(Originally posted 8-9-18)
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “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 6:66-69
It’s taken me a long time; a lifetime to be exact. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer and I’ll readily admit that my stubborn head needs to see and hear things more than once in order for me to “get it.” In fact, more than once might be an understatement. It’s literally a day-by-day process of walking, falling, and getting back up again; all by God’s grace.
I’m finally starting to understand more of the teachings of Christ simply because I’ve lived 40 years on this planet and I’ve seen a lot. I’ve done a lot. That’s not to say I’ve seen it all but patterns and behaviors (both within and without) start to repeat. The predictability of a fallen world and its brokenness replays itself. The things I’ve seen and heard in ministry repeat themselves from one context to the next. And Solomon’s realization that there is truly “nothing new under the sun” becomes more and more real the older I get.
There is an interesting passage in John 6 which speaks to me in a very meaningful way in this season of life. Jesus’ ministry is still rather new but He is already starting to talk about heavy things…things like Him being the access to the Father and the statement that “the one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him.” John 6:56 This is the moment at which the Bible says many disciples started to fall away. This was a defining moment for many: the truths Jesus laid out were either too real or too unbelievable. In hearing His words, the response of disbelief came back: “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?” John 6:60
In today’s blog I want to establish some things that most likely won’t come as surprise but yet I believe must be said regardless. Think of the path you have followed in Jesus, whether it’s been several years or just a few months. If you look back over that time, you can probably recall moments at which you came to a crisis point where you had to ask “Is this truly what I believe? Is Jesus enough?” Jesus confronted His 12 disciples because He knew their faith must be strong to endure what was coming. He knew the ones who deserted Him would leave an impression on the 12. He asked them point-blank if they were going to leave as well.
Jesus still confronts us today to see if our hearts are fully consecrated to Him. In that moment, we have to be ready to give our full obedience. There’s no plan B. Jesus it’s all you or nothing.
Here are some takeaways to consider:
1. Those you start the journey with may not be there at the finish line
I made a commitment to Christ at an early age but it wasn’t until my college and first years of marriage in which I started to take things seriously. I think God allowed me to make some mistakes and be vulnerable enough to realize that my need for Him was greater than just once-in-awhile-throw-up-a-prayer type of relationship. I’ve talked frequently about religion vs. relationship as it’s always a barrier that we must deal with. The reality is that a switch must flip inside our brains where we begin to see what Jesus is truly after: He wants our heart.
Those disciples who fell away in John 6 were not rooted in and were not ready to accept Jesus’ teachings. They came to the crisis point, counted the cost, and said “no thanks.” The same individual exists today and the same thought process goes on. Life gets tough. The view of Jesus truly as the Son of God gets obstructed. Those who cannot remain with Him walk away disappointed and discouraged. Sadly, there are some who won’t be there at the finish line because they didn’t remain faithful and weren’t ready to walk the path.
2. The words of eternal life are enough
I LOVE it when the Gospels show one of the disciples (often Peter) having a “light bulb moment” when engaged by Christ. It’s the moment at which truth is revealed so plainly and the response is so real and heartfelt to what has just occurred. Jesus could have asked “Are you going to leave as well?” and the 12 could have said “Yeah, we’re really not onboard with all of this…it’s starting to getting a little too deep.” That could’ve been the discussion and honestly, we’ve all had that temptation as well. But Peter knocks it out of the park. He just gets it:
“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.”
Through reading Scripture we see the Old Testament setting up Christ as the Messiah. We see Jesus arrive on the scene, fulfilling prophecy and going to the cross, becoming the ultimate sacrifice. Even before getting to that point, Peter has the revelation and the ability to say “Jesus, you have the words of eternal life.” If we see Christ as the Son of God, as our access and intermediary to the Father, we come to realize that there is nowhere else to go. No plan B. No side route. No short-cut. It’s just Jesus and He is enough. If you think about it, how freeing is that? We don’t have to run anymore. We don’t have to search any longer. Jesus is the end to all of our longings and searchings.
3. The reward is out of this world
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” John 6:51
In that teaching, the one in which many fell away, Jesus ushered in a promise. He was connecting Himself to the Father and speaking of His eventual death. The Jews were looking for a physical sign; a manifestation that an earthly ruler and kingdom would be established. Jesus went much further, connecting the physical to the spiritual. His body was the bread. Thousands of years ago, manna was Israel’s provision in the desert but now the bread of life would be all we need. Jesus came to meet our deeper spiritual need. His body offered up gives life to all who believe.
The reward is real and belongs to those who do not fall away. Of the 12 disciples, we know that 11 persevered and went on to tell about Jesus, post-ascension. Of those 11, church historians believe most likely 10 were martyred for their faith. They received the words of Jesus as the words of life and clung onto to them without wavering. They saw the reward and held onto the promise. We will as well if we remain faithful.
In closing, I want to remind you of a couple things. First, you are the only one who can take these truths and either apply them or abandon them for your own life. No one else can take responsibility for your actions. Truly no one else can either persuade or dissuade you from accepting these truths (hard teachings as they may be). My encouragement is to be like-minded with Peter and see Christ as the One Who holds the words of eternal life.
Secondly, you do not ultimately decide the fate of another person before the throne of God. Yes there is a charge to proclaim Jesus and make disciples. Yes we have to tell the world the Good News. But we do not do the job of converting. We cannot set the sinner free or set the backslider back on the road to Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. We must pray. We must be obedient. But we give souls over to the Lord. I know my first-point in today’s blog is a hard truth to swallow. Sadly, many will hear but few will receive and truly obey. My prayer is that you accept this teaching and allow God to be sovereign.
I love you guys. I’d love to hear from you and go deeper in conversation with all of this. Be blessed today.
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