“Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’” (John 6:43-45)
This quote is a part of the dialogue between Jesus and the people who were most persistently following him after the feeding of the five thousand. These folks went a long way to be near Jesus, going even to the lengths to get in a boat and travel across the Sea of Galilee from Gennesaret to Capernaum. In other words, once Jesus left them, they wanted to know more so much that they went about 3 miles in a boat to find him. This comes after he told them all the confusing stuff about not working for the “bread that perishes” (John 6: 27) and that he was “the bread of God which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6: 33). I don’t blame them for complaining, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them wanted to get back in their boat and go home, but these were the people who most wanted to understand Jesus and what he had come to do. In some ways they were like the core members of a church, people who so desired to be with Jesus and know what his way was that they put tremendous effort into following him. It is natural that they would complain that the message about bread from heaven and Jesus doing the will of his Father in heaven was hard to understand.
But Jesus tells the people not to complain about him and his message, indeed not to even worry about how hard it is to explain his work. He knows it’s hard to understand the idea that a man could also be the Son of God coming down from heaven to bring God’s life to the world. He also knows that people are drawn to him, not because of what he does or what he says, but because of who he is. This is the paradox of evangelism. Jesus’ work is the free gift of his life to the world. It is grace. Nothing we do or say can convince others to accept him, but we are called to share this life with the world. We cannot make the message easier to understand. What we can do is recognize that we are drawn to a life with Jesus, as the folks who got in the boat were drawn to him. We can share with others what draws us to Jesus, and trust that they shall be taught by God in our sharing. I share with others that I feel the love of Jesus in other people and that I am taught by God in reading the scriptures, and that I am drawn to pray because it brings me peace to know that saving the world is not up to me. It’s never about convincing them to accept the truth of God logically or intellectually. It’s about sharing a life lived with Jesus, and inviting others into the boat to travel with him. We will complain a lot that we don’t understand, and that we don’t feel qualified, but it’s not about us teaching people to love God, it’s about us loving God, accepting his free gift of love in communion with Jesus, and sharing that with others. The bread that comes down from heaven is shared every week at St. Luke’s, and from there with the world as you step into it in loving service and sharing the faith. You are not responsible for bringing people to Christ, but your sharing the joy of following him draws others to the way of love.