Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
I can’t help it. There are a few verses of Scripture that make me cry every time I read them. One of them is John 6:68.
I’ll get to the context in a moment in how it deals with following Christ, but I want to quote it now. Peter says to Christ:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68 ESV)
Today, it seems that “following Christ” involves very little in many circles. Raise your hand after you’ve said the “sinner’s prayer” and you’re in the kingdom. Follow the other kids up to the altar during a youth rally and get baptized and you are suddenly a Christ follower.
I may sound sarcastic right now. I am. I was part of a Billy Graham sponsored crusade (I won’t mention the speaker) during seminary. I was trained to be a counselor. Before the crusade began in Louisville, we were all shuffled into a room and briefed about how the Billy Graham crusade counselors were all supposed to do their part to get people down to the stage to “get saved.”
They handed out the tracts with the “Roman Road.” Don’t know what that is? Google it. It’s a series of verses you share with someone who wants to come to Christ. Strangely, the guy leading our orientation said, “Now, I know the last verse, Revelation 3:20, about Jesus standing at the door knocking, has nothing to do with salvation. But we use it anyway.”
I was a seminary student at the time. I agreed with him but wanted to say, “Well, why do you use it?”
Then he said, “You counselors sit at the top of the stadium. When the invitation starts, start coming down. That will encourage other people to start coming down too who might want to make a decision for Christ.”
I sat at the top. The speaker gave his best. The invitation came. I went down to counsel. What happened? The crowd that was at 1/4 the capacity they expected thought we were coming down to accept Christ. They were saying, “God bless you son, for accepting Christ.” It was manipulative at best. I woke up that day to the crusade system.
My heart turned to John 6. How did Jesus handle the people following Him? Well, He had just finished feeding them an abundance of loaves and fishes. He had fed their bellies. So guess what? He had a large amount of followers. Why? Because they wanted to know when they were going to get fed again.
Christ had a ton of followers at that moment. What pastor in our day wouldn’t love to have that many people pile into their churches? Really? We’d be having them sign visitor cards, making them comfortable and enjoy the praise band.
But Jesus did something that just about every church growth expert would throw up in their mouth at. He started getting deep in His teaching.
Some of the people started grumbling because He had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” He had claimed stake to His divinity. Of course, Jesus didn’t back down from His statement. He had thousands of followers at that moment – captivated. But He went on and preached truth:
Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.
(John 6:43-48 ESV)
Of course, a lot of people didn’t like that. But Jesus got even harder in His teaching.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. (John 6:53-57 ESV)
Guess what they all did? They thought his words were too heavy. “Eat his flesh? Drink his blood?” Of course he meant they had to suffer like he did. Follow him exclusively. The reaction? They all left.
Except twelve men.
The thousands had departed. He watched every one of them walk off. Then he turned to the twelve and asked, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67 ESV)
Here we come to the crux of it. There are a ton of hard sayings of Christ in Scripture. Very difficult things to fathom. We can’t just make them into metaphors or figures of speech. He calls for total obedience. Christ, unlike the pastors of today who love to bring people in with soft words, drove people out with the reality of what it mean to follow Him.
And there stood the simple, foot in the mouth disciple Peter. The one who by the grace of God usually had the right words to say.
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
It wasn’t about getting physical needs met. It was about having the soul filled. And onward Christ trudged with His 12 toward Calvary to show us what it meant to sacrifice all. To show us what it mean to truly follow and lay it all down.
Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” He blogs regularly at www.fallenpastor.com.