QUESTIONS JESUS ASKED: Do You Want to Go Away As Well? -- John 6:67
By Ted Schroder,
March 12, 2017
"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."
From the beginning of the ministry of Jesus "large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him" (Matthew 4:25). Now, after feeding the five thousand and his claim to be the bread of life, the living bread that came down from heaven; after telling the crowd not to work for the food that spoils, but for the food that endures to eternal life; after telling them that he will satisfy their hunger and thirst; after telling them that it is the Father's will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and that he will raise him up at the last day; after telling them that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood as the sacrifice for sins which he gives for the life of the world; many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"
There are many who would like to think of themselves as disciples/followers of Christ but who cannot accept the full teaching of Christ. They have followed him for various reasons -- for comfort in time of need such as the loss of a loved one; for what they can get out of Christianity in terms of its good works -- serving the poor and the sick, the marginalized and the homeless; for its moral teaching, its altruism and ideals; for its popular aspects, providing sanctuaries for prayer and worship; for its social respectability; for its aesthetic achievements, its music and arts; but they don't want to commit themselves too deeply or allow Jesus to become too intimate with them. They are happy to be seen in worship from time to time and to contribute to worthy causes, but they have no time for a personal daily devotional or a Bible study.
They may have been members of their church for many years but they have dropped out and stopped coming to worship. In the past they may have been enthusiastic participants but in recent years they have lost interest. They may think they have adequate reasons for their defection: they dislike the preacher, they don't enjoy the music, they have had their feelings hurt, they think they have been neglected or unappreciated, they sleep in on Sunday mornings or they have a sport they engage in: golf, cycling, mountain climbing or a myriad of other leisure activities. They may think that they can manage their faith on their own and that they don't need the church any more. Whatever the reason they turn away and no longer are active in following Jesus or flying the flag for him in the community.
Jesus challenged the Twelve: "Do you want to go away as well? ....Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil! (He meant Judas, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) Judas had all the privileges of knowing Jesus and was the Treasurer of the Twelve.
William Barclay tells the story about an artist who was painting the Last Supper. It was a great picture and it took him many years. As model for the face of Christ he used a young man with a face of transcendent loveliness and purity. Bit by bit the picture was filled in and one after another the disciples were painted. The day came when he needed a model for Judas whose face he had left to the last. He went out and searched in the lowest haunts of the city and in the dens of vice. At last he found a man with a face so depraved and vicious as matched his requirement. When the sitting was at an end the man said to the artist: "You painted me before." "Surely not," said the artist. "O yes," said the man, "I sat for your Christ." The years had brought terrible deterioration. That is what can happen to a man who had turned back and no longer followed Jesus. Barclay comments: "The years can be cruel. They can take away our ideals and our enthusiasms and our dreams and our loyalties. They can leave us with a life that has grown smaller and not bigger. They can leave us with a heart that is shriveled instead of one expanded in the love of Christ."
"Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
"Lord, to whom shall we go?" What are the alternatives to following Jesus? I know of bright young, attractive girl, raised in a devout and loving Christian home who went away to college and through the Religious Studies department became interested in Eastern religions. She took up Yoga and fell in love with her Yoga teacher whom she has now married. She said that she is taking a vacation from Christianity. Eastern religions do not have the words of eternal life. They teach the unending cycle of reincarnation.
I know of another man who became very active in Buddhism. When he was participating in a Buddhist exercise he heard a voice saying to him, "I am not that!" Shortly after he had a vision of Christ the light. Buddhism does not have the words of eternal life. It believes in losing one's identity by being absorbed into the ocean of being.
Who has the words of eternal life? Who is the Holy One of God? This is an unusual title, used by demons to designate Jesus (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34) but also used throughout the Old Testament (30 times in Isaiah) for God ("the Holy One of Israel"), who defends his people and redeems them (Isaiah 41:14; 43:14,15).
Jesus said to them, "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."
God is revealing himself to us in Jesus and enabling us to see him and embrace him. It is his choice as well as ours to enable us to follow him. The company of Jesus will forever be small. We must not put our trust in large numbers. It is those who remain with him who believe and know who he is who will have eternal life.
Some of my favorite promises of Jesus are found in John 10:26-30. "You do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
I don't want to go away from Jesus for he has the words of eternal life. I listen to his voice. He knows me and all my needs. I follow him every day. He gives me eternal life -- life in the Spirit. I shall never perish because he holds me in his hand. Nothing can snatch me from his hand. I have been given to Jesus. No one, nothing in all creation can snatch me out of the Father's hand. Can you say that for yourself? Make that your affirmation. "We must pay more careful attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away" (Hebrews 2:1). Don't drift away from Jesus.
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