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From the Preacher’s Pen ~

There are countless things that God does for us that we seldom, if ever, realize or appreciate. Jesus made this point in reminding us to pray for those daily blessings, like bread. Do you suppose that God has given us all this time at home to make us realize that we really DO have time to read His word and pray? Wouldn’t it be a shame to miss such a blessing?

Will You Leave Me, Too?

In John chapter 6 Jesus tried to teach one of those hard, mature adult lessons. You know, the kind that we can easily imagine is just right for us! The Lord is trying to get His audience to understand and appreciate the fact that He is not only the ultimate Lamb of God but that He will be the ultimate Passover. Jesus will shed His blood and give His body to be, not only the blood to cover us and cause death to pass over us, but to be the very “meal” that gives us life and sustenance for the journey to freedom.

How can one life be given with so much meaning? And how can we actually be expected to understand all that Jesus teaches? Isn’t this salvation thing supposed to be easy?
The simple fact is, many things that God expects us to understand and do are difficult! The same challenge that we feel was felt by many of Jesus’ disciples. John 6:60 says, Therefore, when a number of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can understand it?”

If you imagine that this is a simple statement and that those disciples did not deserve any condemnation, then you need to read on. Verse 61 says that Jesus was aware that His disciples were GRUMBLING and OFFENDED. Let’s start with grumbling. The word is used most frequently by Jesus and it is ALWAYS a criticism of the sin of complaining. Paul illustrates this by using this same word (1 Corinthians 10:10) to refer to those of God’s people in the wilderness that were destroyed for their sin of grumbling. In Philippians 2:14-15 Paul challenges faithful Christians to do all things without grumbling or disputing so that we will prove ourselves blameless and innocent as children of God.

The second word that Jesus saw evident in those so-called disciples is OFFENDED or “cause you to stumble.” Certainly we often feel that it is our right to take offense at something and if someone or something causes us to stumble then the fault is not ours! But God’s word uses this term to refer to foolish hurt that causes someone to turn away from God. (Check out some of the uses by Jesus in these verses: Matthew 5:29-30; 11:6; 13:21, 57; 15:12; 17:27; 18:6, 8-9; 24:10; 26:31, 33; Mark 4:17; 6:3; 9:42-43, 45, 47; 14:27, 29; Luke 7:23; 17:2; John 6:61; 16:1) If God “offends” you such that you reject Him and are eternally lost… that is entirely your fault!

God has made it very clear that these one-time disciples are anything but faithful and we see (John 6:66) that they are abandoning Jesus and no longer walking with Him. These, of course, are the kind of people that Peter is talking about in 2 Peter 2:21.
This, then, brings us to John 6:67 as Jesus asks a question of the 12. The NKJV renders it, Do you also want to go away? A bit more literal translation might be: You do not want to leave me like the others, do you?

The challenge in translating Jesus’ question has caused much debate. Is He boldly expecting the 12 to be faithful? After all, as God He knows their hearts. Or is Jesus’ humanity on display as He struggles with the loss of so many disciples?
Linguistically, the question Jesus asks seems to contain some of both! It CAN be taken as expecting a negative reply (that the 12 would stay with Him), but it also carries a hesitant, tentative indication of sadness.

Here is the real challenge: Jesus really desires and expects us to be faithful no matter what! At the same time He knows how many have chosen NOT to be faithful. And if you really want to leave Him, that is YOUR choice. Never does God suggest that anyone will be forced to go into Heaven kicking and screaming all the way. The choice is always up to us!

If we miss the sadness and sorrow of Jesus’ question then we will fail to appreciate the joy He feels at Peter’s response: Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God (John 6:68-69). An unfeeling, uncaring God is of no benefit to any of us! Only a loving, caring God that can be both hurt by our rejection and filled with joy at our acceptance is a real God.

So now the question becomes one for us to answer. Will you choose the easy path of rejecting the challenge of faithfully following God? After all, that path requires continued study of God’s word, time spent in prayer and the ongoing effort to live that Christian life and that is oftentimes just plain hard work.

Or will you realize that there is literally nowhere else to go for salvation? Will you choose to do all that you possibly can to faithfully follow your Savior?
Jesus wants to know, Will you leave me, too?

—Lester P. Bagley