If Not Jesus, Then Who?
Reading through the sixth chapter of John we see that the popularity of Jesus had grown at this point of His life. Many were following him because of material or worldly gain – 'because they had their stomachs filled'. Jesus refused to accept such and preached the sermons of this chapter to separate the wheat and the chaff. The presentation of spiritual truth will do this. Its claims and demands will cause the superficial followers to look for an easier answer. It worked this time too. Many turned and walked no more with Jesus. Rather than chase after them Jesus turned to the apostles and asked them: "Will you go away also?" Their answer was just as direct – "to whom would we go?" Looking at this episode in the life of Jesus we can see three concepts.
First, there is the concept that men need someone in life. Peter sensed this – to whom would we go – implying that they would need to go to someone. People have always sought answers to the fundamental questions – "Who / what am I?"; "Where did I come from?"; "Where am I going?". Often these questions are either answered superficially or ignored – for a while. Most atheists would answer – I am an accident of nature, I came from nothing (evolved from some lower life form), I will return to nothing. Yet, these same answers seem wholly lacking at the point of death. Many more people just refuse to ask these questions. This lets them mentally cruise through life – doing what feels best or poses the least amount of problems for the moment. They are busy with life.
Yet, there comes a crisis in everyone's life that sends them seeking for someone. They seek someone that can raise them above their circumstances – whether such is poverty, sickness, disappointment, or some other unwanted situation. Although these may first seek someone who can change the circumstance – turn poverty into plenty or sickness into health – they later look for someone that can change their outlook on life so that such circumstances becomes livable.
At other times the search begins with the realization of guilt – not guilt feelings, but guilt – knowing that we haven't done right. Men search for an escape. They can seek forgiveness – but who can forgive? Who can lead us into a life that is free from guilt – free from the consequences of sin and error?
Behind such guilt are the more fundamental questions: "How shall I live? What will I consider to be wrong and right? What will I accept as an ethical standard?" Am I smart enough to just figure all of this out on my own? Will I let the general consensus of the society I live in make such a decision? Will I accept that it is right just because everyone is doing it? Make no mistake about this, everyone makes such ethical decisions. Everyone adopts some ethical and moral guidelines. To whom will I go for such moral and spiritual guidance?
It is appointed for men to die (Heb. 9:27). At some point we come face to face with our mortality. Young people don't deal with it -–until one of their friends dies. How short the lesson is though -–for soon they are going on with life as if there is no end. Middle age people who are busy with families and jobs don't spend time thinking about such a morbid thought. Today, the older generation often is too busy enjoying their 'well earned retirement' to give this much thought. Besides, such thinking is depressing and gets in the way of fun. We all know we are going to die – we just refuse to deal with it as a NOW thing. Eventually there comes a day when we must face it. When we do we begin looking for someone with answers. To whom will we go?
This brings us to the second concept – to whom will we go? While we may ignore the problems of life for awhile, eventually we need answers. To whom will we go? For me as a Christian I might rephrase it – what will you substitute for the gospel? If you have no faith in the bible for such answers, then what do you believe in? What do you trust?
Shall we cast our lot with the atheist? Shall we believe that there is no purpose to life and existence? Shall we believe that death is the eternal end of this phenomenon we call life?
Perhaps we can cast our lot with the psychologists and humanists that would try and comfort us in our errors. People often turn to psychology – not for forgiveness but to find validation in changing the 'rules'. This allows them to declare that the guilt only exists because of the rule. Doing away with the rule does away with the guilt. However the effect is to say that there are no rules of right and wrong. If I can simply change the rules so that I am no longer guilty so can everyone else. With no rules everyone is right in their own eyes but society is unlivable.
Shall we cast our lot with the worldly? Shall we cast our hopes, our fears, our aspirations on the interest and pleasures of this world? For how long? How satisfying are they when we face death? If I live for money – I will die and leave it all (and who know whether the one getting it is a fool or wise?). If I live for fame – I will die and be forgotten. Can you name the kings of France? Can you name the 5thVice-president of the USA? Who were the sports heroes (and make no mistake, there were some) in the days of Paul? If I live for pleasure when I die I have no pleasure. Corpses feel nothing – enjoy nothing. Interject the idea of hell and to live for pleasure ends with an eternity of suffering.
The answers commonly given throughout the history of mankind come from the various religions of the world – Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, etc. The detailed answer to why each of these ultimately fails to give an adequate answer is beyond the scope of this article. However, I believe that they all fail in the same point – they ignore the need of forgiveness. Some don't even include the problem of sin, much less forgiveness. Most would pervert the concept of the righteousness and holiness of God – suggesting that God just overlooks and tolerates sin. This is the real problem as I see it. God's holiness demands that 'the soul that sinneth it shall die' – that all such will be separated from the very presence of God. Those that partake of sinful behavior CANNOT inherit the kingdom of God (will not be allowed into the presence and fellowship of God) – Gal. 5:19f, 1 Cor. 6:9f.
This then brings me to the third concept – that only Jesus provides the real answer of life. As Peter said – "Thou hast the words of life". In the teachings of Jesus we find not only words that are good for THIS life – but words that will lead us to eternal life. "I am the way, the truth and the life…" (John 14:6). It is He that came "down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world". Jesus alone could say "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35, 48, 51). "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). Such life is available for all – for the world. Not all will accept it – some having heard will in fact walk away and follow Him no more. As Jesus asked the apostles – will you go away also? To whom are you turning?