What a scene it must have been to witness throngs of people turning their backs on Jesus because He would not do what they wanted. They wanted Him to perform miracles to please them. They expected Him to provide food for them all the time. They imagined a relationship where He would feel honored that they would follow at all. They remained focused on this world and its rewards. In other words, they left because Jesus did not conform to their ideas of a Messiah and leader. Yet, it is sadder still that, despite this and many other examples, some people today attempt to fashion Jesus into their own image.
Peter, on the other hand, understood what was at stake. When Jesus asked if the twelve would go with the crowd, “Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’” (Jn. 6:68). This fact lies at the essence of true discipleship. Anyone can make outrageous promises, offer worldly incentives, and tell you that you do not have to change a thing. But Jesus refuses to play that game. Jesus did not come to live a life of ease, and discipleship makes no promise of that sort either. As Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Lk. 9:58). The Jews expected an earthly kingdom, but Jesus instead died to offer a kingdom that “is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36).
Sadly, many organizations masquerade as spiritual people, holding a Bible up but not upholding the Bible. They sell a religion of, by, and for this world but fail to recognize that its hope does not offer anything beyond this world. Why do people do this? Why would people follow a seriously flawed and compromised version of Christianity considering the perfection of the One who paid for it with His own blood? Because we so easily believe the lie that we can serve the Lord while also serving ourselves. Satan works desperately to have us accept worldly rewards and sacrifice heavenly beauty, just as Jesus warned in the Sermon on the Mount, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt. 6:24).
Temptation’s allure does not always come in the form of sexual sin, a lying tongue, or domestic violence. It often takes the form of counterfeit discipleship sold to the masses as religion by simply validating their worldliness.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
Jesus refused to stroke the egos and justify the opinions of the crowd. Instead, He called them to sever their ties to worldliness and seek after true godliness. In doing so, He established an enduring principle: discipleship for the sake of earthly prominence and physical wealth is nothing; discipleship for the sake of eternal life is everything.