Posted by: Terry | November 25, 2015

Disciple or Groupie?

300-Sea of Galilee where Peter caught the fishes“Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, and a great crowd of people followed him…From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:2, 66 NIV) What happened to the great crowd? Following Jesus was easy, being a real disciple was not. Groupies and fair-weather fans flee when the team is losing.

Jesus went up on a hill and taught his close group of twelve, when the crowds approached Jesus miraculously fed over 5,000 people. These were Jesus groupies, when he crossed over to Capernaum in the night they searched for him the next morning, and quizzed him as to how and when he got there.

Jesus response was to present the reality of what it means to be a true disciple, or follower, of him. He made it clear that their motives for being a follower of Jesus were shallow, “you ate the loaves and had your fill.” He was clear that they were missing the whole point of his message.

When pressed as to what they needed to do, what God required, Jesus answered, “The work of God is this, to believe in the one he has sent.”

Jesus compares himself with the manna that God provided as food for the Israelites in the wilderness, the bread of life from heaven. He tells them that he will give his body for them and that it is their belief in him that makes them true disciples, anything less is falsehood.

Eating is visceral, you take what is on the plate and it becomes part of you. Your life is derived from the food you eat. Jesus said this is the intensity with which we must embrace him. No casual Sunday morning religion here.

He went on to tell them that unless they had this level of commitment and conviction they also had nothing to do with the life he offered. Their response, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Jesus told them that if they thought this was hard, just wait, there will be more. But he assured them that his words were full “of the Spirit and life.”

Jesus made it clear that following him was more than a self-help program. It demanded an understanding of who he was and why he came. More than that it demanded internalizing that as if it were the food of existence.

Groupies and fans are there when things are good, when the team is winning. But “they turn back and no longer follow” when they are asked to commit completely – win or lose. Jesus and the Father want our heart more than they want our hands and time. They want our conviction more than some hour of Sunday morning service.

A song from the 70’ said, “It’s a battlefield boys, not a recreation room.” When Jesus asked his twelve if they too would leave, “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69 NIV). May that be our response as well.

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