When there is nowhere else to go

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There are times in life when it becomes obvious not only that the God who has revealed Himself in Christ is true, but that there is nowhere else to go. One such moment occurred for the apostles when many people who had been disciples of Jesus left Him because of His hard sayings (see John 6:60-66). Jesus then challenged the Twelve: ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ (John 6:66) Here they were, looking at the backs of the people who were their erstwhile friends and who were now leaving. They must have been asking themselves: ‘Did we get this right?’

 

Something like this will happen in our lives. Perhaps nothing in particular might have occurred, but we may be overwhelmed with a sense of what the book of Ecclesiastes says, that without God everything is full of vanity or futility or meaninglessness. Someone’s death can raise the issue: ‘What is it all about?’ Or perhaps we face hostility or intimidation, and we are tempted to think that Christianity is on the losing side. In one of his periodic rants, Richard Dawkins declared: ‘Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, perhaps because of, lack of evidence. The worst thing is that the rest of us are supposed to respect it, to treat it with kid gloves.’ There are a number of assumptions in that little piece, namely that Christians are not scientists and scientists are not Christians; that Christians cannot think; and that Christians think that they need to be pampered. Dawkins is not really arguing a case so much as engaging in bluster.

Jesus pushes the question of where we stand on each one of us. Elijah pressed the Israelites of the ninth century B.C. with a similar kind of question: ‘How long will you go limping between two different opinions?’ (1 Kings 18:21) If we are into counting heads before announcing our principles or advertising our policies, we would have gone with the prophets of Baal. During World War II, Stalin is supposed to have asked: ‘How many battalions has the pope?’ That is how so many conduct their lives. Christianity is the ultimate success story, but it always looks like a perennial defeat.

Peter faces up to Jesus’ question, and answers superbly: ‘Lord, 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’ (6:68-69). Here Peter speaks for himself and for all the apostles. He realises that there is no one else to turn to. Every human being on the planet has to deal with the problem of sin, and then the knowledge that death will come to each one of us, and that God is our judge, the one who will determine our destiny forever and ever. Turn from Christ, and where do you go to? To the New Age philosophy of thinking that you have all the divine potential within you? To Islam, and a pilgrimage to Mecca to be cleansed? To the postmodern philosophy of deconstruction where the text means anything you want it to mean? To parliament to get it to pass wonderful laws? Or to sit tight and hope for the best? Is there anywhere else to go besides Christ? Sin, death, and judgment hang over us all. Who can deal with our sin except Christ, our death except Christ, and who can save us from God’s judgment except Christ?

Peter realises that Christ alone has the words of eternal life. Movies, magazines, gurus – we get tired of them all – but we can read the Gospels over and over, and find our souls refreshed each time. Christ speaks truth, He speaks with authority, He speaks graciously, He speaks as one who knows all things, including the holy depths of God and the sinful depths of the human heart. The book of Isaiah uses the expression ‘the holy One of Israel’ about 25 times, and here in John 6 Peter realises that Christ shares the name of God. Hence he cannot possibly go away; there is nowhere else to go.

C.S. Lewis confessed: ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.’ With Christ, everything makes sense in this life, so far as we can understand this life. Without Him, it is all evasion and pretence. The Puritan, Samuel Annesley, proclaimed: ‘By faith we live upon God; by obedience we live to God; but by love we live in God!’ It is Christ who reveals all that to us. He is more than sufficient for each of us.


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