Many among his disciples heard this and said, “This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow.”
Jesus sensed that his disciples were having a hard time with this and said, “Does this throw you completely? What would happen if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he came from? The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen. Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this.” (Jesus knew from the start that some weren’t going to risk themselves with him. He knew also who would betray him.) He went on to say, “This is why I told you earlier that no one is capable of coming to me on his own. You get to me only as a gift from the Father.”
After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: “Do you also want to leave?”
Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.”
Jesus responded, “Haven’t I handpicked you, the Twelve? Still, one of you is a devil!” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. This man—one from the Twelve!—was even then getting ready to betray him. // John 6:60-71, The Message
Can I tell you a secret?
It’s one that I shouldn’t tell you.
But, I’m going to tell you anyway.
Most of us who are working with people walk around feeling like failures or at the very least a bit disappointed.
I don’t know a single parent, teacher, coach, counselor, therapist, or pastor who doesn’t carry with them a nagging sense that they just aren’t doing things well enough. When we get real honest with ourselves we look around and think, “I could have done so much more.”
People are never a finished work. People are always in process. There is never a point when we stop and look at someone and say, “They have arrived!”
It turns out that people are really messy. We can be so beautiful and wonderful and kind and loving and awful and mean and nasty.
The temptation is to focus on the failures. Often when we do, we think it’s our own fault. We could have done so much more. Somehow, if only I could have done a better job then that person would not have failed.
Many of us have a perfection complex.
Maybe this wasn’t that big of a secret after all. Because, some of you are probably thinking, “Duh, I experience this all the time.”
Ok, how about this secret: Jesus experienced this too.
Did you catch the end of his conversation with the Twelve? “Haven’t I handpicked you, the Twelve? Still, one of you is a devil!”
Y’all, this is Jesus. The perfect one. The God-Man himself. He handpicked the Twelve and picked one that was “a devil.” Now, I know that many of you are already theologizing this and saying, “Yeah, he had to because Judas was going to play the role of traitor to get him crucified.” If you want to theologize this away, that’s up to you. I get it.
I’ll tell you what, this has been one of the most comforting verses for me in the whole Bible.
Well, on the one hand it shows me the importance of differentiating myself from those entrusted to my care. Jesus didn’t find his identity in the Twelve. He was able to separate himself from them. Because of this, he was able to fully love all of them even though he knew one was going to betray him. Think about that for a minute. There is no place in the whole of the Gospels that we see Jesus do anything but fully love Judas. I am learning that is only possible because Jesus fully found his identity in relation to the Father and not to other people.
On the other hand, it shows me that the perfect one, the God-Man, experienced someone whom he had given significant time to not becoming a “success.” This is remarkable isn’t it? If there’s anyone who should bat 1.000 for people “success” shouldn’t it be Jesus? There’s another story where he heals a whole bunch of folks all at once and only one guy comes back and thanks him.
If Jesus experienced these things, how much more will we?
This story for me has lead me to a lesson that I keep trying to learn: Relax.
People’s lives and stories are going to follow their own trajectories and story arcs. We can’t control them. There is no way that we can expect to set the stage and force people to say the lines that we want them to say. No, we are mutual travelers. As we journey and meet others on their journey we encourage them and point them toward faith, hope, and love. We trust that the sovereign and good God will bring their journeys to God in Christ.
Love people well and relax.
The question for us is not: How did this person turn out?
The question for us is: Did I love them well?
When we ask the second question we can begin to relax because what matters is the journey and not the destination.