I heard a story recently of a woman who was leading a bible study. During a study, one of the women in her group shared that she had cancer riddling her body. She was on a life-timer and there was nothing she could do. Her group rallied around her, cooked her meals, paid for a housekeeper, did her laundry, watched her kids, loved on her as best as they knew how, knowing that she needed a supportive group around her during her darkest, and probably last, days.
And then one day, her husband asked one of the women why they were always doing things for his wife. She looked at him crazy and said “Because she’s dying. We needed to do something to help her.” After a confusing conversation, it was finally revealed that the woman who had cancer had actually lied about everything. She was perfectly well… physically. She had never had cancer before and, as far as she knew, was cancer free at that moment. But she couldn’t help but lie and couldn’t dig out of the lie she had told.
Needless to say, the group had all the feelings. Some left the group, one woman even left the church, but all felt betrayed. The study leader, despite her hurt and betrayal, continued to meet with the woman, having coffee with her and helping her find a physician who could help with her mental instabilities.
I am sure we have all been in situations where someone has betrayed us or our expectations haven’t been met and we were upset by someone’s actions. In John 6, Jesus performs miracle after miracle – he feeds 5000 men and their wives and kids with a happy meal, and then goes to walk on water – and yet the people couldn’t trust him enough to get past their expectations of what he should be to them.
Jesus never wavers, telling them “’I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’ Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (v. 51-52). He tells them the truth, only they don’t understand the words and so they leave, thinking Jesus is crazy and certainly telling them of a life they could never live up to. They leave confused and hurt that their expectations didn’t line up with reality.
Jesus then asks the disciples if they are still sure about who he is. Peter steps up for the group and says “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the holy one of God.” (v 68-69) And even here, Jesus knows that, while they all know who he truly is, he will still be betrayed and led to his death by one who is sitting in front of him and claiming to love him.
This chapter is filled with betrayal and unmet expectations. With people misunderstanding and underestimating Jesus. With future betrayal by Judas and the future masses calling out for Jesus death looming in the background.
But Jesus, our friend Jesus, never falters. He takes them at their hearts and doesn’t lament the dispersed masses. He doesn’t question his message, he doesn’t call out the betrayers and lukewarm followers. He simply makes time for those in front of him. He knows someone in his close circle will lead him to his death and he knows a group of people not unlike the one that was following him earlier in the day would be cheering for his demise. And still, he remains to love and teach the truth to those who will listen.
His love in the face of betrayal and dismissal is tangible. His words of truth may sometimes be hard to face in the light of our expectations, but they are always true. The truth about following Jesus is that sometimes our expectations are not going to be met. But Jesus will always love us enough to tell us the truth and to lead us to the truth.