Jesus: ‘Will You Go Away Too?’ I did.
“Will you go away too?”
Jesus asked His disciples this question after giving a difficult message to the crowd gathered by the Sea of Galilee, one they didn’t understand and caused them to desert Him in droves.
I left Him once. When life got too hard and circumstances shook the foundations of my soul. When I didn’t understand how God could allow something too difficult to comprehend. When I felt everything I had believed in since a small child was a lie. I walked away.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:54 NIV
Jesus said that. Can you imagine hearing those words for the first time? We might have heard them in the context of taking communion, the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, whatever your Christian brand might call it, so we may have some context for understanding. But the crowd gathered by the Sea of Galilee listening to the latest YouTube sensation, a carpenter from Galilee who caused blind eyes to see and withered limbs to straighten, was appalled.
The people had been tracking with him until he uttered those bizarre words.
Jesus had to know his statement would evoke a powerful reaction. His words were absurd to a crowd of Jewish people raised on stringent dietary restrictions, which they considered as God’s mandate to them. Exclusively eating kosher foods was ingrained in their collective cultural psyche. Eating human flesh wasn’t just a revolting prospect; it was unfathomable. Drinking human blood was even worse. All Jews knew that consuming blood, even from an animal, was strictly forbidden.
“Eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Uttering those words just put Jesus on the crazy list.
Jesus had to know this would cause many to turn back, turn away. Didn’t he want a large following who would carry His message into the whole world? Didn’t he want to grow His platform and become an Internet success? Wasn’t his message so important that He should make it palatable to the common man or woman?
His brand is unique, the likes of which the world has never seen. He is God, God in man skin, God made manifest. Just imagine if Jesus had come to earth during our time – would He have linked his Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts to His blog to broadcast the Good News of His coming across the globe? Somehow, I don’t think self-promotion would have been His thing. His miraculous exploits would have gone viral, but His words...not so much.
It happened when I was in college, my walking away. My parents separated, then divorced, when that was an unusual life event, and it shook me to my core. My faith was not stable or strong and it didn’t survive the breaking of our family. When the going got tough, I bailed.
Jesus first stirred up the people that day when he said, “I am the Bread of life.” (John 6:37) They wanted to be fed again, a miracle He had already performed the previous day. Jesus knew their hearts – they wanted to satisfy their stomachs but not their spirits.
“Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” John 6:41-42 NLT
How could you answer that reasonably, so you don’t have people unsubscribing to your email list? Well, you see, Joseph isn’t really my father because my Mom was a virgin when I was conceived. So, you see, this is all just a misunderstanding. I’m God’s Son, so that’s why I said I came down from heaven. Are we clear now?
No, Jesus knew His words wouldn’t be received, except by a few at that point. They were hard words and only discernible spiritually. Even his closest disciples didn’t comprehend his meaning, because He had not yet died and fulfilled His purpose on earth. Yet they knew Him well enough to stay close despite their lack of understanding.
That’s the key for us too – knowing Him well enough not to walk away when our head knowledge and difficult life experiences don’t measure up, don’t make sense. Sometimes it’s enough to love someone to believe in them.
When Jesus’ words got hard, many close followers deserted Him.
“Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.” John 6:60-64
If I had been part of the crowd that day, how would I have responded? How would you? Honestly, I think I would have walked away too, shaking my head, because it was too unbelievable, too unthinkable, and just that weird.
Jesus then turned to his closest disciples, his chosen twelve, and asked the toughest question of all: “Are you also going to leave?” (v. 67)
How were the disciples going to answer that loaded question? How would I? His words are hard, and I don’t always understand their meaning. Do I really want Truth, spiritual words of life, even when my whole being cries out, “This is too difficult”?
Peter responded for himself and his friends at that point: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (v. 68-69)
To whom will I go?
This is the choice each of us must make.
Peter walked away once, denying he even knew Jesus three times. I get that because I’ve done it too. When I didn’t understand the why, and my heart was broken, I walked away, and He loved me even then. Jesus pursued me until I came home to stay.
Peter spoke for me as well that day, and for all those who have chosen to believe Jesus through the ages. I choose the One who has the words of life.
Friend, where will you go for the words that give eternal life?
Even if you’ve walked away, Jesus is as close as your next breath. He is holding out His arms to receive you.
It’s time to come home.
Bible Verse of the Day: John 6:68-69 (NIV) “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (v. 68-69)
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