John 6:53-69 reads:
53 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 yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would [j]betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
Though the reading of the Gospel accounts, it is clear that there were 4 types of people that typically encountered Jesus:
1) Those that opposed Him
2) The massive crowds that came to see Him
3) The thousands that followed Him
4) Those that were His Disciples (Not just “The Twelve”)
In every town, there were massive crowds that came out to see Jesus. But when he left, they went home – anxiously awaiting his next “tour date” in their hometown. There were also those who followed Him, faithfully, from town-to-town, enduring much, to hear his next public teaching, and to see His next miraculous display. Among those the followed Him, were those who made up the group commonly referred to as the disciples – this group would have included several women – likely His mother Mary, the other “Mary’s”; his half-brothers; and from time to time, Lazarus, Martha, and several others. But then still, there was the inner circle of disciples, often referred to as “the twelve”.
Now, probably no one would suggest that “the crowds” were “saved” (however, I bet if they were asked on a modern-day survey what their “religious affiliation” was, they would say “Christian”.) But in reality, they were more like modern day “fans” of a rock band – looking forward to the annual “show” in their area, talking about them, and making reference to them, as if they know them personally – but they don’t.
A step of commitment beyond, was that of “the followers“. Indeed this is a title we often give ourselves when we speak of our “Christian Experience”, but that too takes a turn for the lesser in this passage, as clearly not all who were in the “crowds” were “followers”, and not all who followed were counted among His disciples, though they clearly exhibited a sacrificial determination to get closer to Jesus – but what was their motives, really? Many among us would call ourselves a follower, and rest well with that distinction, proclaiming ourselves to be a “saved Christian” – yet, hold on… Jesus makes yet another, seeming final distinction.
The Lord went on to call some of these followers, “disciples“. There can be no argument, that not all who came to hear were followers; and not all who followed, were disciples – and certainly to be a disciple, is a far more committed role in the “Christian Experience” than that of just a follower, as we see from the passage above, and many others in Scripture. Clearly those who were disciples – and maybe many of us – rest confident in being called and numbered among this “elite” group of devotees.
Think of it… I am a “disciple of Jesus”! Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it. I am an apprentice of the Savior come from Heaven, being taught at the feet of the master Himself – being privy to parables explained and mysteries revealed. But wait… there’s more! Look carefully at the beginning of verse 64: “there are some of you who do not believe” – some of who? The crowds? The followers? No, the disciples!! Look at the verses just prior to this, and the one immediately following (60, 61 & 66): “Therefore many of His disciples,” – “His disciples grumbled at this” & “many of His disciples withdrew.” As frightening as it may seem, even being a disciple, does not appear to be adequate for salvation!
So if being among the crowd who hails Jesus as the best motivational speaker in the region – those who never miss hearing Him when he comes to town is not enough… if being so “inspired” by His teachings that you make great sacrifice to follow Him from town-to-town, is not enough… if committing to sit at His feet, and be listed among those crazy disciples is not enough… then the question begs to be asked “What in the world does this Jesus want from us anyway?!?”
Verse 64 provides the answer: “believe”.
It seems we have it backwards. We call folks to first “believe” (thereafter pronouncing them “saved”), then tell them to follow Jesus all the days of their life. And, if you really want to get carried away, you might consider becoming a disciple – but we treat true discipleship as if it is optional, and only for the “extremists” among us. However, the Holy Spirit teaches us in this very passage, that many among the crowds will begin to follow Jesus, and some among the followers will become disciples, and few among the disciples will become *believers*.
Is this not what our Heavenly Father is seeking… *True Believers*? Not casual fans – not even committed followers – nor just extreme disciples! He is looking for those who will be satisfied with none of that – remaining hungry for more – and willing to cast aside all caution – BELIEVE the radical, life-changing, history-altering message of the King, come to earth, to save His own from themselves, that they might return to Him with desperate, reckless, selfless, passionate abandon – surrendering fully to all His seemingly foolish and outrageous words, and yielding the throne of their lives, to His rule and reign, in their hearts, for all their days.
And when these *True Believers* emerge from the ranks of those being discipled to Jesus, then – and only then – will the watching world look at them, and with pointed fingers, with a bit of mockery – and, as they did in Antioch (Acts 11:26) – call them “Christians” – for in this way, they have become just like that crazy Jesus guy!
Reader, it’s time for some soul searching… what role does Jesus Christ really play in your life? Is He really nothing more that “favorite motivational speaker”? Or have you committed to following Him – yet still at a distance – offended at some of His audacity, and ready to “walk” as soon as He gets too close? Or, are you among those who would proudly wear your “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt, since, after all, you number yourself among the inner circle… but in your heart, do you believe all His outrageous and extreme claims – really? He is calling you to believe! Believe with all your heart! Believe without reservation! Believe with reckless abandon that “Jesus alone has the words of Life, and that He is the Holy One of God”! Believe!