There have been a few verses of scripture floating around in my head for a few days now. In John 6:68, Jesus and Peter are having a bit of a dialogue. Jesus has been teaching hard things and many followers turn and walk away. Whether Jesus is feeling rejection or whether he is feeling like he wants to challenge his disciples (or both), he says to Peter ‘Are you going too?’ Peter says to Jesus ‘To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have come to know that you are the holy one of God!’
That is quite a remarkable statement to make. It is quite a confession, especially at this stage of Peter’s walk with Jesus and with a whole load more challenge to come. And yet, there is something about his encounter with Jesus which leads him to this place. We do know that Peter was quick to say these things and then show by his living something quite different, but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and say they always arose from a good place!
I’ve consistently found this statement to be true, myself. I have no desire to go anywhere else than to Him. Don’t get me wrong, truth is revealed all over the place…not surprising if the whole of the Creation points towards him. Yet, the teachings of the gospels, for all their complexity and conundrums present to me a compelling Christ.
Two more things from last weeks teaching are worth a mention: firstly, our visit to the cinema to see ‘Silence’ – a film about the persecution of Japanese Christians in the 15th century. A powerful film about faithfulness of God’s people, but also of mission gone wrong by grossly misunderstanding a culture. Somehow, the words of the Christian missionaries had become a political threat as they were unable to separate imperialism with the gospel…a story which was true around the world. It strikes me that ‘words of eternal life’ will always stink to high heaven when they’re so pulluted with our own cultural presuppositions of what real Christians look like. It is a powerful film and I believe it shows not only the conversion of the Japanese but the conversion of zealous Jesuits who learned what it would take to live Christ in a different culture.
Second, on one of the days we spent a rather long time looking at some recent statistics on British people’s views of Jesus based on this research. Whilst I think a lot of the research is quite flawed in its findings for lots of reasons, I do believe it does show that people in this country may well have a vision of Jesus which resembles the safe, domesticated vision of Jesus that over 1600 years of Christendom has espoused: a Jesus who poses no threat, challenge or call to anyone. People ‘like’ Jesus. I understand that. But would they still like him if they saw the extent to which his Kingdom and values would turn their world and worldview upside down? I suspect that they wouldn’t be uttering ‘To whom shall we go…’ I think these are words, rather, that can only be uttered by one who has been through the process of revelation of Jesus as both Saviour and Lord. It is uttered by people who hear the hard stuff and still say with confidence: no-one else, Lord.
In our ‘post-Truth’ world, I suspect that the populist view of Jesus as a nice bloke will ever diminish. But alongside that, I see that there will be a challenging call to all would-be disciples because following Jesus will take us increasingly into holding a very different worldview than the trajectory of our society.
These few thoughts just bring my mind into sharp focus. Domestic Jesus isn’t going to cut it. Where’s the transformation and liberation in that? To go to him is to enter into a Way that is contrary, radical, other. It’s the proverbial ‘narrow road’ that few find and even fewer walk. And yet…that’s where the life is.