looking forward to the Farmer's Market this week

bright red Kitchen Aid now sitting in my kitchen that used to belong to my mother-in-law... I smile every time I see it and think of her

phone conversations with a certain young man tucked away in the hills of central PA

just two weeks and some change until I get to see that boy

watching him and one of his "annoying" sisters chat back and forth on my hijacked fb page

Monday afternoon Santa Fe chicken with the Chamberlains (friends from Niger who just happened to be passing through the area)... about as good of a birthday gift as I could have hoped for!


Ten most recent posts in this series: 


  1. I use the forest fire analogy a lot in my talks of Jesus making something better. Great post

    1. it is an awesome analogy! thanks for the encouraging words and the visit, cassi !


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