Deserted By Many
Scripture: John 6:60–66
Deserted By ManyJohn 6:60-66
Sunday, February 2, 2003
Pastor Randy Smith
During WWII six Navy pilots left their aircraft carrier on a mission. After searching the seas for enemy submarines, they tried to return to their ship shortly after dark. But the captain had ordered a blackout of all lights on the ship. Over and over the frantic pilots radioed, asking for just one light so they could see to land. But the pilots were told that the blackout could not be lifted. After several appeals and denials of their request, the ship's operator turned the switch to break radio contact--and the pilots were forced to ditch their planes in the ocean.
The captain was forced to make a critical decision. Rather than compromise the location of the ship, risking the lives of thousands, he was forced sacrifice 6 of his pilots to the ocean. Our heart goes out to these pilots.
But let's pretend the events were different. Let's pretend that the captain believed that sacrificing the entire ship was commendable if it meant bringing these six pilots home alive. Let's pretend that enemy ships and planes were closing in, yet the captain still illuminated the entire runway, broke radio silence and halted all defense gunfire for the sake of these six pilots and their safe return.
Then after all the captain does, after the commitment he makes realizing that his sacrifice is the only possible hope for a safe return, the pilots refuse his sacrifice, his light, his way home and say: We'd rather try to get home without your light! Or, we'd rather land our planes on the ship of the enemy! Or, we'd rather die in the dark depths of the ocean!
Our only response would be, "What a tragedy!"
The events in our text this morning are even more tragic. After Jesus presented Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, after Jesus presented Himself as the true Light, and after Jesus presented Himself as the only way home, many of His followers left Him and said: We'd rather get to heaven by our own works. We'd rather take our refuge in the promises of the enemy. We'd rather die an eternal death in the depths of hell.
After Jesus delivered the beautiful "Bread of Life" discourse, nothing is more disheartening, questionable or tragic than the response from many of His followers. Chapter 6, verse 66 says, "As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.
This morning, we'll begin with a review that highlights the blessings of the Bread of Life discourse in the life of a believer. After examining the blessings we'll better understand the tragedy of those disciples who abandoned Jesus Christ. Finally, we'll return to a specific aspect of this sermon in an effort to prepare our hearts for Communion.
1. BLESSINGS OF THE BREAD
Let's begin in point one with "Blessings of the Bread."
Since we covered this magnificent sermon in such a short amount of time, I thought it would be wise to review the highlights of the discourse by outlining the benefits that come from its application to feast upon Jesus. As you know, the sermon began with Jesus offering a food that endures to eternal life (Jn. 6:27). The sermon progressed by Jesus' disclosure that He was the food or the Bread of Life Himself (Jn. 6:35). The sermon concluded by Jesus' startling statement that eternal life is based on eating His flesh and drinking His blood (Jn. 6:54).
Last week we concluded that eating His flesh and drinking His blood were not a literal reference to Communion, but rather a command to spiritually feast upon Jesus. Unfortunately, those who deserted Jesus failed to see the benefits of this blessed invitation. However, for those of us here who love Jesus and desire to serve Him with all our hearts, it is imperative that we are not likewise blinded by such ignorance.
Last week I presented you with 4 ways of how to feast upon Jesus (fellowship, song, prayer, Scripture). By way of review, allow me this week to give you 10 blessings of why we must feast upon Jesus.
Feasting upon Jesus Christ is not an option; rather it is a mandate for salvation. Contrary to popular opinion, salvation is not a one-time decision. According to verse 54, Jesus said, "He who eats (Present tense-ongoing action) My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life." Individuals show themselves to be true believers when they are marked by a life that continually desires to feast upon Jesus.
The second point relates to the first. The assurance of my salvation (the way that I can be sure that I am saved) is never to be based upon a decision I made for Christ in the distant past. Rather the assurance of my salvation is based upon abiding in Christ and the fruit that is produced from such a relationship. How do we abide in Christ? The way we abide in Christ is by feasting on His flesh. Jesus said in verse 56, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." The reality of my salvation is evidenced by an unquenchable appetite to feast upon Jesus. In other words, do you want to have confidence in your heart that you are a child of God? Then abide in Christ! The way you abide in Christ is to feast upon Him.
3. Walking in the Spirit
If feasting upon Jesus is the same as abiding in Jesus, and if Jesus Christ abides in us through the presence of the Holy Spirit, then I believe it is fair to equate feasting on Jesus with walking in the Spirit. Jesus said in verse 63, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." There is no neutral ground. The Bible makes a distinction. We are either walking in the Spirit or we are walking in the flesh. I think it is safe to say that when we are not feasting upon Jesus, we are walking in the flesh. On the contrary, walking in the Spirit requires one to feast upon Jesus.
We live in a fallen world. On a daily basis each of us deals with death and sickness and discouragement and disappointment. Furthermore, as Christians, as sheep sent out amidst the wolves, we additionally deal with all types of vicious persecution as we seek to live godly in this present age and let our light shine before men in love with the darkness. All this to say, how can anyone survive in this world without the necessity of feasting upon Jesus for hope and strength and purpose and promise?
We need Jesus to survive in this fallen world, but biblically we are called to be more than just survivors. We are called to be conquerors that impact this world with righteousness to advance God's kingdom. Paul and his comrades in Acts 17 were called "men who have upset the whole world" (Ac. 17:6). We too must impact this world currently under the influence of the evil one. This divine commission for all God's saints is impossible lest we feast upon Jesus.
Part of trusting Jesus for eternal life is surrendering our lives to His lordship. What that means is that He now becomes our Master, and as His slaves, we exist under His authority. The Apostle John said in his first epistle, "We keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 Jn. 3:22). In John's gospel Jesus equated obedience as the greatest evidence of our love for Him. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (Jn. 14:15). Therefore, if we love Jesus, we show our love through obedience to His commands. We are commanded to feast upon Him.
Though we are required to keep God's commandments, John reminds us "His commandments are not burdensome" (1 Jn. 5:3). In the same way, feasting upon Jesus is not burdensome; it's always a joy (c.f. Jn. 6:35)! Think about it; is there anyone more exciting to talk about? Is there anyone more worthy to serve? Is there anyone more glorious to listen to through His Word? Think about it, when we are not feasting upon Jesus we are feasting upon the flesh (filling ourselves with 'junk-food'). What benefits have any of us derived from feasting on the flesh? Why would any Christian not want to feast upon Jesus? When has Jesus ever let you down? When have you been disappointed because you feasted too much on Jesus? Don't buy the satanic lies of balance and moderation and sacrifice! The greatest sacrifice any of us can make is when we choose not to feast upon Jesus. We will reap what we sow. Sow to the flesh and reap the consequences of sin. Sow to the Spirit and reap His fruit of joy!
John 6:29, "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'" The less we feast upon Jesus by faith, the more we will depend upon on own strength and wisdom, which leads to the glorification of our self and an exercise in futility. But feasting upon Jesus reveals our own human frailty and acknowledges our utter dependence on Him as our daily sustenance and hope for salvation. We feast on Him because we depend on Him.
Jesus said in John 15, "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5). We can do a whole lot in our own flesh that may appear spiritual, but God-glorifying, reward- producing and joy- driven effort that makes an eternal difference for God's Kingdom is only accomplished by abiding in Christ and feasting upon Jesus. God is most glorified and our efforts are most successful when we serve in the name of Christ by the strength that He supplies.
10. Glorifying God
The ultimate goal of our previous 9 points can be summarized in point 10. We glorify God, our purpose for living, only when we feast upon Jesus Christ. For example: Feasting upon Jesus makes us more Christlike. When we are more Christlike, God is glorified in our actions. Feasting upon Jesus Christ shows a dependence on God. The more we depend on God, the more He is glorified. Feasting upon Jesus Christ shows Him to be source of our satisfaction. The more we are satisfied in God, the more He is most glorified in us.
2. ABANDONING THE BREAD
The more we meditate on the awesome and comforting truths that are contained in the "Bread of Life" discourse, the more we should realize not only how much we need but also how much we should want to feast upon Jesus Christ and appropriate Him into our lives by faith.
Though we would have expected Christ's original audience to share these sentiments, we're shocked when we read in verse 66 that "Many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore." Notice that John did not say that many enemies or even many listeners walked away. Rather he says that many of "His disciples" walked away. Those who had expressed loyalty to Christ as their teacher and master deserted Him once they fully understood the nature of His ministry and demands of discipleship.
Since the criterion of true discipleship is perseverance to the end, those who deserted Him demonstrated their true colors as false disciples. These false disciples were flabbergasted when Jesus informed them: That He was fully God having taken on human flesh, that His kingdom would not be one of this world, that following Him demanded total commitment, that He must work salvation on their behalf, that He, the Messiah, would need to die on a cross, that salvation entailed eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Everything they heard ran counter to their normal way of thinking. And then to top it off, in verse 65, Jesus stated, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." After that, the false disciples said, "We've heard enough," and they bolted.
Notice how Jesus Christ never once catered to their fleshly desires. He never sought to soften the message from its inherent harshness. He never once removed the offense of the gospel. Maybe the evangelical church would have fewer false disciples today if the biblical reality of discipleship were more accurately preached. Christ said that He came not to bring peace, but a sword (Mt. 10:34). Christ crucified is "a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles: (1 Cor. 1:23). He was prophesized as a "stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" (Isa. 8:14; 28:16; Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8). "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" is not offensive! On the contrary, how often do they hear, you must "walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 Jn. 2:6). Or you must "also suffer for His sake" (Phil. 1:29). Or you must "deny (your)self and take up His cross daily"(Lk. 9:23). Or you must be "crucified with Christ and no longer…live" (Gal. 2:20). Or you must "be holy (as He is holy)" (1 Pet. 1:15). I am convinced that there are many carnal disciples in today's church who if they really understood Christ's claims for discipleship, they too would tragically withdraw and walk with Him no longer.
3. COMMUNING WITH THE BREAD
But beloved, I am convinced of better things for you. I am convinced that you understand the demands of Christian discipleship. I am convinced that you have considered the cost and cast yourself wholeheartedly into His loving arms. I am convinced that you have and will continue to appropriate the "Bread of Life" by feasting on Jesus.
If these statements are true, I invite you to participate in the elements, which are set before us this morning. This ordinance is for Christians who have submitted to Jesus Christ as Lord and have not made a decisive break from discipleship, but have made a decisive break from sin.
It is my responsibility to warn you, as did the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, "(That) whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner…eats and drinks judgment to himself (1 Cor. 11:27, 29)." Therefore if you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus or you are refusing to repent from specific sin in your life, please allow the elements to simply pass by. But if you do believe in Christ Jesus, maybe for the first time this morning, and are committed to His agenda for discipleship, committed to feasting upon Him, participate with joy!
Though we made it clear last week that John 6 is not a reference to Communion, I do believe that Communion is a reference to John 6.
First, John 6 called us to feast upon Jesus. During Communion we are, in a symbolic way, taking Jesus into our body. Through this symbolism, we are reminded when we first received Jesus into our life and He took up residence by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:53). We are also reminded as we continually participate in Communion that we are renewing our reception of Jesus, and we are being continually filled by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:54).
Moreover, through the symbolism of Communion and ingesting the elements, we are reminded how our original parents feasted on the forbidden fruit because of their lack of faith, which resulted in death. Be we, through our faith, feast upon Jesus, resulting in life.
Finally, Jesus never simply said to feast on Me. Rather He said to feast on His body and feast on His blood. I believe He intentionally chose these two elements of His humanness because it was His body that would be broken and His blood that would be spilled out for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore this table represents, in a symbolic way, a spiritual feast whereby we can remember our Savior's sacrifice on Calvary's cross.