From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
– John 6:66
Wow…I just noticed the 666 there! Anyway, I thought I’d pick up where I left off two years ago in the book of John. Since the last post was John 6 part one, I need to have a part two right?
Okay, here’s what is going on here…
Jesus, after feeding 5000 people and walking on water, is basically chased after by a crowd of his many disciples. They hunt him down in Capernaum where Jesus makes the statement that while they desire physical food, He is the true bread from heaven that always satisfies. Confused, they ask him what works God requires them to fulfill and Jesus answers…
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
– Jesus, John 6:29
So they ask what sign or miracle Jesus could do to prove that he is legit…you know, because up until that point he had only turned water into wine, healed sick people, made food out of thin air…really simple stuff.
Anyway, Jesus didn’t fall for the bait but instead launches into this monologue about his own flesh and blood. The speech becomes laced with really offensive, cannibalistic metaphors and by the end, we get this verse I referenced at the beginning. Jesus lost a lot of friends that day.
You know, if these “disciples” would have pressed Jesus a bit, perhaps they would’ve gotten a proper explanation for the truth of what Jesus was saying. For example, Jesus in John 3 tells Nicodemus that he must be “born again”. Well, taken literally, that sounds absurd. So what does Nicodemus do? Does he leave? Does he just nod slowly, pretending to understand? No, he asks a question that is as brash as the statement that Jesus made. He says (paraphrased), “How the heck am I supposed to do that? What…do I need to crawl back into my mother’s womb?”
Perhaps if the disciples had pressed Jesus like that… “To inherit eternal life we have to eat your flesh and drink your blood? Where do you want us to start? Your toes?” Okay, so I’m being sarcastic but my point is this…after following Jesus through some stuff that they approved of, (who doesn’t like wine, food and magic tricks?) He finally presents something that they don’t want to hear and most of his disciples bolt for the door. Keep in mind, this teaching is not trivial, but rather a core part of His doctrine.
Now, many of us are probably thinking that these represented a bunch of weak-willed hypocrites that weren’t worthy of being with Jesus in the first place. This is where the modern church has a luxury that the actual followers of Jesus didn’t have. We get to pick and choose the stuff we like and just pretend the other stuff doesn’t exist. After all, Jesus isn’t here anymore making these kinds of speeches all of the time, so it’s a sort of “out of sight, out of mind” thing. In fact, when people around us start talking about things we don’t like, we can even just switch churches on a whim because there are so many.
The way of the cross is narrow and it is a hard road. Along the way are obstacles that are incredibly tough to get past because they challenge some deep-rooted philosophy we have that we’ve been taught for many years. As a pastor, part of my job is to help unbelievers understand the words of Jesus. However, for believers, sometimes it feels as if I’m helping the medicine go down. What I mean is, sometimes with the tough questions, I find myself softening Jesus’ words or making them more practical while in conversation with a struggling believer.
For any time that I have done this in the past, I want to at least set the record straight here…accepting Jesus message of trusting in Him alone for your salvation is as easy as it sounds. However, following Jesus is incredibly hard. You literally have to die to yourself everyday…to constantly set your mind on the things of heaven instead of the things of this world. You can’t just fit Jesus into your current life. The life of a disciple is all-consuming…you have no choice but to abandon practicality in favor of the radical.
This is then evidenced, by the way, in the response of the twelve who stayed…
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
– John 6:67-69
That’s a great answer, and please don’t miss the subtleties in it…it sounds to me like even Peter himself is struggling with this one. Yet, in the face of the hardest teaching that Jesus has delivered yet, no explanation is needed for him to make up his mind about whether or not he’s staying. Jesus had brought him this far and he wasn’t about to turn back at the first obstacle in the road. His mind was already made up about who Jesus was, so what choice did he have?
Where are you in this today? Are you struggling with a hard teaching from God? Is it keeping you from church or even from serving in church? Are you letting it be an excuse? Don’t turn back from this obstacle. The road is narrow and few there are who actually find it…make sure that you are one of them.