What a memorable two-day period in the life of Jesus. He fed 5000 men, which prompted some to want to make Him king by force. In the middle of the night, He walked on the sea. The next day, in a synagogue He spoke about Himself being the bread of life.
At the conclusion of His message in the synagogue, something horribly sad took place, followed by an inspiring confession. Hear the words recorded in only one Bible passage, John 6:66-69:
66From that time many of His disciples went backand walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, Do you also want to go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Here is a scenario that involved Jesus, many of His disciples, and the twelve apostles. The message is straightforward. There have to be some lessons in there for us to glean about human decision-making.
It is possible for disciples of Jesus to choose to walk no more with Him. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (6:66). Who were those that turned away? His disciples. Who forced them to abandon Him? No one: it was their own personal decision. What possible good reason could a person have for deciding that life is better without Jesus than it is with Him? There is no such “good” reason available! Those who hear what the Master has to say but choose not to obey Him are foolish. Jesus said so (Matthew 7:26,27).
There is no such thing as remaining a faithful servant of Jesus if one chooses to forsake Him. Jesus said, “If anyone serves me, let him follow me; and where I am, there my servant will be also” (John 12:26). It is often claimed that it is not possible for followers of Jesus to sin in such a way that they will be lost. Yet, the Bible says that we must take heed, lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). The Bible further teaches that a person who has turned from the truth (he was first “in” the truth before departing from it) is dead and needs to be saved (James 5:19,20). No one can remove the truth that one who chooses “to turn from the holy commandment” (2 Peter 2:21) is in worse spiritual shape than if he had never learned the truth. Mark it down. Choosing to forsake the master is not just dangerous: it is a dooming and damning act.
In some cases, many of Jesus’ followers choose to leave Him at the same time. Often, folks leave the Lord one at a time over a long period of time. This, however, was a mass exodus. “Many” disciples hit the road, and they did so on the same day. Talk about a rapid reduction of people in the camp! The parables in which Jesus spoke of one lost sheep, one lost coin, and one lost son reinforce the truth that God does not want anyone to perish (Luke 15; 2 Peter 3:9). How it must grieve Him to see groups and multitudes leave Him.
Let us not miss two significant truths in this matter. First, those that leave Jesus do not do so because they have discovered some deficiency in His character. There is no blemish to be found in Him! (1 Peter 1:19). Second, no one walks away from the Lord because they have found a flaw in His teaching. People may not like the doctrine of our Lord, but regardless of man’s response to His teaching, what He says is truth and is exactly what every person needs to hear and heed. His words are spirit and life (John 6:63). We dare not compromise the truth in order to try and maintain a big attendance. Jesus surely did not do so.
When the Lord’s faithful observe others leaving Him, they must make a choice, too: to follow the departing sheep, or stay with the Shepherd. The fact that Jesus asked the twelve if they also wanted to leave Him shows that they could have, if they had such a desire. We have witnessed the sad scene of several families getting mad and leaving the church together because they were offended by the truth that was taught. At first, one family was upset, then their friends or other family members decided to call it quits with them. Brothers and sisters, if our best friends in the whole world or biological family members choose to leave the Lord and His church, we must not join them in their evil deed (1 Timothy 5:22). Do not let the devil deceive you into believing that it would be better to be with family and friends in hell than it would be to be in heaven without them. Think!
There is only one choice that makes real sense. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (6:68). Peter’s question indicates a determination to stay with the Master and His truth – that is the only decision that makes sense. As the Lord later explained, it is quite simple. Abide in Him, the Vine, and enjoy life. On the other hand, choose not to abide in Him and the result will be spiritual death, guaranteed (John 15:1-6).
Jesus alone has the words of eternal life. In our generation, we have widespread access to supposed life-changing and life-improving programs, plans, and propaganda. There is nothing that “the geniuses” of our day can propose that can improve upon Jesus’ words or make them obsolete. His words are life-giving! His words can save the soul in this life and take it to heaven when this life is over. Lord, help us to be wise enough to be satisfied with Your words, help us to be humble enough to submit to them, and help us to be caring enough to share them with others.
— Roger D. Campbell