Grumbling Against Jesus

Grumbling Against Jesus

Imagine hearing Jesus say this. Would you think he was a liar, a lunatic, or Lord?

John 6:35-51 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"     "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.    It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

Jesus backs up his declarations about Himself with divine miracles. Prior to this teaching, Jesus fed more than 5000 people with just 5 loaves and 2 fish. Even after this miracle, they did not believe who He is. The people ate and were satisfied, and now many were following Jesus just to get their next meal. They wanted Jesus to prove to them who He is by showing them another sign.

We see in our text today how Jesus answered their demands. He didn’t perform another miracle. Instead, He told them the truth, that He is the bread of life, and that they should look for food that endures to everlasting life rather than pursuing earthly bread that doesn’t last. Jesus went on to say that He is the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. They should seek after Him to receive life from Him, not signs and wonders.

Rather than responding to this Good News with faith, rather than responding with “Lord we believe, please help our unbelief,” they ask, “How in the world can this be?” The people of Jesus’ day grumbled against Him. Even after He performs miracles for them and shows through His actions, not only who He is, but how much He loves and cares for them, they still grumble.

Jesus came as a King; He came as the Son of God, who took on the flesh of mankind so that He could save mankind. However, His lowly birth and social status gave people an opportunity to doubt, murmur, and grumble about His claims to be God’s Son. “We know you,” they said, “aren’t you the son of that carpenter Joseph and was not Mary your mother?” In other words, they were saying, “He doesn’t have any pedigree! He doesn’t even a degree from the Hebrew School of Theology. What arrogance to claim he is the Son of God!” “That’s blasphemy!”

Like any other sin, when the sin of grumbling gets out of hand, the problem just gets worse and worse. Grumbling can split churches and homes. In the Gospels, grumbling leads the people to wanting to get rid of Jesus.

Therefore, they begin to devise ways to dispose of this “trouble-maker”. They formulate schemes to kill Him. The grumbling intensifies. They finally have Him betrayed and brought before the Sanhedrin. In the morning, Pilate tried to placate their grumbling by having Jesus whipped, but that didn’t satisfy their desire. So Pilate decides to let the people decide what to do with Jesus. The grumblers start milling among the people grumbling against Jesus. It worked. Soon they have the crowd not only grumbling against Jesus, but screaming, “CRUCIFY HIM!!!”

And even when they think they have won, when Jesus is hanging bloody from a cross, their blatant grumbling goes on, and it takes the form of mockery. “This man saved others, but he can’t even save Himself” and “If He truly is the Son of God, let God come down and save Him, then we might believe.” Grumblers are never satisfied, even when they get their way. They grumble until they destroy everything around them, including themselves.

It’s easy for us to look back and see how their sin of grumbling progressed to outright rejection of their God and disowning their long awaited Messiah. However, it is not as easy to see that grumbling against Jesus didn’t stop back in the 1st Century. We still have people today who grumble against Jesus and His Body, the Church.

There are unbelievers that stand outside the Church and grumble about it. They say we are “closed-minded fundamentalists.” And because we firmly believe God’s Word in all its Truth, they say we are “judgmental”. When they see the effects of sin in our imperfect lives, they are quick to level a finger and call us “hypocrites.” They say, “Who do those Christians think they are anyway? They need to take their out-dated views and their man-made, make-believe religion out of the schools, out of the media, out of the courthouses, and out of my face!!!”

They don’t just grumble about the followers of Christ, they grumble about Christ saying, “Jesus was a crazy man, like David Koresh, except his followers just happened to be successful.” Some of them say, “Sure Jesus was a good guy, but that’s all He was. A good guy, like Buddha and Gandhi.” Some even say, “Jesus was a pervert, who had a homosexual relationship with John or pre-marital sex with Mary Magdalene.” Some say He never existed. The sin of grumbling against Jesus today leads people to deny that there is even a God at all. They become fools (Ps 14:1).

But don’t try to pretend it is just “those people back then” or “the people out there” that commit this sin. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that somehow God’s people are exempt from this temptation, because we most certainly are not! Many times, the dearly loved children of God, you, and me grumble against Him the most. The very people He has shown His love to and showered His blessings upon most lavishly, are often the people that turn on Him and grumble against Him at the first sign of trouble. It happened with the children of God in the Desert of Sinai, it happened in Jesus’ day, and it happens with you and me.

Exod 16:1-8 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days." So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, "In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?" Moses also said, "You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD."

If we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize that we are guilty of grumbling against Jesus. However, if you are asking yourself, “When did I grumble against Jesus” try these shoes on for size and see if they fit.

Have you ever grumbled when you were dissatisfied with God? Things didn’t go your way and you thought, “Why didn’t You answer my prayers, Lord?” Or, “Where were You during that tough time in my life, Jesus?” Or, “Lord, I deserve better than what You are putting me through right now!” Even if you didn’t have the courage to say it out loud, He heard those grumblings in your heart.

When we see blessings go to others instead of us; when we see unbelievers living better-off than we are, and we just don’t think that seems “fair”, we grumble. When those who we think deserve God’s punishment and anger get forgiven, and even rewarded, we grumble. We are just like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. We are just like Jonah after Nineveh repented. We even grumble at God’s grace to sinners.

We don’t just grumble against Jesus; we even grumble against each other. We gossip, we mutter, and we grumble, causing divisions in the church. When someone wrongs us, rather than taking it up with them in gentleness and love, we go to someone else and we spitefully grumble about our brother or sister in Christ. We grumble more often than we like to admit.

What do these groups of grumblers have in common--the grumblers in the Sinai desert, the grumblers of Jesus’ time, the grumbling atheists of today, and the children of God today who grumble against Jesus and each other? What is it that they all share? The wrath of a Holy God! The fierce anger of a God who hates sin. A God who hates the sin of grumbling! But don’t take my word for it, let’s see what God’s Word has to say about it.

Listen to what Paul writes concerning the Israelites who grumbled in the Sinai desert.

1 Cor 10:1-10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry." We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did-- and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did-- and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did-- and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Do you hear what Paul is saying? These things are to be examples to us, they were written down to be warnings to us! God doesn’t take grumbling or any sin lightly, and neither should we.

Num 11:1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.  

Paul isn’t the only New Testament writer who tries to warn us of this danger.

James 5:7-9 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Do you see what James is saying? The Judge is at the door; He can hear you! And if you are grumbling, you will be judged.

Grumbling deserves punishment. Our grumbling can cause us to spend eternity in Hell, separated from God, along with all the people who ever grumbled, and those that still grumble against Christ.

However, there is good news for those who have given their life to Christ. There is something that sets us apart from the grumbling atheists of today and the Israelites at Sinai. The something is this—our faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus says in verse 44, “No one has the power to come to me unless the Father draws him.” The Father has pulled us, through His Word, into repentance and faith in Jesus—this Jesus, who never grumbled—this suffering Son of God, who took our punishment upon Himself. He paid the price for our sin, even the sin of grumbling.

We are talking about Jesus who, while He was literally being beaten to a pulp by the jagged whips of Roman soldiers, didn’t grumble. When they were pushing and shoving him up to the hill called Calvary, he didn’t say a word.

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

As He hung there bleeding and suffocating on the Cross—bearing your sin and mine—as the intense pain of the driven nails sent spasms thru his tattered and torn body, instead of grumbling, He uttered 10 words that summed up His whole mission on earth, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

For all the times we grumble, He didn’t. For all the times we complain about God and criticize one another, Jesus kept silent. He who became sin for us simply says, “Forgive them.” And that’s what He does. He forgives. Therefore, He tells us to forgive one another.

This is the Jesus we believe in. He is the object of the faith we have. We don’t continue to believe because of a one-time prayer of repentance. We believe because the Holy Spirit has given His gift of faith to us through His Word.

We were born again into the family of God, right here, in the waters of baptism. We have been instructed and strengthened in our faith by the very Words of the Living God. And this saving faith is nourished and fed with the “Bread of Life” that Jesus spoke about, right here, at this communion table, when we eat the bread and drink from the cup that represent His body and His blood.

It is because of this, because of God’s grace, that we have been set free from this sin of grumbling. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to grumble less and give thanks more. We are able to use our words to build up instead of tearing down. Our complaints are turned to praise.

Phil 2:14-15 Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe

The world grumbles against Jesus and almost everything else. As we praise and give thanks to God, the light of Jesus shines through us in this dark world. Jesus tells us in verse 47 “He who believes has everlasting life”. He is talking about you. You can be 100% confident this is what the future holds for you. Jesus has promised it and He will see it through. He will see you through this life and into the next, to live and reign with Him in heaven forever.

Brothers and Sisters, that’s a reason to praise and to give thanks to our loving God. A God who is merciful enough to save even ungrateful grumblers like you and me.