Unfollowed #likeJesus

Troubling words.

“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

Many questions.

How could a true disciple stop following Jesus?  Or does this mean they weren’t true disciples?

Who were these disciples that turned away from Jesus?  How long had they been following Him?

Had these disciples placed their faith in Jesus?  Were they saved?  Does this mean they forfeited that salvation?

What was it about Jesus’ words that were so hard to accept?  What am I missing here?

Jesus told them He was the Bread of Life.

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”

Did they really think Jesus was speaking literally?   Did they think He was advocating some form of cannibalism?  Or was there some cultural context for His words that I don’t yet grasp?  Was this just another way of Jesus saying, “take up your cross, deny yourself and follow me?”

What is clear.

Because this is recorded in John’s gospel, the last of the four to be written, we have to assume that to John’s knowledge this decision on their part was permanent.  His gospel is written 50 or so years after this incident.  Most who had turned away, if not all, were already dead at the time John wrote.  He says, “From that time… they no longer followed…”  The resurrection didn’t change their minds.  Peter’s preaching at Pentecost didn’t change their minds.  Were they like the seed cast on thorny soil from Jesus’ parable of the four soils?

This was a pivotal time in Jesus’ ministry.  We’re about 30 months into His ministry.  Jesus has appointed the Twelve.  He’s sent them out two by two.  John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, has been murdered, brutally beheaded. The disciples have returned from their mission trip.  Word has spread, resulting in Jesus feeding the 5000.  Then Jesus comes to His disciples, walking on the water.  Jesus has just made a strategic shift.  He had been doing all the ministry, but now He equips and empowers His disciples to do the ministry without Him by their side.

Those who deserted Him here weren’t among the Twelve.  Oh, but they must have been there when the Twelve returned from their mission trip.  The Twelve didn’t desert Jesus (at least not yet).  Was it because they had not only seen Jesus perform miracles, but they had now had the first hand experience of God doing miracles through them?  Sent out two by two, they preached, healed the sick and cast out demons.  They held baskets in their hands that had bread and fish multiplying before their eyes like some crazy magic trick.

What role does experiencing God as He works powerfully through us to impact others play in a person owning their faith?  I know how significant it’s been in my own faith journey.  God working in and through me fuels my confidence and fortifies my commitment.

“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

Biggest question.

How do I keep this from happening to me?   How do I keep this from happening to my children?  How do I keep this from happening to my own disciples?

I can’t help but think that these feint-hearted followers were more focused on themselves and on what they could get from Jesus rather that on Jesus Himself.  Maybe it was physical healing they wanted most?  Maybe it was political power they wanted most?  Maybe it was prosperity (abundant food) they wanted most?  They obviously didn’t want Jesus for who He was.  They only wanted the sizzle, not the steak.

The Apostle Paul’s words ring in my ears:

“But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”



To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

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