Short Meditations in John 6: 41. Grumbling
Jn 6:41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
Watch people at the end of a service where there has been preaching. How do they leave? Are they animated, full of ‘the word’ they have taken in, absorbed and been changed by, or do they leave with long faces muttering about ‘complicated teaching’ or ‘rubbish preaching’?
It’s a funny thing but Jesus didn’t seem to go out of his way to help people understand what he was teaching, in fact, quite to the contrary, sometimes it seems he was being purposely obtuse. He used parables and then didn’t explain them – except to those closest to him, when they were in private (e.g. Mk 4:1-11). Indeed he quoted Isaiah, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!” (Mk 4:12). In other words he did not want surface, shallow or unreal repentance, he wanted real heart-moving changes that came to those who truly sought to be close to him.
In our present reading, Jesus made a very simple statement – “I am the source of life that has come from heaven to you” – and the Jews with their hostile hearts just couldn’t see that. We often say that sin blinds (e.g. 2 Cor 4:4. 1 Jn 2:11, Rev 3:17). A truly humble, searching heart might have responded, “Lord, please forgive my obtuseness but can you explain further what that means? Are you equating yourself with the manna that God gave in Moses’ day? And what do you mean when you said you have down from heaven? Do you simply mean you have been sent by God or is there some deeper meaning?” But they didn’t; they just grumbled.
Now grumbling is an irritable or grumpy response, a negative response that looks to blame the communicator. When people leave on Sunday morning in this frame of mind, it is always possible that the preacher was having a bad day, but even then it is still possible to get some crumbs from what was said. People sometimes say, “Well, I find it difficult to concentrate.” Well take notes, that helps anchor your mind on what is being said and helps you take it in and be fed by it. If the teaching is complex (and sometimes the Bible is complex) and you find it difficult to take in and understand what is being said, make a note to yourself to go away, pray over it and ask the Lord for understanding. If it is a small church (not so easy to do in a large church) talk to the preacher afterwards and ask for further explanation; maybe there are other people who would value further help over coffee afterwards. But grumble? No, that simply reveals a bad heart, just like these Jews before Jesus. Let’s not be that.