Jesus tells those who follow him that in order to really follow him and inherit eternal life, they will have to eat his flesh and drink his blood; and then surprisingly (that’s sarcasm) many of them turned away and did not follow him any longer (John 6:53-57).
Can you just imagine the whole scene? You’ve been following this guy for some time now, and then he drops a major bomb. Surely, one of those following turned to another and said, “He said what?! Um, yeah, this isn’t what I signed on for; I’m going home.”
Then imagine seeing Jesus smile just a bit as he watched them walk away. He turns to his little rag-tag group of 12 with that little smile and asks if they want to leave as well. It’s almost as if he is giving them permission. One thing about Jesus is that he never pulls any punches when he talks about being his disciple. He clearly lays out all the danger, discomfort and trouble they will have. And yet, here we are 2,000 years later and finding ourselves at times trying to lessen the blow of being called a Christian; even to the point of not wanting to be called a Christian.
In studying the Bible, it always is important to see what’s happening, but there are times when it is important to see what doesn’t happen. For instance, you don’t see Jesus saying, “Whoa! Hey guys, I was just kidding; testing you to see what you’d do if I said something crazy like that. Listen, it won’t be that bad. Check it out, I’ll whip up some more food for us, and we’ll just hang out.”
Funny? Sure, but how utterly ridiculous as well, and when we teach about what it is to follow Christ, to be called a Christian, we need to do so with honesty; not trying to “soft sell” our Savior.
Peter has seen enough and weighed out what it is to follow Jesus and what it is to return to the world when he responds, “Where else can we go? There’s nothing or no one who offers us what only you can give.” Then he says that they know and believe. Interesting. These would be the things that separate the 12 disciples from all those who left, with the exception of Judas. The question then for you to answer is what do you know and believe?
I always have loved the stories of Jesus healing people. When Jesus heals the man born blind, he causes a major ruckus because he “worked” by making mud and using it to heal this man. The Pharisees quickly recognize the Sabbath has been broken and have no problem calling the guy out. Throughout their interrogation and even confusion among themselves, they tell the man who now can see that they know the man who healed him is a sinner.
Then the reply of the now-healed man is absolutely beautiful. “Sinner, or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that just a little while ago, I was totally blind, and now I can see!” How’s that for a testimony? And isn’t that all God is asking from us? Here’s what I know.
But it gets even better. After this man gets thrown out of the synagogue—the “church”—Jesus goes and looks for him knowing full well that was going to happen. Don’t miss that important aspect of this story. Jesus searches for this man. But it’s not really a big surprise since Jesus himself said that he has come to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10).
His mission continues today, and he wants those who say they believe in him to be about carrying on that mission. If you wonder why you aren’t seeing more of Jesus in your life, is it because you’re not looking in the right place? Back in Jesus’ day, if you wanted to be near him you had to go where the people were lonely and outcast by society. How is today any different?
Thomas makes a bold statement in John 20:25. He is so stunned by the recent events that he is in disbelief even after the other disciples have told him Jesus is alive and well. Jesus appears to them as a group again and his reason is clear, he wants Thomas to stop doubting and believe. Before, Thomas states the conditions it will take for him to believe and then in walks Jesus meeting those conditions.
But isn’t that just like Jesus? He will do whatever it takes for you and me to believe. But there is an expectation from Jesus as well for us when he meets those conditions and that is for us to live like we believe.
While Jesus wants our faith to be strengthened and fulfilled, he also refuses to be anyone’s “pet” made to jump through hoops. Isn’t it time that we stopped treating the Lion of the tribe of Judah like our house cat and live like the children of God we are?