Years ago in my small group, I was reminded of the scene where Jesus is once again being questioned by his own people–Jews–about who he is and why he does what he does. The scene takes place in John chapter 6. Jesus is explaining in terms that they obviously don’t understand.
He calls himself the “bread of life.” He also says if anyone drinks from him they’ll never be thirsty. After telling them that to eat his flesh and drink his blood means they’ll have a life in him, they’re totally confused.
“When many of the disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (6:60) After this, John records, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (6:66)
At first glance, I think if I were standing there with questions and Jesus said I had to eat him and drink his blood, I might consider making an exit as well.
Recently, I watched the movie “A League of Their Own” again. The film is about a women’s baseball league formed during WWII, but it’s about so much more. Toward the end of the movie, Dottie, who is by everyone’s estimation the best player in the league, decides she’s going home because her husband has returned from the war.
The bus is about to leave for the final series and her team is playing in it. Coach Dugan talks to her about her decision and makes the point that “baseball is inside” her.
“It just got too hard,” Dottie says.
“It’s supposed to be hard,” Coach Jimmy replies. “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The ‘hard’ is what makes it great.” With that, he turns and walks back to the bus and his team.
Sitting in my small group back then, I remember thinking of what Jesus said to his twelve apostles when that confused and probably disgusted group turned and walked away.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?”
Peter, as usual, believes he speaks for them all when he says, “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.”
During that meeting it occurred to me that, even if I hadn’t actually put words to it, I knew I’d never want to leave Jesus and go back to what I’d been doing before. I thought about that lifestyle and it sickened me. How could I turn back and not follow? I thought. Jesus had gotten inside me.
But following can be hard. In fact,
“Jesus promised his disciples three things–that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” F.R. Maltby
Do you find that following Jesus is difficult sometimes? If Jesus says we believers are the light of the world, doesn’t that mean shining brightly in a dark world is part of the package? If we’re the salt of the earth, wouldn’t that mean being a savory addition to the lives we touch?
Some days I’m a measly 40-watt bulb with a heavy layer of dust covering me. Ask me to be salty and I might make some comment about preventing hypertension.
It can be hard.
Fortunately, and by the grace of God, we aren’t expected to be salt and light in our own power. Just like Dottie had a coach, we have the Holy Spirit to direct us and help us when things get hard. She had team mates and we have the members of Christ’s Church to encourage and support us.
Coach Jimmy Dugan’s words are true for many things. It’s hard to raise children. Working on our relationships to keep them afloat is hard. We aren’t going to just breeze through college or through a military career. Right now you might be involved in a project that’s overwhelming you.
But if it wasn’t hard, just like being a follower of Jesus can be, everyone would do it. It helps to remember what’s on the other side of this life.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Father in heaven, I thank you today that I have a choice to follow and that you rescued me from the lifestyle I seemed trapped in. When you give me a task to do that I balk at because it’s hard, remind me that you’re always in control. Thank you for making me salt and light to the world. Remind me that when I see your work in the world that the “hard” is what’s making this life as a follower “great.”