What makes you grumpy? Many situations make me grumpy, but it is probably home repairs that hit me the worst. When something breaks in our house, or something needs updated, it really stresses me out, and I can get so grumpy. For other people, it is bad drivers. Some of you hate mornings, and you have the grumps until sometime after you get some coffee in your system. All sorts of situations can make us grumble and complain. Meetings. Relationships. What makes your face twist up in knots like the woman in the photo above?
One day some people grumbled at Jesus’ teaching. Look at John 6, verses 41-42,
“At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ 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.”?’”
The people who were reacting negatively are described as “The Jews,” which is likely a reference to the Jewish religious leaders, like the Pharisees. They could not accept Jesus making any kind of divine claim such as “I am the Bread of life from heaven.”
As we learned in chapter 5, verses 16-18, the religious leaders were watching Jesus, listening to his every word, eager for him to make a misstep so they could take him down. Did Jesus make that mistake in chapter 6, verse 33, when he said that he is the bread who came from heaven? The religious leaders thought maybe he did make a mistake. In their minds, Jesus was a regular man. They knew his parents for goodness’ sake. How could he possibly say that he had a divine origin? He had a human father and mother! This made them grumpy!
Look at how Jesus responds in verse 43, “’Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ Jesus answered.”
I wish I could see the look on his face when he said that. But this much is clear. He is not in the least deterred by the religious leaders who are getting on his case. Instead he tells them to stop grumbling. Ha! Now I wish I could see the look on their faces. Angry, embarrassed, red? All of the above?
These so-called self-righteous holy people are stopped short by a former handyman with little religious or ministerial training. Yet there is nothing they can do, because he is right. They were grumbling, acting childish, unbecoming of people of their stature.
In Philippians 2:14, one of Jesus’ earliest followers, Paul, would later write: “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” which sounds like a tall order. Everything? How quick are you to grumble or complain? Given the right situation, grumbling and complaining can rush out of my mouth ultra-fast, almost as if it is an uncontrollable force within me.
But the truth is that you and I can learn to control our reactions, even in the most desperate situations. It will almost certainly take practice, and maybe even lots of practice. As followers of Jesus, though, we have the Spirit of Jesus living within us, seeking to transform our hearts, minds and actions to be in line with the life of Jesus. Paul describes this in Galatians 5, teaching that when we “walk in step with the Spirit,” the Fruit of the Spirit will flow from our lives, including gentleness, kindness, goodness, love, patience, peace and self-control. Those are just the kind of characteristics, habits, attitudes and traits that we can learn and grow to reduce the amount of grumbling and complaining in our lives.
Do you need to address grumbling and complaining in your life? I encourage you to pray about it, first of all. Confess it to God, and ask him to grow his Fruit of the Spirit in your life. Then, secondly, talk about it with people. Confess it to others, and especially confess it to the people who hear you grumble and complain the most. Tell them you are sorry and you are working to change. Thirdly, invite someone to hold you accountable. Maybe they can check in on you weekly, asking you to describe how you’re doing with decreasing grumbling and complaining.
Back to John, as Jesus confronts the religious elite about their grumbling, I bet the crowd gets silent. Now that Jesus has everyone’s attention, he continues teaching, and we’ll hear what he has to say in the next post.
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