To outward appearances this was a crushing rejection – the defection of a multitude of disciples. Only a day prior these same defectors were intent on making Him the king of the nation. Their enthusiasm had never been higher as they saw in Him the potential to fulfil all their dreams and desires. Now they turned their backs on Jesus and walked away.
What happened? The answer is found in John 6.
The chapter begins with the feeding of the five thousand. From so small so much was produced. Those sitting in attendance saw in this miracle more proof that Jesus could meet their physical needs. The fear of want would be forever removed with Him as their leader.
They were convinced that now was the time to act. Jesus’ humility should not stand as an obstacle to the obvious. The word spread that if He wouldn’t, they would proclaim Him king.
When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. John 6:15
The disciples who shared in the planning to make Jesus king were thwarted in their attempt. Stinging from the reality check Jesus provided, the dejected disciples set out on the sea as Christ commanded them.
Adding trouble to disappointment they were faced with a ferocious storm threatening to take their lives in an instant. After hours of doing everything they could possibly do to stay alive, they looked through the storm to see Jesus walking on the water!
Their Master and their Lord had now shown that He was also Master over the very elements of life. He could control everything that life could throw their way. No circumstance was too daunting. No crisis was too overwhelming.
The next day, after hearing the disciple’s first-hand report of the night on the sea, a larger group, with more fuel for their ambitions take up their courtship of Jesus. They must have Him as their King. They could again be the head and not the tail. Prosperity was within their grasp. Finding Jesus in the synagogue they ask what they already know, “Rabbi, when camest thou hither?”
I imagine Jesus gazing over the eager crowd. With His unmatchable love He knows that their short-sighted, selfish ambitions would unfit them for His kingdom. The natural desires of the heart, including the desire for supremacy, is alien to Him. Unless their hearts are changed their souls will be lost. His response to the unspoken desires of the crowd will be the determining factor for the futures of many.
Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” John 6:26, 27
The evidence suggest that this response along with Jesus’s unvarnished explanation of the choice before them was too much for many to accept. It was both shocking and disappointing to them. It shed a bright light on the deep recesses of their motives. It revealed the cost of discipleship.
He offered them His life as their only hope. He would have to be to them their all in all – the food of life that they would depend on for living. Before them lay a road of humility and self-denial, but they failed to perceive that its destination was a heavenly address. For many it was a road they were unwilling to travel.
Nothing in the cost of discipleship has changed all of these thousands of years later. The demand is the same – our lives of sin and woe for His life of love and liberty. The laying down of our short-sighted plans in exchange for His eternal destiny for us. The trading of a life of existence for a life of significance and divine purpose. It really is a good deal.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. Luke 9:24
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- Since salvation is free, what, if anything, is the cost of discipleship?
- Describe a person who has accepted the cost of discipleship.
- Is it an accurate statement that the life of a true disciple is a hard life? Explain your answer.
- Is it an accurate statement that the life of a true disciple is filled with blessings that usually include prosperity? Explain your answer.
- John 6: 53 quotes Jesus as saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” What does this mean to you?
- Luke 9:24 quotes Jesus as saying, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” What does that mean to you?
We close this week and this quarter’s topic with the reassuring words of Jesus. Always sensitive to the frailty of man He pledges by promises that never can be broken that the cost is well worth the price:
Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31 The Message
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!