How Do You React When You Don't Understand?

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69)


Some in the larger group that had been following Jesus decided to stop following him.  (See above)  This happened after Jesus described himself as “the bread of life” (John 6:48) and “the living bread that came down from heaven”... after he said that “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51b)  He went on to say, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53)  This is the parallel passage to the story of the Last Supper in the Synoptic gospels - Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

From this and similar passages in scripture, all sorts of theology - eucharistic and sacramental theology - has developed in the Church.  It was part of the controversy and disagreement during the time of the Reformation in the 1500’s.  How is Christ present in the eucharist?  How does the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ?  People were declared “unorthodox” and even killed if they were thought to have heretical views.

Notice that even during the time of Jesus, people were having a hard time understanding.  They said things like, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52) and “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (John 6:60)  (It is best to read all of chapter 6 in John to get the broader context.)  For some, the teaching was so difficult that they stopped following Jesus.

How do you react when you don’t understand something?  Do you get frustrated?  Do you throw up your hands and say, “This doesn’t make sense, so it must not be true?”  Are you someone who “digs in” and studies harder?  Are you someone who understands that some things are quite mystical, and are not meant to be understood on a purely rational level?  Are you led is such instances to pray, “Lord, I don’t really get this.  Help me understand this in time.  Lead me into your truth... in your time.”  

I have probably adopted all of these attitudes at one point or another in my life, and in my life of faith.  Not everything in life - or in a life of faith - is easily explained.  We cannot tie up everything into neat little bows and come up with a perfect “systematic theology.”  Perhaps this is simply because we are finite and God is infinite.

One of the ways that I totally resonate with Simon Peter is when he says “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

I may not always understand Jesus’ teachings.  But I have found him to be the Bread of Life... the One who loves me, watches over me, guides me, and leads me to a life of meaning and purpose, to an abundant and eternal life that began the moment that I said, “I believe, Lord.  I believe you are Lord and Messiah, and I want to follow you.”

Not everything can be explained with logic - with an analytical mind.  My friend Julie says, “Your mind is not always your friend! Don’t always believe your thoughts!” (Here’s an example:  You make up a story about someone when you have almost no information about that person or their motives.)

What do you KNOW to be true - in your heart, in your gut, and in your soul?  Who is God for you - based on your experience of God?  How has your life been transformed over the years, because you have stepped out in faith, trusting that Jesus is the Holy One of God?

These are the kinds of questions that really interest me!