When I was a kid, my dad coached with a guy we will call Dave (not his real name). Dave was an interesting character. He was a rough old guy, who had the foulest mouth. He drank all the time. He cheated on his wife, and got divorced, and was at the time, dating a woman half his age. But what was so crazy about Dave was his background. During his 20’s, this guy was mega-involved in church. He was very active in a Baptist church, and eventually became a deacon. He taught Sunday School, served as an usher, and did a lot more. But then one day, the people found out he was having an affair, he ditched church and renounced God.
What happened? Did Dave lose his salvation? He seemed to believe. Maybe you know people like Dave. At one point they “believed” but now they don’t follow God or want to have anything to do with Him.
This is an interesting section in the Gospel of John. People were following Jesus like crazy, because He was doing incredible miracles. On one day he fed close to 20,000 people (the 5,000 is only counting the men present). That night, Jesus walked on water. People wanted to see the circus, and as a result, they “believed”. They even followed Jesus around. But these people were really only interested in what Jesus could do for them. They viewed Jesus as their spiritual vending machine, they hang out with Him, put in a few coins, push a button, and out pops a miracle. These people followed Jesus because of what He did, not because of who He was.
But a true follower of Jesus Christ does not follow out of selfish ambition, but out of complete surrender to Jesus. In this chapter, Jesus gives the crowd some of the hardest teachings in the entire New Testament. He tells them that to follow Jesus, one must be willing to sacrifice everything and lay it on the altar. A person must totally embrace Jesus for who He is, and be willing to lay it all on the line for Him.
When Jesus gets done, the large crowds that had been following Him, left. They didn’t want the hard part of belief, so they split. These people were willing to “believe” as long as it was easy, but when the cost was great, they were not willing to place their lives in Christ’s hands. But this is not really belief. Read John 6:64-65. These people were like Dave, who was willing to “believe” until the call of Christ commanded that he leave his girlfriend, return to his wife, clean up his language, and live wholeheartedly for Jesus. But the truth is that Dave never really believed. He had never truly been drawn by God into a relationship with Christ that completely changed his life.
On the other hand, notice the reaction of Peter in verses 68-69. You see, a person who has been changed by the power of God, will not leave the faith. I believe that once a person is saved by God’s grace, he or she will persevere in the faith, not because of their strength, but because God gives him or her the power to stay. So the question that this chapter begs of you and me is this, do I follow Jesus because of what He does, or because of who He is?