Thursday, May 18, 2023

            John 6:66 records a reality that is hard to fathom.  John wrote, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”  People turned away from Jesus and deserted Him.  Imagine a soldier leaving his post.  Imagine a commanding officer going absent without leave.  People left Jesus—and not just ordinary first-century folks, but disciples.  To be a disciple means a next-level lifestyle.  These folks were not fans or benchwarmers.  They were starters.  For a season at least, these “disciples” had followed the Lord, walked with Him, talked with Him, listened to Him and shared life with Him.  John 6:60 records some of these “disciples” as saying, “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?”  Those who turned back and deserted the Lord realized they weren’t ready to buy into the life He was offering.  Suddenly, they were convinced that Jesus was asking more from them than they had signed up for or committed to give.  So, they hit the road.  They jumped ship.  They ran through the door so quickly that it could not hit them where the good Lord split them.
            Those folks who abandoned Jesus realized that a discipled life was much too hard for them.  A surrendered life was unthinkable.  They were ready for a faith of convenience but not a faith of conviction.  They wanted a suitable and even successful life but not a surrendered one.  Maybe they were the once-every-now-and-then variety of disciples we often find making a big deal out of Christmas and Easter but little else. 
            Jesus asked His remaining disciples if they wanted to leave Him too (John 6:67).  And on cue, Peter responded.  He was the only remaining disciple to speak up.  Peter said, “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.”  In short, Peter said, “where are we going to go and what would we do?”  He sagely realized that if the Lord has called us then the only appropriate answer is “yes.”  An unqualified, unequivocal “yes.” 
            Peter had already dropped his nets and left behind a life on the water to follow Jesus.  He had already left his old life for the new one that Christ promised.  Going back was unthinkable and unimaginable.  Peter’s response raises some lessons for us to see.  First, we have to remember that the Lord calls us to trust our lives to Him.  We bring everything or nothing at all.  There is no such thing as a part-time disciple.  We cannot walk with Jesus but only until the road becomes long and lonely.  A follower of Christ has made his or her choice and taken a stand that it is Christ alone—today, tomorrow and forever.
            Second, Peter realized that the world had nothing to offer him or the other disciples.  The world is temporary at best.  What we see, have, hear and handle will go away some day.  Jesus offers eternity while the world offers only what is here and now.  His words “to whom shall we go” are roughly equivalent to saying, “you gotta be kidding me, Jesus.” When the choice is Jesus or something else, then Jesus is the only right answer.  That is faith for 100, Alex!
            Third, Jesus chose eternity above the earth.  His words revealed a keen understanding into what Jesus and Jesus alone could offer—eternal life.  If offered a choice between a nice lunch or a lifetime of groceries, then the choice is easy.  Peter had seen the best the world had to offer and quickly decided that eternity was better.  And who better to trust with eternity than the One who made time itself.  This former fisherman invoked the words “believe” and “know.”  He was certain.  He was confident.  He knew Jesus and only Jesus was the One to hold on to and cherish.  The Lord has promised never to let us go or lose us (see John 10:28).  He will keep His Word and keep us in His fold.  We are called never to let go of Him or to walk away when easy, convenient or comfortable to do so. 
            True discipleship is never about having everything our way or, frankly, even anything our way.  It is about bringing our way into line with His way.  Peter realized that to flee from Jesus or to desert Jesus was a matter of leaving the Way, the Truth and the Life.  If we have trusted Jesus, then there is no need to look for another way.  We have found the Way.  If we believe Jesus, then we have no reason to look for something else to believe.  We have found the Truth.  If we walk with Christ, then we have no reason to split our time with someone else.  We have found the Life. 
            In his own words, Peter revealed a stirring faith that realized there is nowhere else to look or go when we already walk with the Lord.  That walk can be deepened.  Our faith can be strengthened.  Our lives can be more yielded.  But there is never a reason to roam elsewhere or turn back to what we once knew.  Following the Exodus, God consistently offered Israel the chance to choose life by choosing Him.  But Israel often complained, bickered and longed for a return to Egypt.  Why long for the old, when the new has come?  Why long for the past, when the Lord promises a new dawn?  As Peter put it, “where would we go?”  Have a great day!    

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