Being Disciples (in the Likeness of Christ)

By: Rev. Scott Armstrong

Key Verses: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave, too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve.” – John 6:66-67 NIV

If Jesus were attempting to form a megachurch, he was well on his way. 5,000+ had come to hear his teaching, and when they got hungry, he miraculously used a kid’s lunch to feed all of them. The crowd pursued him on foot around the entire Sea of Galilee, and this was his chance! The masses would only multiply from here on out, right?

At this stage in the gospel of John, Jesus makes a peculiar decision. Instead of tickling the crowd’s ears with “fluffier” material, he chooses to get highly controversial. Using the metaphor of the feeding of the 5,000, he begins to refer to himself as the bread of life, coming directly from heaven. He even makes clear that his true followers must “eat of his flesh and drink of his blood” to remain in him (6:53-58). Not the best evangelistic strategy, Jesus! In fact, this latest sermon offended the Jews, causing them to grumble and argue with him and each other (6:41-42, 52, 61). The majority forsook him then and there because of such a “hard teaching” (6:60, 66).

It’s almost as if Jesus’ strategy was to not have the biggest following. It seems like he wanted only the few who were dedicated to completely knowing him and becoming like him. After all, isn’t that what the controversy was all about? The masses preferred their physical needs met while Jesus was offering them something much more profound: intimacy and spiritual transformation from the inside out. “Not interested,” many of them said. “We want loaves and fishes.”

Before we blame the fickle crowds, it would behoove us to examine our own motives. Do we clamor for “bread” when Jesus longs to give us his very self? Do we prefer instant gratification and our immediate needs met much more than his abiding presence?

Prayer: Jesus, you are the bread of life. I have thought myself to be hungry for many insignificant things. But nothing can satisfy like you. Feed me and teach me what it means to eat and drink of your presence. I proclaim now, emphatically, as Peter did: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (6:68).

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