While Jesus was on earth in His ministry, there were many “disciples of Christ” who claimed to follow Jesus (John 6).? When they saw that He did many supernatural miracles, feeding the five thousands, healing the sick and opening blind eyes, they were all astonished and followed Jesus to many places.
Nevertheless, we find in the Gospel of John that such a large multitude of these “disciples of Christ” ended up leaving Him and went on their separate ways.? How could this be?? Didn’t they all claimed to follow Jesus and believed who He said He was, that is, the Christ?? Then how could these alleged “disciples of Christ” leave Him and went on their separate ways?
We find this answer clearly in the Gospel of John chapter 6, verse 25 to 71.
Jesus was preaching about the need for the disciples of Christ to “eat His flesh and drink His blood” because if they do not do so, they will have “no life in them” (John 6:53-56).? When the crowd heard this, they all began to grumble amongst themselves asking how could this be?? Many ended up saying that “this is a hard teaching” and because of this incident, many of the previously alleged disciples of Christ turned back and no longer followed Jesus (John 6:66).
Clearly, Jesus was not teaching His own disciples to partake in cannibalism of Himself.? He was simply telling them that they must “eat His flesh and drink His blood” in a “spiritual sense”.? This is the same scenario when Jesus told Nicodemus that He must be born again in order for Him to see the Kingdom of God.? Of course, Nicodemus was confused how a man can enter into his mother’s womb again to be born the second time (John 3:1-21).? Jesus however was talking to him about a “spiritual” born again experience much like what He is describing here in John chapter 6.
True disciples of Christ are to take the words of Jesus to “eat His flesh and drink His blood” in a spiritual sense also.? This means that we are to believe in Him in who He said He was, and what He said He would do.? True disciples of Christ believe that it was His obedience to God the Father such that He was crucified on the cross for the sins of the world and resurrected on the third day so that those who repent and trust in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
But going back to this incident in the Gospel of John chapter 6, what does this show us about the numerous “disciples of Christ” that deserted Jesus?? And how can we learn from this incident?
First of all, we see that there will be many people who will call themselves “disciples of Christ” when things are going well and God seems to be blessing them (e.g) Jesus feeding the five thousand, turning water into wine and healing multitudes.? However, when persecution and trial comes and when the call to deny ourselves to pick up the cross to follow Jesus (Matt 16:24), then that is time when many people will fall away because they think it is “too difficult”.
Jesus gave a parable in Matthew 13:1-21 that explained just this point.? He was describing three different groups of people.? One group heard the word of God with joy in the beginning but because they have no root in their faith, they fell away when times of trials and persecution came.? Another group of people heard the word of God but because of the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches had choked the word and made them unfruitful.? It was only the last group of people who heard the word of God and bear fruit thirty, sixty and a hundred fold because their faith was sowed on good soil.? This last group of people are the true disciples of Christ who are the overcomers who will enter into God’s everlasting Kingdom (Matthew 24:12-13)
So the most important question for you and I today is this: which group do you and I belong?
May you and I be like Simon Peter who when Jesus asked His disciples “are you going to leave also?”, Peter answered “where can we go Lord, you have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Yes Simon Peter may have stumbled and made mistakes in his life even though he personally walked with Jesus throughout His entire ministry.? He denied Jesus three times, doubted in his faith and sunk in the water while walking towards Jesus, and he was later also confronted by Paul that he favoured the Jews over the Gentiles (Galatians 2).? But despite all these mistakes that Jesus foresaw, His message to Simon Peter was:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
?May you and I be encouraged to know that God is not looking for someone “perfect” to serve Him and do His will.? He is simply looking for those who even though they may stumble, but they will not throw in the towel and turn away because it is too difficult.? Those who are true disciples of Christ are those who will continue to persevere no matter how difficult things become or how strong the persecution is.? By God’s grace they shall overcome through the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11).
This is how we overcome!
This is how we can be faithful and remain true disciples of Christ steadfast till the end so that when our King returns we shall inherit His everlasting Kingdom!? Amen!