What to do when the disciples ask is it worth following Jesus? (John 6:60-69). Imagine you are listening to Jesus’ discourse on the bread that gives life. I am the bread of life who came down from heaven; whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever. The crowd misunderstands Jesus. They are confused and object to what he says. And eventually, go away as they misunderstood that Jesus is inviting them to eat his flesh. But the crowd did not ask the question: is it worth it to follow Jesus?
So, who asked: “is it worth it?”
Now listening to Jesus talking about eating flesh, the close disciples question their own decision of following Jesus. The disciples also saw the crowd going away from Jesus because of this teaching.
It was the core group of disciples who were murmuring, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?”
The crowd followed Jesus to see the miracles and listen to the parables. But the disciples were always with Jesus – a close-knit group who received special instructions from Jesus. The close group of disciples witnessed miracles, especially Jesus walking on the sea and calming the storm. These disciples are not just the 12 apostles; they may include seventy-two or more.
What did Jesus feel when the close disciples abandon him?
It is like when those close to you question whether to trust you or not? It’s painful; it hurts when those you trust turn against you or go away without even explaining. It can happen to the regular churchgoers—who discontinue following Jesus—maybe they ask the same question: is it worth it to follow Jesus? Or be part of a church group? Jesus must have felt the same when his core group of disciples abandoned him.
What’s the difference between the crowd and the disciples?
Yes, we heard it; the disciples were close to Jesus. But the critical difference is that the disciples understood what Jesus said. The crowd misunderstood it. Then what is the difficulty for the disciples? The disciples found it difficult to believe and follow Jesus.
Even I find myself in this situation. I do understand clearly. The difficulty is to believe without reservation and follow trusting the promises of God. Did you find yourself in such a situation where you understood the message but had trouble believing in Jesus’ words? Tell me in the comments below.
Jesus’ method provokes the question: Is it worth it to follow Jesus?
Jesus had a pattern of conversation. He met objections by sharpening the point of the message, raising the level of offense rather than softening it, and bringing the conversation into a crisis mode.
Take a moment to recall! Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” Hearing this the crowd objects that manna came down from heaven. Then Jesus adds, “I am the bread of the life that came down from heaven.” The crowd knew Jesus’ parents and where he came from. As if this was not enough, Jesus says: “I am the living bread whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life.” Then the theme of abiding: whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him. Do you notice the pattern of the conversation?
God sometimes challenges us—making his message sharper—contradictory to our worldly desires. What is that something God is challenging you today?
If the disciples are scandalized by what Jesus said about being the bread of life, then ascending on the cross will shatter them. Will the disciples be able to see the glory of God through the cross? That’s what Jesus is preparing his disciples.
How to understand Jesus’ statement: flesh is useless?
In John chapter 6, verse 63, Jesus says. It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. Now, don’t interpret it as a rejection of flesh or bodily denial of the creation’s goodness. Remember, John chapter 1 verse 14, “the Word became flesh.” The flesh here indicates a usual way of seeing reality—through the sensible world. Your senses will not allow you to see the eternal life coming through the exaltation of the cross. That’s where the Spirit gives life.
What to do when you are faced with: Is it worth it to follow Jesus?
Stay open to the Spirit. Jesus is challenging the perception of his disciples to look beyond their understanding and be open to the Father’s gift of faith and life of the Spirit.
Among the disciples, there were two groups: Those who believe and those who do not. Unbelief is found among the crowd, among those disciples who abandon Jesus, and even with those who chose to stay with Jesus. The pain of unbelief is found among us—within us. For example, Judas betrays Jesus. Peter Denies Jesus. Even those who continue to follow Jesus do experience moments of betrayal, denial, and doubts.
What did Jesus do when the disciples left him?
The disciples left because of Jesus’ hard teachings. Only the twelve remained. The twelve disciples stayed with Jesus even when they saw the other disciples move away. Jesus asks the remaining twelve a bold question: do you want to go away? That question demanded an immediate response – a commitment at a time it was not making sense.
Jesus’ question is for you and me: do you want to go away? Do you want to stop following amid apparent failures and rejections? We are usually inclined to quit – avoid difficulties and the cross.
Does Peter rescue the situation?
In answer to Jesus’ question to the twelve, Peter says: To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are Christ, the son of the living God. Notice Peter is using we – speaking on behalf of the undecided ones—the eleven disciples. Peter is open to the Spirit and the Father, drawing them to himself.
Peter’s statement is not out of desperation – as though there was no alternative. Along with eleven who stayed, Peter had been given the gift of knowing Jesus. Even if faith comes from the Father, we are asked to respond. We have a choice. The mystery of faith is not a paradox without a solution. Faith is a grateful confession that Father draws us to Jesus and eternal life. Yes, faith is a grateful confession.
Why are Peter’s words important?
Peter’s words are inspiring because he spoke on behalf of the eleven – who may be on the verge of going away along with other disciples. Peter holds the little group together. The influence of one person can make a difference. If Peter had not spoken, things might have gone differently. But the scriptures do not entertain this thought.
Is it worth it? What’s your answer?
You have dreams. Then the worst-case scenario happens – it becomes difficult to follow Jesus. Jesus dares you to oppose with an increasingly unpopular message. Then you may look at others and ask, is it worth it to follow Jesus?
Can you stand with Christ as people walk away? You have a choice. God is not forcing you. You are not doing God a favor by staying in as a churchgoer. Like Peter, we are called to answer and be part of the adventure of faith. Yes, I want to stand by Jesus, even when followers quit.
About the Author
Feroz Fernandes, a Catholic Missionary, identifies himself as an Uncommon Priest. Father Feroz loves adventure in the apostolate. Check out his debut book The Uncommon Priest: Incredible Stories You Never Read on amazon. And also, the YouTube Channel: Feroz Fernandes promotes a better understanding of scripture.