We love to complain. Oh, I’ve never met anyone who admitted to being a world class complainer, but I think it’s time for us to come out of the closet and admit it—we love to complain. The list is endless isn’t it? We complain in the summer because it is too hot. In the winter, it’s too cold. We complain about politicians, the government, taxes, and those who don’t pay their fair share! We fuss about not having anything to wear as we stare into our closets packed with clothes. We gripe about not having anything to eat as we stare into refrigerators full of food. We grumble about our jobs. We don’t like our boss, can’t stand our co-workers, things are either way too busy or oh so slow. Some of us get frustrated because our house is too small, others say, “How am I supposed to keep this big ol’ house clean?” Our neighbors on the right are too loud. The neighbor on the left needs to mow his yard. Across the street, they are so nosy, always sticking their nose in other people’s business. Next door to them is the neighbor that never speaks, never waves, and nobody knows. “Something has got to be going on over there!” We fuss because the drive-thru at Arby’s is so slow and the lines at the airport are so long. We are so busy that we can’t do the things that we want to do. Others are so bored there is nothing to do. Parents like to grumble about their kids and kids return the favor by grumbling about their parents. We like to grumble, complain, fuss, and fume about our mate as well. It’s interesting isn’t it? We know what we’re looking for in a mate. We make a list of the most important qualities, the non-negotiables, and then we head out on our quest to find the perfect husband or wife. Libby Nicholas is from Enid, but she’s doing an internship at Focus On The Family this summer. Libby is single, but she knows the kind of guy she’s looking to walk down the aisle with one day. Libby wrote this past week about her list. She wrote,
He’s tall, dark and handsome. Witty. Intellectual. Smart. Well-read. Spontaneous. Motivated. Masculine. Good hair, good dresser. Musically talented. Organized. Creative. Responsible. Strong handshake. He also hates cats, but loves chocolate and talking about feelings. He spends most Saturdays volunteering at the homeless shelter or rescuing stray kittens. He’s working toward his MBA. And when he isn’t fishing, hunting or running a marathon, he’s playing his guitar and writing songs. He doesn’t eat McDonalds. He makes loafers look good. He doesn’t drive a Prius. I haven’t even mentioned the “super spiritual” stuff. He leads a bible study. He’s respected. He can’t wait to lead his wife spiritually. He’s like the Apostle Paul on the inside, and Bradley Cooper on the outside. (Nicholas, Libby. The 77 Qualities I Thought My Future Husband Had to Have.)
I hope Libby doesn’t show her list to anyone she’s dating or he will run like Usain Bolt! Jesus couldn’t fulfill that “wish list!” The truth is that even if Libby found a guy who she thought fulfilled every bullet point on her list…she’d still find something to grumble about at some point in her marriage. We just like to grumble and if we don’t have something to grumble about, then we’ll make something up.
In our lesson for today we’ll take a look at grumbling, but the grumbling we’ll take a look at has nothing to do with jobs, mates, or the weather, but grumbling against Jesus. Let’s take a look at John 6:40-51 and then we’ll see what we can learn.
40 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 them up at the last day.” 41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 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’?” 43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:40-51 NIV)
Jesus is no longer speaking to the hungry crowd of 5,000 that ate the bread and fish and wanted to make Him king. John 6:59 leads us to believe that Jesus is now speaking to the Jewish leaders, probably at the synagogue in Capernaum. If you have been here the past few weeks then you’ve probably noticed that some of what Jesus said in our Scripture for today is a repetition of what He has already said, but now that we realize He was talking to two different crowds it all makes sense.
John tells us that the Jewish leaders were grumbling at Jesus because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:41 NIV) We’ll come back to that in a minute, but first let’s take a longer look at “grumbling.” The Greek word that is translated, “grumble, murmur, or complain,” depending on which translation of the Bible you are reading, is the word, “???????” (gogguzo) and it means, “to murmur, mutter, or say anything against another in a low tone.” The word is used seven times in the New Testament. In Luke 5, the Pharisees complain to Jesus’ disciples about Him eating with tax collectors and sinners. In John 6-7 the word is used four times. In Matthew 20, Jesus used the word in His parable about the hired hands who complained because those who worked fewer hours were paid the same as them, even though they had worked a full day. Then, in 1 Corinthians 10:10, Paul uses the word twice in one verse. I want you to turn there with me.
10 And do not grumble, as some of them did–and were killed by the destroying angel. (1 Corinthians 10:10 NIV)
In your Bible, unless you are reading the King James Version, “grumble” only appears once, but in the Greek New Testament it appears twice. The grumbling that Paul was referring to was the complaining that the freed Hebrew slaves, the Chosen People of God, muttered all through their journey to the Promised Land. What’s really interesting is that the Septuagint, the Greek translastion of the Hebrew Bible uses this exact same word to translate the Hebrew for complaining and grumbling, “????” (luwn). The first occurrence is found in Exodus 15:24. Let me set the scene for you. God has just split the Red Sea in two so that His people could cross on dry ground and escape Pharaoh’s army. If that weren’t enough, God caused the Red Sea to close up on Pharaoh’s army as they pursued the Hebrews and they all drowned while God’s people didn’t even get wet! Moses’ sister, Miriam, took a tambourine and began to sing, praising God! Read along with me from Exodus 15:20-24.
20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.” 22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” (Exodus 15:20-24 NIV)
Three days removed from watching God perform the most amazing miracle to save His people and they are fussing and fuming, griping and complaining, bellyaching…because they are thirsty? If He can make a highway through the sea don’t you think He might be able to get you a drink? That was Exodus 15. In Exodus 16, they are complaining again because they were hungry. God fed them. In Exodus 17 they had traveled to Rephidim and began complaining again because they were thirsty. Oh, how quickly we forget what God has done don’t we?! And on and on the story goes. God was leading them, but not in the way they wanted to be led. God was feeding them, but not in the way they wanted to be fed.
The people were complaining to Moses. They accused him of bringing them out into the Wilderness to die, they blamed him for their hunger and thirst. Eventually Moses cried out to God. In Exodus 17:4 we read,
4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” (Exodus 17:4 NIV)
They were wearing Moses slick! Have you ever known someone who whined all the time? Then you can begin to understand how Moses felt. I say, “you can begin to understand,” but the truth is we can’t even imagine how Moses felt because he was the appointed leader of God’s people, estimated to be about 2 million people, and all 2 million had their sights set on him…“it’s all your fault!” Moses said, “What am I to do?”
In Exodus 16:8 Moses gives us some great insight about the grumbling of God’s people. The people were complaining as usual, God was taking care of them as usual, but then Moses said something that is very important for us to think about. He said,
8 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.” (Exodus 16:8 NIV)
That should stop us in our tracks. Even though the people were whining about Moses, he let them know that they were really grumbling against God. This is our biggest problem. We believe that our dissatisfaction is with life; the circumstances of our life, the trials that trouble us, and we would be so much happier if our circumstances were different.
God’s Word teaches us that our perspective is wrong and our conclusions are way off. Our dissatisfaction is really with God. You say, “I’m not dissatified with God at all.” Let me challenge that by asking you to answer a couple of questions: “Is God Sovereign over every event that takes place in our lives? Is He fully aware of every trial, every trouble, and every tear you’ve ever shed?” “Do you also believe that God loves you?” If we believe these things then we have to believe that the troubles and trials we go through in life are part of God’s plan. When we fuss and fume about the challenges we are having to endure we are really grumbling against God and not just our circumstances. This truth has driven me to my knees this past week. I am such a complainer about my life, especially the trials I’ve had to endure, and God has convicted me to the core this past week as I’ve been studying this Scripture.
I was talking with a friend this past week who has been on a long, decades long, journey of heartache. I told him that I have been praying for him. He said, “I’ve lived apart from the Holy Spirit’s help and I’ve lived with the help of the Holy Spirit. I had much rather go through these trials with His help. I’m not saying I’m jumping up and down happy about it, but I know He is helping me.” I have to tell you that I hung up the phone and knew that what my friend had just said to me was a word from God for me. Rather than focus on the pain of the circumstance I need to remember to focus on the all-sufficient help provided by the Lord.
There’s another kind of grumbling that people do against the Lord that is present in the Scripture we are studying today. Take a look at John 6:41-42.
41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 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’?” (John 6:41-42 NIV)
These were people who knew Jesus. They said, “That’s Joseph and Mary’s boy. Come down out of heaven, yeah right?!” They knew that Jesus was born in the despised town of Nazareth. Do you remember when Philip went to find Nathanael and said, “We’ve found him! We’ve found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the prophets have written about—Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph’s son.” Nathanael said, “Nazareth! Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) In their minds they knew everything there was to know about Jesus and yet He was the One who was claiming to have come down out of Heaven, He was claiming to be the Bread of Life! They knew better!
This wasn’t only the thoughts of a few. There were many who had known Jesus and His family for years and they weren’t convinced. Turn with me to Matthew 13:54-58 and let’s read together.
54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” 58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:54-58 NIV)
They made their assumptions about Jesus, but their assumptions were all wrong. There is a growing number of folks today who say they love Jesus, even go to church, but they’ve drawn their own conclusions about Jesus and His place among the other religious leaders of history. You’ve heard their comments. “Jesus was a great teacher. Jesus was a great humanitarian. Jesus was a great activist. Jesus was a great revolutionary. Jesus is my Christ, but I’m not going to say that He is the only way to God.” These statements, and statements along these lines are so prevalent today that if you or I simply state what Jesus said then others will immediately rise up and call us all kinds of names. We must either believe what Jesus said and hold onto it as the truth of God or renounce our belief in Jesus and go our own way, but you can’t, it is impossible to say that Jesus was a great man, but deny the things He claimed about Himself. As we close out our study let’s take a look at verses 48-51 where Jesus reinterates what He’s already said.
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51 NIV)
He is the bread of life. Period. There is nothing else that can or will satisfy you and me, but the One who is the bread of life. We really live in a crazy day. We look for satisfaction in every place imaginable, but don’t find lasting satisfaction in anything or anyone in life. Yet, at the same time, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” and we deny Him before we even “taste and see,” give Him a try.
Christopher Yuan was a brilliant young guy who grew up the son of Chinese immigrants in Chicago. He graduated from college and went to Dental School in Louisville, Kentucky. Christopher had always felt different, he didn’t fit in, but in dental school he began drinking, doing drugs, and going to clubs. He frequented gay bars and found his identity in the gay community. Christopher was smart. He figured out that if he sold drugs then he could do his drugs for free. He began to sell drugs to his classmates and professors. Then, with three months left before he received his dentistry degree he was expelled from school. Christopher didn’t care. He was making more money selling drugs than he could ever make as a dentist.
Christopher moved to Atlanta and dove headfirst into the party scene. He was selling drugs in 11 states in the southeastern part of the United States and was deeply involved in the gay lifestyle. Then, one morning, there was a knock at his door. It was 12 DEA agents with two German Shepherds. They didn’t need the dogs, Christopher had 9.1 tons of marijuana in his house. He was busted and went to prison. In prison, Christopher was given a medical exam, and found out he was HIV positive. His life was over. He knew he was going to die. He saw a small Gideon’s Bible in the trash, picked it up, and took it back to his cell. As he lay in bed thinking about the horrible news he had just received, he looked up at all of the graffitti scribbled on the bottom of the bunk above him. Among the graffitti was a note: “If you are bored read Jeremiah 29:11.” Christopher opened his Bible and read,
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
Through an amazing turn of events involving some hispanic prisoner’s worship service and the Scripture Christopher had read, he gave his life to Jesus. He read the Bible from cover to cover to find some verse that would agree with the homosexual lifestyle he had been living…he never found one. He said at that point he was confronted with a decision: He could either reject Jesus and the teaching of the Bible or he could reject the life he had been living and believe Jesus. He chose Jesus.
Christopher is really no different than the Saul who was persecuting Jesus’ followers or you and me. We are all confronted by the Lord and we have to make a decision: Will we choose to believe Jesus and follow Him or will we continue to live the life we’ve been living? We can grumble like the folks in Jesus’ hometown, we can dismiss Him like many athiests in our day, but His desire is to save us from our sins and ourselves, and lead us through this life. Won’t you invite Him in this very morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 20, 2014