Stories From The New Testament: Chapter 14 - Opposition Gathers
Shirley King Johnson
The grassy plain that had been the scene of the feeding of the 5,000 bustled with activity the next day. News of the free food Christ had provided brought hundreds of people to the site expecting bread and fish for themselves. Some of the multitude had lingered on the plain all night. They had caught glimpses of Jesus as He climbed the mountain alone and had observed the apostles leave in a boat. Yet, when morning dawned, there was no trace of Jesus on the plain or hillside.
Peter, walking last with Judas, asked him softly, "Which one of us would be an enemy?" Judas' hands toyed with... a money bag at his waist. "That man delights In riddles. Too many riddles."
Eventually the majority of the multitude started leaving in boats, hoping to find Jesus in Capernaum (John 6:24). They discovered Him at the synagogue, teaching those who had gathered. Part of the multitude pushed into the building while the overflow waited outside.
Followers turn back
"Rabbi, when did you get here?" someone in the crowd asked. "You came to me today because of the food I fed you yesterday," Jesus said, ignoring the question. The miracle of walking on the water in no way concerned them. They had come out of curiosity and self-interest. "You are much too concerned about physical things that will perish. Your goal should be the everlasting life that the Son of man shall give you." Someone asked, "What should we do to please God and do His work?" Jesus replied, "The work of God is to believe in the one whom He has sent." "Give us a miracle if you want us to believe in you," another called out. "Give us free bread every day like our fathers ate while they wandered through the wilderness! The Scriptures tell us that Moses gave them bread from heaven." "Moses didn't give the bread from heaven to them," Jesus corrected. "But my Father now offers you the true bread from heaven. I am the bread of life." When Jesus went on to explain that no one could come to Him unless the Father called him, and that He was giving a special bread - His flesh - for them to eat, the people began to openly scoff. Ignoring the murmuring, Jesus explained that obeying His words would lead to eternal life. The crowd began to disperse, melting away as ice disappears on a summer day. From that time many who had shown an interest in Jesus' message turned back (verse 66). Jesus went to the door of the synagogue and watched as former followers went off down the street. The 12 apostles collected quietly behind Him. He turned. "Will you go away, too?"
An enemy among the apostles
It was warmhearted Peter who impetuously spoke for all the rest. "Go away?" He stepped forward. "Lord, to whom would we go? There is no one else. You have the words of eternal life. And we believe you. We know you're the holy one sent from God!" The others nodded their heads. It was a noble statement, but Jesus only shook His head. "I chose all 12 of you. And isn't one of you an enemy?" (John 6:70). The apostles looked from one to another and back to Christ, baffled by the question. Jesus moved on down the street without further explanation, and the apostles followed behind in silent groups of twos and threes. Peter, walking last with Judas, asked him softly, "Which one of us would be an enemy?" Judas' hands toyed with the thongs that held a money bag at his waist. "That man delights in riddles. Too many riddles." He gave his money bag an irritated twist. "But when we ask Him to tell us the meaning of the riddles, He explains them," Peter reminded. "Why can't He make it plain in the first place? Why the constant mystery?" Judas complained. He walked faster to leave Peter behind. Walking in silence, Peter wished Judas would not be so critical.
Religious authorities challenge Jesus
Jesus turned toward the marketplace. It was crowded with the multitude who had earlier heard Jesus speak at the synagogue. A cluster of Pharisees and scribes had arrived from Jerusalem, and they stood by themselves under two great ash trees, watching the milling crowd.
Jesus' blistering glance included all the Pharisees. "Isaiah wrote of... you when he said, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.' "... they made no rebuttal.
The Pharisees were noted for their belief in and strict adherence to the oral law, a supplement to the written law, with various comments handed down by tradition. These traditions began to be recognized as having authority equal to and even greater than the written law. The scribes, closely associated with the Pharisees, became interpreters of God's law as well as copyists. At this time the Aramaic dialect was becoming the main language of the Jews, and the masses were obliged to accept the interpretation that the scribes put upon the laws, which were written in Hebrew. Seeing the Pharisees, Peter stiffened. He knew that they had come to find fault. As he helped carry several loaves of bread, he broke off chunks to share with Philip and James and began to chew on a crust as they walked along. "Rabbi, may I ask you a question?" called a Pharisee to Jesus. Jesus paused and the 12 apostles drew up behind Him. "Why aren't your disciples keeping the tradition of the elders? I see your disciples eating with defiled hands" (Matt. 15:2, Mark 7:2). He pointed out Peter, who was still chewing the bread. Peter's jaws stopped working. Jesus' eyes narrowed with indignation. "And why do you violate the commandments of God by a tradition of yours? God's command is 'Honor your father and your mother,' but your rule is that, instead of giving to father or mother, a person may simply give the sum intended for their support to the Temple, and be excused from further support of his parents. This, for the sake of tradition, contradicts the very word of God. And that's just one example of what you do. There are many others." Jesus' blistering glance included all the Pharisees. "Isaiah wrote of such actor-hypocrites as you when he said, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'" He paused but they made no rebuttal. "Understand this principle: There is nothing that goes into a man's mouth that can defile him, but it is the words and deeds that come out of a man that defile him." Turning on His heel, Jesus left the marketplace and the apostles followed.
The puzzle explained
When they were by themselves, the apostles approached Jesus. "Sir, did you know that those Pharisees were offended by what you said to them?" (Matt. 15:12). Jesus shrugged. "They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a ditch." "Will you please explain what you meant about food that defiles?" Peter asked, throwing Judas a sidelong glance. "Of course," Jesus replied. "Any soil or sand on the food we eat is sorted out and eliminated by the body's digestive system. But the evils that pour out of men's hearts include fornication, thefts, murder, covetousness, deceit, lust, railing and foolishness. These things defile a man" (Mark 7:17-23). As they continued to talk, Peter's thought returned to the words Jesus spoke at the synagogue: "Isn't one of you an enemy?" Peter wished Jesus would explain that, but he was afraid to ask.