Jesus had been teaching, healing, and feeding the people. His fame had spread all over Galilee, and tremendous crowds were following Him. But many were following for the wrong reasons; they wanted to make Him a political king, because He fed them. So Jesus found it necessary to winnow out those with the wrong motivations by teaching “hard” things. And it had the desired effect; for this reason, the Scriptures say, many stopped following Him (John 6:66). And then Jesus asks His closest disciples (the twelve) a curious, but necessary question, “…You do not want to go away also, do you?” John 6:67.
I can’t help but wonder about the specific reason that Jesus said this. The fact that Jesus asked this question in response to so many walking away makes me suspect that Jesus realized the social impact that this mass exodus was having on the apostles. Maybe it was the look of disappointment on the faces of the apostles that so many were leaving. Maybe the apostles were getting too excited about the numbers, the size of Jesus’ movement, the prospects of a physical kingdom—and then watched as Jesus deliberately said shocking things that sent lots of them home. Perhaps Jesus’ words had shocked even some of the apostles enough that, especially combined with the crowds leaving, they had begun to wonder if they hadn’t made a mistake about Jesus being Messiah.
Thank God for Peter, who gave the right answer, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” John 6:68.
Relationships are powerful things in our lives. Whether marriage, children, family, friends, colleagues, peers, neighbors, or society at large; our relationships are all powerful influences in what we think, how we feel, what we do, what we accept, and what we reject. Consequently, they can either have an influence for good in our lives or be a stumbling block for evil.
In 40 plus years of ministry I’ve observed with heartbreak as husbands and wives were being led away from the Lord because of an unbelieving spouse; as parents deserted the Lord, because their children left Him; as children followed a worldly path, because parents were weak and uncommitted in their discipleship; as Christians left the faith, because friends or colleagues tempted them and scorned them when they resisted; and even as church leaders have strayed off course, because society doesn’t accept Jesus’ teachings as they are given to us in the Bible. Satan has many proxies in this world, who he uses to great effect in his war against the Lord’s people.
It is the reason why the Lord forbade marriage to foreigners (Deuteronomy 7:3). Why Israel was forbidden to make any covenant with the Gentiles (Exodus 23:32,33). And why Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about being bound together with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Those with whom we associate can strongly influence us.
This is, of course, not to say that we shouldn’t have any association with unbelievers at all; how else how could we share the Good News with the lost?
But it is to say that we as Christians need to steel ourselves against the influences of the world around us, and we must be the stronger influences. We need to stand convinced that the Bible is right and that what the world proclaims is not. We need to remind ourselves that our loyalty must be to the Lord first and foremost, far above all other ties. We need to remember the words of the Peter not only when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life,” but also when he said, “…We must obey God rather than men,” Acts 5:29.
It’s a common parent / child scenario:
Child: “But mom/dad everybody’s doing it!”
Parent: “If everybody jumped off the bridge, would you want to do that, too?”
It’s an answer that should ring in our ears especially, when it comes to spiritual matters: “If everybody jumped off a spiritual bridge, would you want to do that, too?” Hopefully, not.
Jesus may not have the key to popularity, but He does have the words of eternal life. Follow Him!