Believe – Whoever

By January 16, 2017Church

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. — John 6:35

One of the things that struck me this morning in my reading of John 6 is the word “whoever.” Over the course of seventy-one verses, it is used seven times, always by Jesus.

Perhaps it struck me because today is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. While we lived in Atlanta, I had the opportunity to visit both the King Center and Ebenezer Baptist Church (where King served as pastor). In Memphis, where my in-laws live, is the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel.

It’s impossible to walk through these exhibits and not be moved. What is possible … is to return home and return to normal. To return to the way you had been before.

You might be better informed, but the other person’s struggle gives way to your own concerns. Now mind you, their struggle doesn’t go away; it’s just less and less on your own radar.

The word whoever is important. As a believer, I approach scripture as inspired by God and containing both the message and the language God desired.

As Jesus was speaking, he could have used any word he wanted to. After all, he is Jesus — the Son of God.

Whoever simply means “regardless of who you are.” Let’s take John 6:35 and insert the full definition of whoever:

“I am the bread of life. Regardless of who you are, if you come to me will never go hungry, and regardless of who you are, if you believe in me will never be thirsty.”

It’s safe to say Jesus was way ahead of his time.

Regardless of who you are …

  • Red, yellow, black, or white
  • Male or female
  • Upper middle class or homeless
  • Artist or accountant
  • Conservative or liberal
  • Those who watch Gilmore Girls and those who don’t
  • Light-hearted or hard-hearted
  • Young or old
  • American, Argentinian, or Armenian

The invitation of Jesus is extended to any and all, regardless of who you are.

To his listeners, whoever was reduced to “whoever is like me.” That’s not what Jesus meant. But that’s how we often hear it. Or want to hear it.

We take Jesus’ invitation and place restrictions on it. Jesus would accuse the Pharisees of placing unnecessary burdens on people and then refuse to lift a finger to help (Luke 11:46).

I’m glad that Jesus isn’t making a movie and having a casting call. “I need one red-head, two scrappy Midwesterners, and …”

Jesus isn’t making a movie; he’s building a church and expanding a kingdom.

Regardless of who you are. Implied in whoever is also the idea of no matter what you’ve done. Regardless of who you are and what you’ve done.

This is when the list of whoever does shrink:

“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23).

Truth be told, the conservative and the liberal have more in common than they would like to admit. The prostitute and the professor, too.

Regardless of demographic, we share a common human nature — a common sinful nature.

Regardless of who you are and what you’ve done. In heaven there will be an audience filled with former liars, thieves, and hot-tempered people. They will be alongside former adulterers, abusers, and alcoholics.

Whoever is a hopeful word, for it leaves the door open to all.

Whoever is also a convicting word, for it challenges me to not close what Jesus has opened.

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. — John 6:35

Believe.