After Jesus answered the people and responded to their objections, the people, for the most part, made a decision; they decided to leave. It is difficult to fathom that people who heard Jesus, followed Jesus, and saw Jesus perform miracles would ever walk away from Jesus, but that is exactly what happened. And yet, people do the same thing today. They will follow along while Christianity seems to bring them some temporal benefit but leave the moment Christianity requires some spiritual commitment.
As Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower, either they have no root or the cares of the world choked off what faith they had. Regardless of the reason, the end is devastating, because it is the end of their walk with Christ and therefore the end of their hope in Christ. Following Christ requires a steadfastness that people seldom appreciate in the modern world, a willingness to see the world through spiritual eyes even when the difficulties and challenges of this world rain heavily all around.
The apostle Paul explains the importance of this mindset to the Corinthians:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16–18).
A disciple of Jesus Christ follows to the end—always focused on eternity, because that is the end.
As amazing as it may sound, John records how “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (Jn. 6:66). Even imagining throngs of needy people abandoning their Savior boggles the mind. Nevertheless, they judged the depth of commitment Jesus expected of them too high a price. Knowing what we know today, such a thought seems unimaginable. Yet people do indeed follow in their footsteps. At this moment, Jesus made no appeal to them and plead with no one. Instead, “Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’” (Jn. 6:67). With the crowds withdrawing, Jesus asked the twelve where they stood, with the crowds or with Him. How sad that He would even have to ask!
Yet truly that remains a valid question to ask everyday of all who dare call themselves by His name. Following Jesus is not a part-time commitment; it is a life-time of consecration. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6–7). This remains the choice for all people today. Some disciples follow for a while but remain tied to the crowds in the world so much that they return to a world of ignorance and sin because they find it familiar, however wrong it may be.
Years later, Peter would write,
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20–22).
To walk away from discipleship at any time in life is to walk away from God, walk away from the trust, walk away from the light, walk away from divine fellowship, and walk away from forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:5-7). Discipleship for the moment means nothing in eternity if we would ever choose to walk away from Jesus.
This is an excerpt from Kevin’s latest book, Follow Me. Look for it at HopkinsPublishing.com, on Amazon.com, or your favorite bookseller.