John 6 “Walking with Jesus”
What is it like to walk with Jesus? Way back in Genesis 5:21-24 we read about a man who walked with God, Enoch, and then he was not for God took him. He did not die, but went straight to heaven. And this was after the fall of mankind into sin.
Before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden every day. But since we all became sinners through their first sin, walking with God is not a universal experience now. There is nothing automatic about it. So how can we walk with God today?
When Jesus was on this earth, he called to himself 12 disciples. He walked with them for three years, spending his entire ministry with them in community. Together they ministered to tens of thousands of people. They preached the Word, they upset the religious leaders of their day, they healed the sick, and Jesus even raised the dead.
Wow! How exciting would it be to walk with Jesus during those three years of ministry! Wouldn’t you liked to have been one of the twelve? Oh to hear the voice of Jesus, and to see his miracles, and to be sent by him to tell others that their King has come! What a great experience that must have been! And how proud the disciples must have felt that they were chosen to follow Jesus!
But being a disciple of Jesus was not all fun and games. It was not about being prosperous, these twelve were never rich or comfortable! The twelve weren’t always comforted by the words of Jesus, either. They may have even found him traumatic a few times, such as when Jesus got angry with the religious leaders in the temple who were treating God’s house more like a business than a place of prayer. He drove out those money changers with a whip in hot anger! I doubt many of us would have liked to have been there that day!
The disciples were hoping that Jesus would give them power, money, respect, and positions of authority in the earthly kingdom they thought he came to establish. They wanted Jesus to raise an earthly army, and to kick the Romans out of their land of Israel. They thought he would be like Joshua who drove out the Canaanites, or like the many judges who freed Israel from their oppressors, or like Kings Saul, David, and Solomon who delivered Israel from her enemies. They anticipated being given parts of this new kingdom to rule over. In fact, near the end of their three years with Jesus, they still did not understand the kingdom of God. For in Matthew 18, Mark 9, and Luke 9 we find the disciples arguing amongst themselves over who will be the greatest in the kingdom when Jesus would become the king of Israel.
Yes, beloved, the disciples put up with Jesus’ hard sayings because they wanted a part of his kingdom. This is why Judas betrayed Jesus. He thought that by selling Jesus to the authorities, he would force Jesus to take up arms against their oppressors and establish the kingdom of Israel. So when his plan failed and Jesus was condemned, Judas lost all hope and hung himself. Peter was ready to fight for Jesus on that night. He took up a sword, but Jesus told him to put it away, for those who live by the sword also die by the sword. Peter was confused. All the disciples had been bewildered just a few days earlier when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and was declared the victorious king and yet refused to be crowned. They were discombobulated when Jesus was arrested only a few days later, gave no defense, and was then crucified like a wicked criminal.
If any of the disciples were tempted to believe that following Jesus would be easy, that he would give them health and wealth and a happy marriage and a good life, they experienced a serious wake up call. All eleven disciples, besides Judas who betrayed Jesus, would suffer for the sake of Christ. Ten of them would be murdered for their faith. And the eleventh exiled to Patmos to be imprisoned for life. And what about their early followers? Many of them were cast out of the synagogues, rejected by their families, lost their jobs, their homes, and many were even killed for sharing their faith in Jesus. All this simply because they walked with Jesus.
Let me ask you brothers and sisters. How did Christ establish His church with such a harsh message? How did the church survive his sayings such as ‘if anyone loves his family more than me, he cannot be my disciple’, and ‘you cannot serve both God and money’, and ‘if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’, and ‘if anyone hates his brother, he has committed murder in his heart and is liable to burn in the fire of hell’. How can anyone walk with the Jesus revealed to us in the Bible? Why would anyone want to when following Jesus is a guaranteed path of suffering?
Do you remember when Jesus fed the five thousand with one small boy’s lunch in John 6? The crowds began to follow Jesus. They had tasted his love and provision for them. They did not want to listen to Jesus words, but simply to have full stomachs. Many of them were poor. They knew what it was to go to bed on an empty stomach, but Jesus had the power to provide a feast for them everyday, and they wouldn’t even have to work for it!
But Jesus was more interested in their holiness than their happiness. He understood that their greatest need was not for physical bread, but for salvation from the fires of hell. They needed to be saved! And to be saved, they needed to partake of Jesus! They did not merely need to walk with Jesus, they needed to eat Jesus! That’s right. Listen to the dialogue between the five thousand and Jesus after they had eaten that glorious meal.
John 6:22-71 ESV
“On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 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. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. 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.”
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Is. 40:8 ESV
This is a moment of crisis for the five thousand who were following Jesus. This is a megachurch looking to Jesus to take care of their most deeply felt needs. And yet Jesus isn’t giving them what they think they need, but rather he is offering to them what they really need.
The crowds merely wanted Jesus to keep giving them bread and fish. They wanted to be fed the same way that God fed their forefathers in the wilderness with miracle food from heaven. Do you remember that? The Israelites had spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness, that is the desert. The desert does not produce an abundance of food or water. So God provided for the Israelites the food and water they needed. Manna from heaven, a bread-like substance which the Israelites found on the ground each morning, was God’s miraculous provision. The Israelites were asking Jesus to give them this same manna.
But Jesus was not worried about their physical needs at this moment. He was concerned for their eternal salvation. Jesus was not afraid of losing popularity, of a shrinking church, or people rejecting him and his message. He was concerned that these Israelites who were circumcised, who had been taught the law, who grew up in the correct religion, that they needed to be saved, and they needed to be fed Jesus himself.
So Jesus told them “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
Now this was offensive to the Israelites. For when God gave the animals to Noah way back in Genesis, and all people after him to eat, he strictly forbade them from eating the blood of any animal because that belonged to God, it symbolized their life. So the Israelites never eat blood.
But they did understand the significance of the blood. For when God killed the firstborn of every living creature in the land of Egypt to deliver the Israelites from slavery in the book of Exodus, God had the Israelites place the blood of a lamb on their doorpost, and eat the flesh of the lamb that they might be redeemed, for the lamb died in their place that they might be saved.
So the Israelites knew that what Jesus was offering to them was salvation. He was offering to save their lives, to give them eternal life. He was the true passover lamb. He was offering them himself, teaching them that he was their only hope for salvation. But they did not believe. They saw the miracle of Jesus, and they wanted food to eat, but they did not believe that Jesus was their only hope of salvation. Perhaps they thought they were good enough. Perhaps they believed that the rituals they performed according to the law of Moses were enough to get them to heaven, not understanding that those rituals are merely a symbol pointing to Jesus. They accepted the symbol but rejected the savior to which the symbol testified. Some of them may not have believed in a heaven and a hell. But Jesus consistently taught that heaven and hell are real. He continually warned people that their sins would lead them to hell, and he offered Himself to them as their salvation.
Consider these words of Jesus in John 12:44-50:
“And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
So then those who break the law of God are condemnable, but Jesus did not come to condemn them. He came to offer them eternal life in Him. But if anyone rejects Jesus as the only way to heaven, then they are condemned by God’s Word.
Now this is important. For when we tell others that God’s Word declares us all to be sinners, when we show them from scripture that liars, haters, those who slander, those who disobey their parents, all who take God’s name in vain, and so on and so forth are liable to the fires of hell, they may say that we are being judgmental. Jesus himself dealt with that accusation in his day. But Jesus clarified. He did not come to judge, though he does not deny the coming judgment, nor does he shrink from warning people about their sins and about hell. Rather, he came to offer them salvation. We who have been born again know that we are unworthy of heaven. We only receive eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. But we also know that Jesus was right when he said that if anyone would see the kingdom of God, he must be born again, John 3:3. For we have experienced being born again and now we see the kingdom of God. And it is our calling to share God’s Word with others, to offer to them God’s salvation. We do not do this as a judge, but we do not shy away from warning people about the coming judgment from which we may all only escape through Jesus Christ.
Jesus lost a great many members of his church on the day after he fed the five thousand. Many who walked with Jesus turned back. They found out that walking with Jesus required trusting in Him alone for their salvation. They discovered that it did not mean prosperity, but hardship. They wanted a different king, so they rejected the one true King, the only savior, and we know that all who ultimately reject Jesus will be judged on the last day by God’s Word. They rejected the only way of salvation. How tragic.
On this Maundy Thursday, let us seriously consider Jesus question at the end of John 6:
“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.”
Beloved, what comfort there is for those of us who place our faith in Jesus, who walk with him together by studying and following His Word. We are not like the crowds who reject Jesus. I asked earlier, why would anyone follow Jesus if it means suffering in this life? The answer is simple. Jesus has the words of eternal life. He is the Holy One of God. Whatever suffering we face in this life, it is nothing compared with the glory which is coming! Oh the joy of walking with Jesus! For He has given us a Helper, the Holy Spirit, according to John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Beloved, we know that walking with Jesus is not easy. But the testimony of the saints throughout the ages is the same, Jesus is worth every sacrifice. We who have the Holy Spirit know the fruit of the Spirit in our lives; the love, the joy, the peace, the patience, the kindness, the goodness, the gentleness, and the self control which we cannot produce by our own will according to Galatians 5:22-23, but which the Holy Spirit produces in us. The world cannot take away our hope. We will celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, we will follow Jesus, and we will rejoice in His resurrection from the dead! We look forward to rejoicing together every Sunday as we celebrate Easter, the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Let us pray…