Scripture: John 6: 60 When many of his disciples heard (Jesus speak of himself as “bread of life”), they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” 66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.
Observation: In the early part of Jesus’ ministry it was fun being one of his disciples. People were drawn to his teaching, to his miracles, to the adventure of traveling with someone who was obviously anointed of God. Some of these disciples eventually arrived at the conclusion that he was the promised Messiah – the son of the living God. But others weren’t so sure. Still, hanging with Jesus was far more exciting than going back to one’s sleepy village where one day was like the next. Yet later in Jesus’ ministry things changed in a big way. He started challenging his own disciples with difficult teachings. He also continued to antagonize the Jewish authorities he encountered which put himself – and his disciples – at risk of being arrested or worse. We’re told in v.66 of today’s passage that, at this point, many of his disciples decided they’d had enough. It wasn’t fun anymore. So they left. In the end, as he was hung on a cross, even his closest disciples would desert him.
Application: I can remember being a fairly new Christian as a young adult and being overwhelmed at the blessing I’d found in Christ Jesus. The party lifestyle was getting old. Not only that, I remember seeing friends of mine struggle with the consequences of reckless living. I knew I didn’t want that for myself and was lucky not to have fallen into a ditch myself. Faith was new and exciting and I loved it – enough to leave my corporate job and enter seminary.
But then the level of challenge increased in a big way.
Entering seminary meant being a poor student again, this time with a wife and child. Seminary meant reading. And reading. And study – LOTS of study. I was in over my head. I began to question my decision to leave my corporate job in the first place. “What have I done?!” I would ask myself in private moments. You see, the process of formation for all Christians, including pastors, isn’t simply about learning about new things. It’s about becoming someone new. The old self dies, a new self is born. It can be painful. Not only that, this process of death and rebirth is one that’s repeated over and over along the faith journey.
Some of you are in that place now. Your faith has brought you to a moment of truth as following Jesus has become increasingly challenging. Will you continue on the path the Lord has placed in front of you? Or will you turn back?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, following you is exciting. And challenging. It requires that we surrender all things to you, which is difficult for us. Give us grace to stay the course with you, despite the challenges. We yearn to see the breakthrough you have in store for us. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.