“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life...”
In the passage preceding this one, Jesus likens himself to the manna that God sent to sustain the Israelites as they were in the wilderness. God demonstrated to the Israelites their utter dependence on him throughout their rescue from Egypt and time wandering in the wilderness. But the thing that they had latched onto by the time Jesus began His ministry was a misunderstanding of the Law as a means of making themselves right with God. It was a misunderstanding, because underlying that understanding of the Law was a deep-seated pride that they could obey the Law.
Jesus points them back to the hard truth of their dependence on God and His grace by reminding them of their dependence on God’s provision in the wilderness, then takes it a step further by aligning himself with that life-giving provision. I don’t believe that the thing that people found “hard” was the idea of literally eating Jesus’ flesh or drinking his blood. It was the idea that they had to relinquish their belief in their own ability to make themselves righteous and acknowledge their utter dependence on God to give them life; and the fact that this life came through Jesus, a carpenter’s son from Nazareth.
We too are entirely dependent on God for life, and yet we rush to take credit for God’s work in us. Everything we have and everything we are comes from God – most especially the gift of eternal life. Wayne Mack, in his powerful little book Humility, the Forgotten Virtue, writes that taking credit for everything we are and do is like asking for admiration for how well we breathe when we are on a ventilator.
The work of dealing with pride is hard, on-going – and absolutely essential. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis describes pride as “the complete anti-God state of mind.” As such, turning from pride is fundamental to the act of repentance. By acknowledging our need of Jesus, we’re having to turn from our belief in our own self-sufficiency, from our idolatry of self: a painful and difficult step. Jesus’ disciples see this, but they also see that that the act of acknowledging dependence on God is necessary for receiving His gift of life. As hard as it can be to turn away from our pride and accept our dependence on Jesus, He has the words of eternal life. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
What better time than Lent for God to be working on my pride through times of waiting and disappointment, humiliation and joy? I pray that every day God will help me to say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner”; to put off my pride, and gratefully accept the life and freedom that come from no longer being a slave to it.
Annemarie lives in Cheverly with her husband, André, and their two little sons, Ben (3) and Tom (1). She enjoys reading, walking, and fantasizing about cake decoration.