John 6: 65-71, “And he said, therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.”
Here are some of the saddest words of the N.T. "From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him." And as we read that we might wonder, where did they go? And the simple answer is, they went back, back to their homes and back to their empty religion. Their leaving reminds me of the passage over in Hebrews 6:4-6, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." This isn’t describing people who’ve lost their religion but it describes people who never had it in the first place.
And here we see it describes those who have heard the gospel and saw the evidence of it's power to change lives. These people came to the point of surrender but some reason or another they just said no and walked away. So, how can they be saved? They've rejected God's only provision and they've crucified Jesus afresh and as far as they were concerned Jesus had died for nothing.
Why did they leave? I think the problem was, they didn't get what they came for. They were looking for a leader who would give them everything and expect nothing in return. All they wanted were healings and free meals. They wanted prosperity with no thought of ever having to pay a price. And I'm afraid we are seeing history repeat itself before our very eyes. There are several books out describing the baby boomer generation and these are the people who were born between 1948 and 1965. This is the generation who has experienced nothing but prosperity in North America and rather than having a sense of owing something for all they enjoy there's a consumer mentality of wanting to help themselves to all that's available.
We are starting to see the effects of this in the church and it's expected to get worse. The consumer mentality has no sense of loyalty but shops for a church that has the programs to meet their needs. They are there to be ministered to and not to minister. It's no longer ‘what can I do to serve the Lord’ but what's in it for me. As this mentality slowly creeps into the church we’re seeing a shortage of workers and when programs have to be cut people just go somewhere else or go no where at all. Listen, just because the world is heading in the wrong direction; that’s no reason for the Christians to go along for the ride.
And in response to these crowds leaving, Jesus asked His disciples a question, "Will you also go away?" As we read that question I wonder how many were still there? Is it possible that all the crowds who followed Him the day before had left and everyone who had seen His miracles and heard His teaching were offended at the kind of commitment He was demanding and they quietly slipped away and left just the twelve? We don’t know how many were there but Peter spoke up and said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. And we believe that you are the Christ the Son of the living God."
And we see Jesus response to Peter's statement of loyalty by demonstrating His omniscience or the fact that He knows everything and that includes not only those who left but He even knows what’s in the heart of those who stayed. And He basically says to him, "Don't be too quick to speak for everyone, I've chosen twelve but one of you is a devil." And when you think about it, this was a whole year before His betrayal that He knew that one of them wasn't a believer and yet no one ever suspected Judas. I mean, right up to the moment he was going to betray Jesus they all thought he was going out to buy something for the feast or give something to the poor. So, Judas fooled the disciples, he may even have fooled himself into thinking he was something he wasn't but he never fooled Jesus. And so when the crowd were there eating and enjoying themselves and telling Jesus that He was the greatest man they ever seen or heard He knew they’d all be gone before the day was out.
The Christian life is an ongoing battle against the world, the flesh and the devil. Regardless of what we have to endure we know in our heart of hearts that only Jesus has the words of eternal life there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.
There will always be those who join churches like they join any other social organization. They're there for a good time but not for a long time. Then there are those who might seem sincere but for some reason or another they’ll soon fall away. But, then there are the faithful. They may not be the most gifted, the most intelligent or even those who appear to be the godliest but they're always there are if God spares them they'll still be where He put them to serve until the day they die or Jesus returns. And I believe that's what God is looking for; He’s looking for the faithful. He's looking for those who will live for Him and that means those who are dying to self on a daily basis.