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Jesus Unfiltered - Follow
If we think about it very hard, we admit that there’s not much in this life we actually control. In this series, from John chapters 6 – 10, Chip Ingram explains that to follow someone or something means we willingly let someone else lead. When Jesus asks people to follow Him, He means He will take on the responsibility to provide, lead, protect, and love – and as followers, we agree to believe, trust, and obey – even when it’ll take everything we’ve got, to do that. Chip details the journey from forgiveness to freedom, as he fills in the blanks of what it means to follow Jesus.More from this series
As you look at your notes, just look at the structure. The miracle requested is, “You make this outrageous claim; give us a miracle.” The explanation is, “The miracle I am giving is better than Moses. His was manna, bread; I am the true bread of God. Eternal life.”
Jesus clarifies that, and then notice in your notes the promise made: “I am the bread of life.” Translation: “Only in relationship with Me will your deepest needs ever be fully satisfied.”
And then He gives another explanation, just in case they didn’t get it. “I am the bread of life. It’s the Father’s will. It is open. You can have it.” Do you hear the grace? They are missing the point.
In the next section, the people resist His invitation. Look at verse 41. “At this the Jews began to grumble about this. He says, ‘I am the bread of life that came down from heaven.’ They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
In other words, they are questioning His identity. All the miracles say this is who He is. But their logic and the person, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a second. I know Mary, and I know Joseph.” They don’t have the virgin birth and all that stuff in their minds. And they are thinking, The miracles say this, but what about that?
Part of it is their hearts aren’t open. But by the way, people’s lack of response to the truth of God is almost always a moral issue, and not an intellectual issue. They are disregarding the facts. They don’t understand it all. But they reject Him.
Verse 43 through 51, Jesus repeats His offer. They reject Him, then notice, here’s grace! Picking up in verse 43, “‘Stop grumbling among yourselves, Jesus said, ‘no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the Prophets: “They will all be taught of God.” Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me.’” This is radical.
If you really believe in the Father, you would come to Me. “No one has seen the Father except the One who is from God; only He who has seen the Father.” And then this phrase again, “I tell you the truth,” literally, it’s the phrase, “Amen, amen,” or, “Verily, verily,” or, “Bold, bold, listen up!” It’s the third time He has used it.
“He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” We are not talking about stuff. We are not talking about religion. And then He is going to describe, So, what does it mean to believe in Him?
“I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, and they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven,” listen carefully, “if a man eats,” it’s aoristic tense, point in time, makes a specific decision, “if a man eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” And He is speaking about dying on a cross to pay for your sin and my sin and the sins of the whole world.
Now, you’re going to have to be, He is offering grace again. Now, watch very carefully, as the people take Him at surface value and miss the point.
Jesus now amplifies the condition of His offer. Here’s the condition. Verse 52, “Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give his flesh to eat?’” A little too literal, guys.
“Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth,’” or, “amen, amen,” or, “‘verily, verily, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
“For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. And whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Our forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.’ He said this while teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
“On hearing it, many of His disciples said, ‘This is a hard saying. Who can understand it?’” Not, “Hard to understand.” This word means it is hard to swallow. The implications are too grave. And I will explain what He means by, “Eat My flesh and drink My blood,” in just a minute.
But they are realizing that this belief, this, Oh, I believe in Jesus and feed me and make my life work out, and being a spiritual consumer, He said, “No, no, no, no, no. This is about intimate relationship.” Everyone has bread. You have bread; I have bread. And you need to ask, What bread am I chasing? See, bread is the sustenance of life.
Bread is what delivers. You get up to earn bread. You work for bread. It’s why you work, it’s what you do, it’s what you think about, it’s what you dream about, it’s where your strategy comes from, it’s what your goals are all about.
And it is either about things that are temporal, or it’s Him. And what He is saying is, “Following Me isn’t like intellectually believing something about Me, having some religious activities,” and it’s sort of like: here’s the pie of your life and Jesus is the slice.
He said, “Eating My flesh and drinking My blood is: I am your life. That everything in your life revolves around Me and our relationship and out of our relationship, your time and priorities and money and relationships and all of life flow, because I am God and I am your Savior and I came and I am the only One that you will be ever satisfied with.”
And so following goes up. In the words of the apostle Paul, he would later say, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live. Yet, not I, but Christ lives within me. And this life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Later on, he’ll describe what this means in terms of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, and He will just use a simple word. It’ll be: Abide. It’ll be: Stay connected. He is talking about, “Just as the Father and I have life and unity with one another, and My life in His,” in the same way, He is going to say, “Followers of Me are not some sort of, I do things for them, or, they believe a set of principles, or, they follow a formula. But it’s this same kind of relationship. I in them and them in Me, that I have with the Father.”
That’s what He is talking about when He says, “Eat My flesh and drink My blood.” He is talking about intimate relationship.
“Aware of this, the disciples were grumbling about this, and Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you?’” Obviously so. And He is saying, “Six times I have talked about the Son of Man coming down.” And He kind of says, “Are you ready for this one?”
“What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before!” What if you get to see, at the right hand of the Father? And now He gives the interpretation that He is not being literal with eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
Verse 63, “‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are of spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe,’ for Jesus knew from the beginning which one of them did not believe and who would betray Him. And He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled him.’”
The condition here, if you want to jot it down is to eat His flesh and drink His blood. And can I just say on the front, that’s a pretty strong, gross, I wonder what is going on? statement, right? Doesn’t that sound like spiritual cannibalism or something?
What it meant then, notice, this is written in 90 A.D. The Church has been in existence for roughly about thirty years. A New Testament Christian would read this and remember that passage. And now they have the benefit of taking the Lord’s Supper as they gather. And they would very clearly know, Oh, this is, He was predicting His body would die for us, and there would be His blood shed for the New Covenant.
If I was a Greek Gentile and I read this, I would think of the mystery religions where, in the mystery religions, they had a number of different things they did and these wild exercises. But a part of their exercises, they would offer food to a god and believe that the god, and I can’t go into all the background, but that the god would actually partake of the food, digest it, and then they would eat the food when they leave and believe that the god had taken up residence in them.
It was this idea that your whole life, your whole life would be focused around the relationship with this god. And if you were a good Jew and you heard someone say, “Eat my flesh and drink my blood,” you were repulsed.
And Jesus was saying to them, “The words I have given you, they are Spirit and they are life. They are not here. You don’t go back into the womb. They are not here. It’s not that you have a bucket that you don’t have to draw, Samaritan woman. What I am talking about is that intellectually agreeing that I am the Savior of the world and trying to use Me for what I can give you is not following Me. A genuine follower, I am your life.
“When you make a decision, you ask Me. Remember the miracle? I will provide for you. Miracle in the sea: I will protect you. I care about you. I don’t want you to talk to Me just when your kids are in ICU or your finances go upside down or when you get laid off. I want to be at the very heart and the fabric.”
In fact, if the apostle Paul was explaining to us in our day, What does it mean now? What does it mean now to eat His flesh and drink His blood, are you ready? He would say, “I urge you, therefore, my brothers, in view of God’s great mercy to offer your body,” point in time, “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him. This is your spiritual service of worship.” This is what it means to be a follower.
And in the everyday life, “Don’t be conformed any longer to this world,” the bread of this life, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that your life,” how you actually live and your lifestyle, “could prove or test or demonstrate to you and to others what God’s will is really like, that which is good, acceptable, and well-pleasing,” or, “perfect.” That’s what it means to be a follower. That’s what He is saying.
He says, “I don’t want part of you. I want all of you, because I am giving all of Myself to you.”
As you turn the page, you’ll notice there are two very vivid responses. Those who saw the miracles: the disciples, the Jews, the crowds, the multitudes – He brought them to a crossroads. He is asking, “Do you really believe I am God? Do you really believe I am the way? Do you understand the cost? Do you understand the implications?”
These multitudes – You’re a rock star when You’re working my life out for me my way. The disciples of convenience, you can write the word: they defect. Notice verse 66, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”
Oh, man, I wanted to follow You, but I didn’t want to be a fanatic. I mean, I want to believe in God, I want to believe in Jesus, but my whole life revolving around this relationship? I think that’s a bit much. I think I’ll do life my way.
Notice the text, Jesus, with tender compassion says, “Do you want to leave? You do not want to leave too, do you?” He says it to Peter, to the disciples. “He asked the twelve. Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.’”
“We believe and know.” It’s in the perfect tense. What that means is, literally, a very clear translation that, “We have already believed at a prior point in time, and we have absolutely settled and know in our hearts that You are the Holy One of God.”
Earlier, He uses the words, “Eat My flesh; drink My blood.” And it’s a tense of the verb that is at a point in time. Later, He says, “If you continue to feed on Me,” He is talking about, it’s a different word for “eat” and it’s a word for nourishing or eating or continuing in. It’s in the present tense. It means we keep on building and developing our relationship with Him.
And so what He says is, “I want you to follow Me.” And this miracles is, “I want you to know that, what’s your need? I gave you, I am the bread of life, but I fed you bread. What is going on in your life? Would you invite Me in to where you have a need?”
And then He says, “I don’t know what is going on in your life, but would you invite Me into the storms and the difficulties?” That miracle was to let you know, “I will enter in. I will help you. I will rescue you. I will either take you out of it or I will take you through it. Or in some cases, you are so precious, I will take you unto Myself.”
The very end of this passage, it says, “Then Jesus said, ‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’ (And He meant this because Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve, would later betray Him.)”
The point is you can be exposed to all the truth, you can see all kinds of miracles, but the issue of the heart, of being a follower, really begins with surrender. And I just would ask, where are you?
As I read this chapter, the paragraph – it was truth and grace, truth and grace, truth and grace. And I just marked it all the way through. At the very end, a parallel passage, I will end. Because I feel it would be disingenuous not to let Jesus close our time.
In Mark chapter 8, in this setting, Jesus would say to the crowds and the disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” If you’re going to follow, deny yourself. Not your agenda, Mine. Cross, instrument of death.
And then He gives the reason. It’s gracious; it’s kind. It’s hard, but it’s kind. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses himself for Me and the gospel will save it.”
If you want to control your life, you want your agenda, you do your thing, you want your temporal bread – you will lose your life. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” And then He goes, “It’s illogical.”
His final words, ones that I think we should heed. He says, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Can I just be pastoral, just for a moment? I think we have gotten to where we are so fearful of either what people think or the implications of our life, that unlike the apostle Paul, I don’t think the average follower says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” And we will have to be bold and loving and winsome and show people that whatever their caricature is of Christianity is wrong. And we will need to love in powerful, powerful ways. But we will have to be bold and unashamed.
You’ve got to stand at the coffee shop, you’ve got to stand at youth sport time, you’ve got to stand in the carpool, you’ve got to stand at work. Because whenever there is a lull, whenever there is a time in history where people are drifting far from God, He will choose to intervene because you know what? He is going to authenticate His Word. He is going to authenticate His teaching. He is going to authenticate His heart. He is going to reveal His power.
But He is going to do it through regular people like us who are unashamed. I don’t mean bossy. I don’t mean “Praise the Lord-y.” I don’t mean preachy. I mean unashamed and passionately loving people, who realize you haven’t thrown your brains in the trash and you’re going to say, intellectually, “I don’t know what you’re basing your life on and I don’t know what bread you’re going after, but I believe that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. He is my Savior, He is the Lord, He is the Creator of the universe, and guess what? I’m an actually intelligent person. I have evaluated the facts. I am His follower. I’m not just a believer. I am His follower.”
You will be absolutely shocked, absolutely shocked at people who you think would never be open, who are waiting for one person they respect, like you, to be public and unashamed.