Thursday, January 09, 2014

What Compelled Them to Stay?

In John 6, Jesus taught some things that were extremely difficult for many of his followers to accept. We are told that many of his disciples deserted him at that point. Jesus then turned to the remaining twelve and asked them, "Will you also go away?"  

What was so compelling about the words of Jesus that causes Peter to say, "To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." What is there in the foregone discussion that helps us understand why Peter would say this? What are the words of eternal life? What was it that compelled them and yet simultaneously drove so many others away? After all, anyone can opine about eternal life. Clearly, there was something powerfully compelling that drew these disciples with such force that they left vocation and family to follow a man from a peasant family all over their country of Palestine.

It is a Divine compulsion
There is a mysterious aspect to the process of becoming a genuine follower of Christ over which a world of books has been written. Jesus tells us that his Father decides who comes to Christ and He (or His Spirit) is the One who compels them. This is difficult for some to accept, but accept it we must because there are no alternative interpretations. The words are easy enough to interpret. Jesus tells us about this Divine compulsion in three different ways in this chapter.

"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." 

Does God own me prior to me becoming His follower? Is it His prerogative to own you and to "give you" to the Son without your say so?  Why yes, He does. Even though one may not even believe in the existence of a Saviour or a God, humans are His by virtue of creation. We are all His. I am created and sustained by Him through all the years that I have existed. All who have been given to Christ by the Father will come to Him. Those who come will find themselves drawn to Christ.

Jesus reinforces this concept in verse 44 and again in verse 65. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him"

These are astonishing words. These words reveal that humans are incapable of becoming Christ followers without the Father's involvement.  How often I have shared what I thought was quite a simple and compelling case for the truth of the gospel, and the person I am speaking with will respond with blind indifference.  "I just don't see it. I don't see things the way you do."

But why? Why are we incapable of deciding on our own to become followers of Christ?

Those disciples who deserted Christ came to him in the first place, not because they saw their spiritual need for the Living Bread, but because they saw in Jesus someone who could fit their agenda. i.e. "Jesus would make a good political leader, I will invest my time and resources in following him, and maybe we can finally kick the Romans out of our land."

Or "If I follow Jesus, I can get some free lunches every time he does a miracle, and my family will be provided for"

Or "Maybe if I follow Jesus, He will heal my hurts."

So many of us see Jesus the same way we see our dentist. When we hurt or have a need, we make an appointment and go see the dentist, but aside from that appointment, we have very little engagement with him.

Alternatively, we follow him zealously, hoping that our devotion and obvious commitment and service will make a favourable impression on Him and perhaps He will take notice and return some of that kindness and grant us wealth, or a few kindred favours.

As soon as Jesus told these fair-weather disciples what His agenda was, they rejected Him and they all went home to resume their lives.

Why were they not compelled to stay like the 12? They were deaf, dumb and blind to the words of eternal life that the genuine followers heard. But why? The brute reality is that apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit, we are spiritually dead and therefore insensitive to the "words of eternal life". Can it be that because of our human nature, we simply are incapable of seeing our need for genuine repentance? It would be as impossible for us to experience that as it is impossible for a dog to sprout wings and fly. That is why we need to be born again.