John 6:60-71: “How Would Your Life Be Different?”
Sunday morning worship, January 28, 2018
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) John 6:60-71
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord to whom shall we go?’” In Matthew’s parallel to John’s writing, Simon Peter says, “We have left everything to follow you!” (19:27).
If we accept the Bible and the words of Jesus it contains… And if we focus only on Jesus’ words in the Bible that are very clear… Then I think that we like the Twelve will say on multiple occasions, “This is a hard teaching.” Trying to follow Jesus’ example can exhaust us. Trying to keep even Jesus’ obvious commands can keep us always on edge because we know we are doomed to failure at some point. We aren’t Jesus and we can’t ever be Jesus. We can only be more or less like Jesus than we were before. The “before” may be a few hours ago, a few days ago, a few months ago, a few years ago, or it may even be many years ago. But our bottom line is that we can only choose to act in ways that help us grow to be more like Jesus or choose to be less like Jesus than we were…(plug in your own timeline).
I would like to suggest that we ask ourselves a few questions so that we can examine our choices and the subsequent actions that lead to our becoming more or less like Jesus. Sometimes such a self-examination can find a lump or two in our character, but I’m not suggesting we get lost in introspection. I’m just suggesting a cursory exam, a quick inventory. Let’s focus on this: “How would our lives be different if Jesus were not a part of our lives?”
Let’s begin by looking at the amount of time we spend with Jesus. Obviously if Jesus were not a part of our lives we wouldn’t be here in this place this morning. We could sleep in or take part in some self-serving activity. Maybe a few of us would volunteer our services to a worthy charity or community need. We might have cleaner houses or cars. We might read a little more, watch a little more television, play more hours of a video game, or use our phones or computers to connect with people, places, and ideas that interest us. At best we would add six hours to our week. Some of us give multiple hours during the week to the various ministries of the church. We plan or prepare lessons. We take care of the property. We attend social functions and the teaching/learning ministries of the church. Maybe we work in our communities, our schools, our places of work, or our neighborhoods specifically directed by the cause of Christ. Then there are the hours we spend in the spiritual disciplines—studying our Bibles on our own, praying for others and ourselves, worshiping God, and more. Then there are all the little ways, the whispered prayers, the mentions of our love we send off to Jesus, the listening to hear if He is talking to us. How many hours does that consume? Let’s say 18 altogether meaning we are giving one full day—24 hours, 14%—each week specifically to the cause of Christ. Is that too much? Is that too little? Only our own self examination can give us an accurate estimate.
Next let’s look at the amount of money we spend in the advancing of God’s kingdom. Israel, in its constitution as a nation at Mount Sinai, was asked to give 10% of all they earned in a year. That, by the way included all their taxes. In an agricultural society determining a “tithe” isn’t as easy as it is when we get a paycheck with a dollar figure on it. But let’s just assume they were to give a tenth of their harvest, a tenth of their new livestock, and a tenth of the financial blessings that came their way during the year. The new covenant Jesus initiated at the Passover meal we call the Last Supper didn’t talk about money. All Jesus taught was that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34). So I ask, “If we ‘got back’ all that we give to building God’s kingdom how would we spend or save it? We obviously need homes, cars, clothes, food, and to pay our necessary bills, but where does the rest go?
Next let’s look at how we make our decisions and interpret the world around us. Do we put what builds the kingdom of God and fulfills our calling in Christ at the top of the list when we are making our choices, or do those factors come near the bottom? Have we learned to pray/ask and find the answers to, “Where are You, God, in this situation?” “What is it You want me to accomplish for Your kingdom?” If we know a choice we are going to make is improper or is going to have negative or even neutral consequences, do we choose to spend our time in those pursuits? How frequently do we make these kinds of decisions? What about how we form and frame our relationships with our family and our friends? Is Jesus in these relationships? How? and Where? Is Jesus front and center, a part of our conversations and our mutual activities? or is Jesus rarely even mentioned or thought of when we are together? Where do these relationships take us? Do they help us grow closer to Jesus or do they take us farther away from Christlikeness?
We could continue with questions like this until we get lost in our introspection, which is what I don’t want us to do. I think by now, however, we all understand what I mean when I ask, “How would our lives be different if Jesus were not a part of our lives?” Some of Jesus’ disciples came to the conclusion the demands of Jesus were not a worthwhile investment of their time, money, decision-making processes, and relationships. They grumbled first, and when the demands became too great, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (v66). One of them eventually betrayed Him. In my mind’s eye, which may or may not be accurate, I picture a long pause between v66 and v67. I picture Jesus talking to Himself, praying, asking God, “How long before I really reveal the demands of a relationship with me?” Most of us have probably experienced this type of emotional conversation when we were dating or making a new friend. We wonder, “How much should I share and how early to share it? Do we “dump” everything early on testing to see if someone will stay before our emotional investment in that person gets too great and we “can’t afford, at least emotionally” to have them leave us after they “know us”? Do we play it safe, going slowly and risk losing a relationship because we are cold and distant? Do we understand the rhythms of the give-and-take of a healthy relationship? Jesus obviously realized now was the time to reveal to His casual disciples what being His disciple really meant. Now Jesus stood, sadly, probably somewhat broken, and watched them walk away until He could see them no more: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Luke 13:34, Matthew 23:37). “O disciples, you who say you want to be My disciples, there are so many things I would give you if you would truly follow me, but you are not willing.” And then, Jesus turned His eyes back to the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” If Jesus were physically present here right now and asked us straight up to follow Him wherever, would we have other options to consider or have we already made that choice? Simon Peter didn’t? “Lord, to whom shall we go?” When the 12 thought Jesus was dead, they were lost. They didn’t know what to do.
Let me ask this same question a different way: “Do we immediately know when Jesus is with us and when He is absent from us?” Are we well enough acquainted with His presence to notice his absence? There’s hardly an object in the main rooms of our house that doesn’t speak to me in some way. If I know what these objects are saying to me, I should know with an even greater degree of intimacy what Jesus is saying to me about every part of my life. I pray this is true of all of us as well. I pray we learn to consider every aspect of our lives an investment in our relationship with Jesus. I pray that Jesus is so real to us that not hearing Him speak scares us to death, that the loss of His presence is the greatest loss we can suffer. Don’t get lost in self-examination, get lost in seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness first, and then let Jesus multiply our time, our money, our wisdom, and our relationships. He promises He will if we do it His way, first, last, and always.