"How Could I?" to "How Could I Not?"
Reflecting back on Pastor Daniel's sermon this past Sunday, I'm reminded of the high calling that Jesus has for His disciples. First, Jesus calls His disciples to have a redeemed priority. It's one thing for Jesus to say that He must before things like the love of money, addiction, sexual immorality, etc. because these things are clearly outlined as sinful. But it's harder for us to understand that He must come before job security, family stability, and close friendships. Though these are all good things, we must behold Christ so much so that these things do not even come close in value to how much we cherish Jesus. What an outrageous calling!
This outrageous calling is nothing new. Every single one of Jesus' teachings were radical. Look at the words in John 6.
"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe." John 6:35-36
"When many of his disciples heard it, they said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, 'Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.' (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.'
"After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, 'Do you want to go away as well?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.' Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.' He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray Him." John 6:60-71
Jesus was not preaching a prosperity gospel. Jesus was speaking truth.
What is the difference between the disciples that left the side of Jesus and the disciples that stayed with Him, specifically the Twelve?
The difference is that the ones who left Jesus were asking themselves, "How could it be possible for me to follow this man?"
The ones who continued to follow Jesus were asking themselves, "How could it be possible for me NOT to follow this man?"
In our flesh, we naturally repulse back from Jesus' teachings. I think as "churched" individuals, we may nod and agree that Jesus is the bread of life because it sounds good. It certainly makes a good smart-phone wallpaper or t-shirt. But if we truly believe that Jesus is the bread of life, then we believe and proclaim that He is greater than one of our greatest physical needs of hunger. We proclaim that, "YES! I need Jesus more than I need food. I need Jesus more than I need a fulfilling job. I need Jesus more than a stable family. I need Jesus so much so that everything else seems like it is not a need for me anymore."
The ones who stopped following Jesus could not wrap that around their minds and so they left. And this is what we do each and every single day when sin against God by putting some other idol as a higher priority than Jesus Christ. In the eyes of a Holy, Holy, Holy God, our actions are heinous. Despicable. Like lukewarm water to be spat out. At least the ex-disciples who left the side of Jesus were honest with themselves. I proclaim to be a devoted follower of Christ and yet I follow my own desires each and every day.
Now what about the Twelve? What is their reaction? Simon Peter says something beautiful here. "Lord, to whom shall we go?" To Peter, there is no choice to be made. Physically, Peter could have gone home like everyone else and continued his life as a fisherman. But Peter, believing and trusting in Jesus through the Holy Spirit, does not see that as an option anymore. "You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." How could he not follow Jesus? Amazing.
When we come to meet Jesus and believe that He is the Holy One of God, He changes everything. Peter's secure life as a fisherman means nothing anymore. Peter has left his home, family, job, and everything he once knew and loved, for the sake of knowing and following Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. How is this possible? Jesus says it in the next verse:
"Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the Twelve?" We are only able to follow Jesus Christ because of His grace in choosing us. The mystery continues to grow. Why choose me? What use am I, a broken sinner, for the great kingdom of God?
This is that new mercy that disciples live by. Though we deserve eternal death because in every way our hearts and lives are that of the ex-disciples who left Jesus, Jesus has taken that punishment upon Himself so that we may now follow Him as true disciples.
God has called us by name to be His disciples. When we realize the grace and mercy found in this, we are propelled all the more to follow Him whole-heartedly. Nothing we did reflects that of someone worthy to be a disciple. In fact, what we do is quite the opposite of what a disciple of Jesus should do. And yet in His mercy, Jesus has chosen us to, by the Holy Spirit, believe His words of eternal life and to know that He is the Holy One of God. When the Holy Spirit begins to open our eyes and help us view His words as eternal life and as Jesus as the Holy One of God, our question becomes, "How could I not follow Jesus?"
Daniel Kim Pastoral Intern