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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
Well, welcome to Jesus Unfiltered. We’re in a journey through the book of John. And in the first five chapters, we looked at, What does it mean to believe? In chapter 6, there is a big shift. Jesus’ popularity is at its absolute apex.
And in chapter 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, the shift is going to be from, not, “Will you believe in Me,” but, “Will you follow Me?” And one of the big things that is going to turn is a miracle – the feeding of the five thousand – is the only miracle that all four gospel writers write about. It’s the most important miracle of all that He does, save the resurrection.
Let me ask you a very personal question. If God would do a grade-A, supernatural miracle – I don’t mean like a little help – I mean a “break the laws of nature,” intervene in your life personally, that there is no explanation except God supernaturally intervened for you, what miracle would you want Him to do?
It might be a health issue, it might be a relationship, it might be finances. What would you really want Him to do? What is that, maybe, one thing that you would say, Boy, if God did that, then…
Because we are going to learn what it looks like to follow, and we are going to learn that miracles are really important. But they have a very clear purpose. And sometimes we don’t know what the purpose is.
I am going to ask you to do something. We are going to jump right in. If you would open your Bibles to John chapter 6. I am going to read, here is the structure. It’s a very, very long passage, and we are actually going to go through it.
The passage goes something like this: Miracle number one – feed five thousand. Miracle number two – Jesus walks on the water with His disciples. Major rebuke by Jesus to a large multitude about why they are following Him. And then that is followed by a very long and important message that part of it is really hard to understand.
So let’s start with the miracles and by the time you see it all, you’ll begin to understand what it really means to follow Jesus.
Notice the context here. John 6, “Sometime after this, Jesus crossed the shore to the Sea of Galilee, that is the Sea of Tiberias. And a great crowd of people followed Him” – why? “because they saw miraculous signs that He performed” – on” - whom? “the sick.”
“Then Jesus went on the hillside and sat down with His disciples. The Jewish Passover feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw the great crowd coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for all these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.
“Philip answered, ‘Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.’ Another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here’s a little boy with five barley loaves and two, small fish, but how far will they go with so many?’ Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down,’” there was plenty of grass, “and so they had the men sit down – five thousand.”
The other gospel writers let us know that there are five thousand men, so there are probably somewhere between ten and twenty thousand people, if even a few wives and children are along.
“Jesus then took the loaves, He gave thanks, He distributed to those who were seated. As much as they wanted. And then He did the same with the fish. When they all had enough to eat,” you might underline that in your mind, “He said to His disciples, ‘Gather the pieces of bread that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and they filled twelve basket with pieces of barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”
Notice, “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the prophet who is come into the world!’ And Jesus, knowing what they intended to come and by force make Him king, He withdrew into the hills by Himself.”
Now, what He is going to do, literally, imagine this crowd. Maybe fifteen, twenty thousand people. They have seen this miracle. This is the prophet, they are thinking Deuteronomy chapter 18, where Moses said, “God will raise up another prophet like me.” And Moses brought manna in the wilderness; Jesus in the wilderness. They see the parallel.
And they are starting to rush toward Him to make Him king, a political king, the Messiah. And as they are doing that, He says to the disciples, “Okay, pick up all this stuff.” He is going to send them away and then He goes up on a hill to pray.
Notice what happens. “When evening came, the disciples went down to the lake, where they got into the boat, and they set off across for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. And a strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.
“When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat,” miracle number two, “walking on the water, and they were terrified. But Jesus said to them, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.’ Then they were willing to take Him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”
Context, “The next day the crowd that stayed on the opposite side of the lake realized that only one boat had gone, and that Jesus had not entered that boat with His disciples, but they had all gone away. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. And once the crowd realized neither Jesus, nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and they went to Capernaum,” notice this, “in search of Jesus.” Miracle, miracle, in search of Jesus.
Jesus does this miracle on purpose. Jesus has been teaching. Before, He is over in Jerusalem. The Jewish rulers are giving Him a hard time. He has declared clearly that He is the Messiah. He has taken the disciples off. They went on a little trip over here to Caesarea Philippi and it’s a place where there are all these different gods and false religions and there, Peter, months earlier, very shortly before this event, said, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
So the disciples believed He is the Messiah. Crowds and throngs. Now He gets out of Jerusalem because it’s getting dangerous because they are trying to kill Him, if you remember.
And now He looks out and there are throngs of crowds. And He is a rock star of rock stars. It is crazy. He has gone viral. People are tweeting about Him. He is Facebooked everywhere. Literally, of His day.
And now they are crowding and crowding and they have got this expectation. The King has come. And in their mind, that means He is going to overthrow Rome. We will make Him our king. He will pull down the Romans. He will set up a utopian society. This is their mindset of what they want in a Messiah. He is going to make my life work out now.
Now He is going to talk and He is going to have His disciples understand who He is. And you’ll notice on your notes, there are some different reasons why miracles occur. And I want to just give you these theologically, because God still does miracles, but He does them for a purpose. Miracles are never an end in themselves.
Jesus performed miracles to authenticate His identity. Remember, He claimed He is God? These kind of miracles – healing the sick, raising people from the dead – it authenticated His identity. It authenticated His teaching. He had wild teaching. “The Father and I are one. If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. I am the only way, the truth and the life.” And then He raises someone from the dead or He feeds four thousand over here and five thousand over here.
Miracles also reveal Jesus’ heart. He had this power, but how did He use it? The poor were helped, the lame walked, the blind would see, destitute parents in agony – their little girl has died – and He speaks and raises her from the dead. A widow is going through a town with her only son and he is in a coffin and he has died. And Jesus, moved with compassion, touches the coffin and raises the boy from the dead. These miracles reveal a heart of compassion and concern.
Or He is with His disciples and there is a storm and they are ready to capsize and He speaks to the wind and He speaks to the waves and, whoo. Or there is a demoniac filled with power and no one can restrain him and Jesus speaks His words and, whoo, he is clothed and in his right mind.
Miracles authenticate His identity, His teaching, His heart, and His power. And it did this one last thing. Did you notice in the opening passage? “A great multitude,” they drew crowds. Even today, right? When people hear about something supernatural, everyone flocks to know, Could this really be God?
And so, He has these large crowds, but now what we are going to find is He has been teaching, teaching, teaching, teaching. And if you could study this entire chapter very carefully, there will be grace, truth; grace, truth; grace, truth.
Now what He wants them to understand is not everyone is following Jesus for the right reason, and not everyone really gets what it means to be a follower.
Let’s get a couple of lessons from the miracles. The sign in the feeding of the five thousand is five thousand adults and families are fed. The barley loaves, don’t think of a loaf of bread. Think of a little piece of pancake about this big. The two fish, don’t think of a couple of big ones. They’re a little, this word is maybe a little bit bigger than a sardine. It was probably pickled and dried.
And so, He takes the resources of one tiny, little boy; feeds five thousand plus their families. And then He has the disciples do something that is very important. The word for “basket” here isn’t a small basket. It was a large basket with a top like this and they would often carry it with them.
After He does this miracle, those followers who will change the world are each carrying a basket full of pieces of bread and all of them, hours before, saw these three little pancakes and a couple of little fish.
And they are learning something about Jesus. And it probably didn’t miss their thinking that there were twelve baskets full. If He is the Messiah to Israel and there are twelve tribes and He is the bread of life, He is the source, He is the answer – all these claims are true, not only for them but to fulfill all of God’s promises for the nation of Israel.
Now, I don’t know if you have ever been a leader, but if you are a leader and thousands of people are following you and these are your key twelve men who were going to take it on and they start to take you by force, this is not a healthy situation for your followers.
And so, you send them on ahead. Now, what you need to understand is that the Sea of Tiberius, they call it a sea, it’s not really very big. And there are mountains around it. And when the sun goes down, the cool air and the water often will cause very, very choppy high, strong winds.
These are professional fisherman. And notice it says that they are rowing. And so, their back, if here is the map, right? Here’s north – Capernaum is over here and there is a synagogue where He is going to give a message, over here, Mmmm, it’s about four miles across the lake this way, He has just fed five thousand people, they have been about six or seven hours rowing and they are making no progress.
Jesus is up on the hill and He sees them, notice, He sees and He cares. And they are in a struggle. Notice the lesson of the five thousand is that if we bring our limited resources to Jesus, He has the power and desire to meet our need. That’s what it means to be a follower.
It’s not just intellectually believe. Here is the lesson: If you bring your limited resources, I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough courage, I don’t have enough money, I don’t know how to address this situation, I don’t have the resources to be the kind of parent You want me to be, I don’t know how to live this way as a single person, if you bring your limited resources to Jesus, He has the power and the desire to help you.
Being a follower isn’t just eating the bread or the fish or Him doing things for you. It’s bringing your needs to Him. He wants to help you. It’s an engagement; it’s a life journey.
Notice the response is they try to make Him king. In the next section, the sign is Jesus walks on the water and you’ll know from the other gospels that Peter actually says, “If it’s really You, ask me to come,” and Peter walks and he does well until he begins to look at circumstances and waves and he begins to sink.
And then immediately, Jesus gets in the boat and you have one of those Star Trek moments, right? He gets in the boat and, whoo, immediately they are there. Now, what do you think He’s…why is He preparing them?
There are going to be eleven of these twelve men, they are going to blaze a trail that is so counter-cultural, that will be so difficult; they will go through such suffering. Every, single one of them will be martyred and will not waver for their faith, because they understand who He really is.
The conviction of following someone is you can’t follow them unless you can trust them. And you can only trust people who you can believe their word, they have the power to do what they say they can do, and you can only trust them if you really know they care about you.
And Jesus sees their struggle. And Jesus walked on the water purposefully to let them know that whatever comes into your world and your life, I want you to know, even the very powers of nature are not a limitation for Me.
And so here is the lesson from miracle number two, if we invite Jesus into the storms of our lives, He will rescue us.
And, by the way, this isn’t hypothetical. I still remember, I was a very, very young Christian, and a good friend of mine was in an accident. He broke his body, he severed his spinal cord, they gave him no chance to live. We were all young Christians, we really didn’t know what we were doing. And the doctor said, “We are sorry. There is internal bleeding everywhere. Apart from a miracle…”
And we went to a little chapel on our campus, about thirty of us, and we prayed for about a day and a half or two days. We didn’t eat. We just prayed. And we begged God and we didn’t know any better. And I still remember when the girl came in the chapel and said, “The doctor’s actual words are, ‘It’s a miracle!’ Some reason, some way, the internal bleeding everywhere stopped. If it stays stopped, he is going to live!”
And Frank lived. And Frank, later, actually not only lived, but he was in a wheelchair the rest of his life and he had an amazing attitude. He became a science teacher, a wrestling coach, he actually later got married. It was a miracle. It was my first time to see a miracle and it revealed God’s heart and that He would actually listen to us.
I remember as a young pastor in a little church of about thirty-five people, and the first year or two, and I was just beginning and I didn’t know anything about being a pastor and I was in the hospital visiting one of our people. And there was a lady, a young mom, maybe thirty, thirty-two years old. And a little toddler and she had a brain tumor the size of about an orange.
And I just felt a prompting, and we got some people and we prayed for her. And this was the first time I had ever seen anything like this happen. I believed the Bible, I believed God can do supernatural things, I just hadn’t seen much of it.
And we prayed for that woman and, like, three days later she came back, “The doctors can’t explain it! It’s completely gone!”
Now, let me give you some perspective here. I have anointed people with oil with elders, I have prayed for many people and buried them two weeks later. So there is no claim, there are no special powers or anything. All I know is that at certain times, God intervenes in supernatural ways to authenticate His identity to us, to reaffirm His teaching for us, to give us faith and encouragement for His heart of compassion, and that we could remember He has power.
And then in the circumstances of life, that He sees our struggle and He wants us to cry out to Him and have a relationship with Him that is not about what we can get from Him or what He can do for us, but to understand He is God. Invite Him into your struggle. Invite Him into the storm of your life.
There is going to be a big shift here. The response of the disciples, first, they are terrified and then they are overwhelmed, right? When was the last time you were terrified of who God really is? Not because you were afraid of Him like He would hurt you, but terrified just by how powerful, how unapproachable light, how holy, how magnificent.
See, I think somehow Jesus is stuck in our minds as meek and mild and has a pale complexion and isn’t the kind of person if you had a big job to do, you wouldn’t want Him to help you because He’s pretty weak and He probably can’t pick up anything and He’s probably really sweet and just hangs out with women and little kids.
Really, He’s a little flannel graph or like the pictures, into the Christian bookstore Jesus. That’s not the Jesus of the Bible! The Jesus of the Bible is strong, He is powerful, He is supernatural, He cares, He loves, He is for you.
I’d like to just stop right now. I would like you to just stop and think of what is the biggest storm in your life or someone you love, okay? Think of someone you know that you love, they have got cancer. Think of someone you love and their marriage is not going well. Think of someone you love who has a child who is just far from God. Think of someone you love who is single or divorced or in the midst of deep, personal pain or depressed. Have you got them? Have you got it in your mind right now?
Ask God. Maybe that person is you. Ask Him to come into the storm of that person’s life, or you, right now. Oh, God, You are not a God of a book of thousands of years ago. Lord, you are with us where we move and live and have our being. You are personal and You are intimate. Lord, You take all of our tears and You put them in a bottle. Your heart grieves for us. You long for us to come and pour out our heart and share our needs and our hurts. You long to enter in and help.
And so we ask, in the name and the power of Jesus Himself, our holy Father, that You would do miraculous things, that You would intervene, that You would give grace, that You would give courage, that You would restore relationships, that You would even choose to heal bodies. And we would commit in advance that we will give You credit and honor and glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The shift now happens where they are learning to trust because these miracles are affirming who He is. And then at the end, did you notice that people were searching for Him? Now, get this in your mind how it really works. It was just yesterday!
And you were with one of your buddies and you were supposed to go fishing and he goes, “No, let’s not go fishing. Have you heard about this new, young rabbi, Jesus guy?” “Yeah!” “Well, did you hear about all the people who got healed and all that stuff in Jerusalem?” “Yeah.” “I heard He is going to be over in that Galilean area.” “Yeah!” “Let’s go see Him.” And you went!
And it was like all these people got fed and you went back and said, “Bob! Mary! Uncle Herb! You’ve got to see this guy! In fact, we are going back. We’ll maybe get another meal!”
And so you go over there, it’s like, “Wow, He’s gone. Where is He at? Where is He at?” “Well, one boat left, He went up the mountains, we’re not sure what is happening. I heard He went to Capernaum. Okay! Get in the boats!”
Everybody goes and gets in the boats and they are searching for Jesus. Jesus’ popularity is now going to change, because He has given them ample evidence, like He has for us, to believe.
Now He is going to talk about our motives and what it means to be a follower. Pick up the text with me.
Verse 25, “When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Like, “What miracle did you pull off lately?”
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for Me, not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On Him the Father has placed His seal of approval.” – how? Through the miracles.
Translation: Don’t just follow Me and want to use Me. I’m not a self-help genie, I didn’t come to the earth just to make your life work out. My goal wasn’t that I could be like a spiritual vending machine to make your life what you want it to be. I am God. I provided the food and I did the miracles so that you could see who I am so you could follow and have relationship, not use Me. You didn’t even come because of the miracles. You came because I met some material, physical needs and you wanted more.
Command: Do not work, don’t give your energy, don’t give your life for stuff that spoils or perishes, or stuff that never lasts. Don’t give your life for success, don’t give your life for money, don’t give your life for houses, don’t give your life for jobs, don’t give your life for where you kids get into school, don’t give your life for impressing people. Don’t give your life for anything that is here today and, whoo, tomorrow.
Instead, give your life for the food, the truth that leads to eternal life. And then this favorite phrase about Himself, “the Son of Man.” And what He is saying is, are you ready? Jot this in your notes, if you would. He is exposing the error of spiritual consumerism.
The rebuke is their motives. He says, “You are not searching for Me for Me. You are searching for Me for what you can get.”
The lesson is: Don’t give your life for things that are temporal, but for that which is eternal. And in just a minute, they have a question. Because, see, in their minds, their mindset about what it means to have a relationship with God or believing God is so fixed about what you do and your performance. The Pharisees did this, this, and this. It was all about do, do, do, do.
So He has done the miracles, yes, You’re special. So what do we need to do? Do you read more of the Bible, do we go to synagogue more often? What is the formula? Everyone had a formula. Tell us the four things to do, the three things to do, the two things to do so our lives can work out and we can control this little god and get what we want.
He says, “This is the work of God,” verse 29, “that you believe on Him whom He has sent.” It’s not about your working, it’s not about your doing, it’s not about your religiosity. It’s not about getting God in a box so you can use Him to make your life and your relationships and your finances and your kids and your singleness and your education and all your stuff work out.
It is about believing and trusting and having relationship with the God who made you so you could discover His purpose and live out of His fullness and know that you are loved just for who you are and know that He has forgiven you and He will place His Spirit in you and He has deposited gifts in you and He has a purpose for you, that the greatest and deepest joy in all the earth and the byproduct of some of these things will be very wonderful relationships.
And the byproduct may be financial blessing in seasons, and other seasons, not financial blessings. And the byproduct may be kids who turn out very wonderfully, and actually get into some very nice schools. But if that is the goal, you’ll miss this one.
And you end up empty. My experience has been people who have devastating life experiences or people who actually make it are the people who most quickly break free from materialism.
By the way, materialism has nothing to do with how much you have. Some of the poorest people in the world are shot through with materialism, because what they do is they falsely believe that if they just had…and you can fill it in…then life would work.
And Jesus is now going to give a message that is filled with grace, but with truth to say to thousands of people who are searching for Him, but really, their search isn’t so much about Him. What He said is, “You’re really searching for what you want for you, and you think I can be your means to get that.”
And He is going to draw a line that will just begin a new relationship of following where He says, “I won’t be used.” Because you’re wrong. The bread of this world, no matter what it is, no matter what you could put in a little box and say, If I had that, or if I was married, or if my kids would do this, or if I went public, or if we had so much money, or if we could find that second house, or if, if, if, if, then, then, then. He is just saying, “That is a bankrupt worldview. I am generous and I am kind and I am loving, but seek first My kingdom and My righteousness, and I will take care of those things.”
And so I want to walk you through, now, you’ll notice in your notes, each time we are learning to study the Bible, I have given you the structure of the passage. It’s a bit long. Some of it has some very interesting phrases that made a lot of sense to them, but it’s a little hard for our ears. And so I want you to jump back in with me in the text.
And the people now have heard that materialism, or using Jesus, is not an option. And He has made this outrageous claim. He says, “The work of God is to believe in the One He has sent.” He says, “I am the answer. It’s Me! It’s about relationship. It’s not about stuff.”
And so notice, now, the people ask for proof of Jesus’ claims. These are outrageous claims. Verse 30, “So they asked Him, ‘Well, what miraculous sign will You give us that we may see it and believe in You?’” As though feeding five thousand yesterday wasn’t a very good one. But aren’t we that way?
I could give you people’s names who God supernaturally healed their kids in ICU and they promised they would walk with Jesus forever and ever and ever, and they are so far from God. We so quickly forget God’s miracles. God’s acts will never sustain you. Only His ways. It’s knowing Him, who He really is, that sustains.
“‘Our forefathers ate the manna,’ Jesus said, ‘in the desert; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’” He’s speaking here. “Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it wasn’t Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it was My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God,’” listen to this, “is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world,” speaking of Himself.
Six times in this passage He will say, “He who comes down from heaven.” He wants them to know, “That was then. God was showing you that He is your provider. I want you to know that it wasn’t Moses who gave you the bread. My Father gave you the bread! He’s the Provider.”
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” No matter what you get, no matter what you achieve, no matter who you marry, you will have hunger. It won’t satisfy. You’ll need the next thing. He says, “That won’t be true of Me.”
“But as I told you, you have seen Me but you still do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do My will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should not lose none of them that He has given Me, but raise them up on the last day. For My Father’s will is that everyone who looks at the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day.”
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, all through the book of John, people whose hearts are hard, who don’t want to hear the truth, they initially hear things at the surface level instead of the deep level. Nicodemus, remember? He heard, “You must be born again.” Well, I can’t get back in my mother’s womb. “Nicodemus, you’re not getting it.” Okay?
Samaritan woman: “Would you like water that satisfies?” Oh, sure, so I’ll never have to come back here. Surface. “No, no, no. I’m talking about relationship with Me.” Watch what happens now in the text 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 read 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 what matters. 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.”
We all know people, literally, I’ll just tell you this. For whatever reason, I have ended up, I have got relationships with lots of people who have a big “B” by their name, as in “billionaire.” And I will tell you, Christian or not, the saddest, most difficult, painful things I have ever seen in all my life are either people in places like Haiti, where there is devastating, devastating poverty; or I have sat around kitchen tables with some of the richest people in the world, and I will tell you, the emptiness of a life when you could do anything, have anything, and you have been through a marriage or two, you are absolutely empty, you’re emotional. You are addicted to this, you have tried this, you have done that, you can fly anywhere, you can eat anything, and you are absolutely empty because you have lost your soul. And Jesus says, “Please don’t go there.”
His final words, ones that I think we should heed. He says, “If any- one 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. And you’ve got to know that there is a living God who will do miracles and we are living in a season of history; He will intervene in supernatural ways.
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.