Reading John 6 recently I stumbled across this intriguing passage:
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
That last phrase - "many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him" - jumped out at me. Certainly, Jesus had more disciples than the Twelve. How many and to what level of commitment, we don't know, but he certainly had followers who considered Jesus their rabbi. I wonder how that must have made Jesus feel - to have your followers, your own disciples, turn their backs and say that its too difficult, it's too much to handle. Was Jesus sad? Was he disappointed? Did he take it personally? Might he have been shocked or did he expect this? How much of his humanity came out when he saw people lower their face, scratch their head and walk away?
As every pastor knows, there are times when it is tempting to soften the message of the gospel because we fear that people will find it too difficult or will turn their backs.
But Jesus didn't soften the message when it was communicated to his followers.
The passage continues:
67"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
I wonder what Jesus' tone was in verse 67. Was he frustrated, defensive, hurt? Or did he see this has a poignant teaching opportunity to talk about commitment and total surrender?
I have to ask myself that if I were a follower of Jesus in the first century and I heard this difficult teaching would I have continued to follow and responded like Peter or would I have walked?
In a culture of convenience and instant gratification, I''m challenged today by the serious calling and the significant cost of following Jesus.