By: Steve Wilmot
Nearly half a century ago, Karl Menninger wrote a ground-breaking book with an interesting title: “Whatever Became of Sin?”
The premise is that American society has removed the words sin and responsibility from our vocabulary. There is no personal responsibility for our actions. It’s always someone else’s fault.
In the final year of his earthly ministry, apparently Jesus researched a similar topic: Whatever Became of Fully Committed Followers?
At the height of his popularity, multiple thousands of people hung out with him, but in the third year, Jesus decided to reveal where people really stood regarding their motives for following him around Galilee.
He performed the miracle of multiplying a few loaves of bread and a couple fish to feed 5000 people. With full bellies, the crowd laid down for the night, Jesus slipped away for some rest on the other side of the lake.
Morning came and the crowd was ready for breakfast, but Jesus couldn’t be found. Eventually someone reported he was on the other side of the lake. When they found him, they asked him why he had left them.
His answer must have startled them: “Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs, I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill’” (John 6.26).
Jesus told the crowds he knew the real motive why many of them were following him. Because he did miracles Because he fed them. Because he healed them. It wasn’t Jesus they wanted — it was what he could do for them.
Jesus decided it was time for them to choose. Time to separate the hangers on from the genuine disciples. He stated, “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6.35). Suddenly Jesus was the only thing on the menu.
The crowd had to decide if he – just he – was enough Even if there weren’t any more miracles. Even if they stayed hungry and sick. Was Jesus enough? “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him (John 6.66).
The majority chose to walk away If their free lunch and health plan was done, they were too. Notice Jesus didn’t run after them and say, “I didn’t mean it; I didn’t mean it. You can choose to follow me when you want and go after other things when you want… Just don’t leave.” He. Let. Them. Leave.
It broke his heart because he knew they thought they’d made the right choice, but he knew they hadn’t! Still, they were free to choose — just like you are — and reap the fruit of their choice.
Then Jesus took a bigger gamble He turned to the Twelve — those guys who had been with him day and night for a couple of years. The guys in whom he had invested himself. The guys who were an integral part of his eternal plan to bring the good news to a sinful world.
“’You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve” (John 6.67). Now it was decision time for them. Everything in Jesus’ mission hung in the balance with their answer.
The first group that left were still deciding whether to go all in with Jesus, but the Twelve were different. They had left everything to follow him. They had spent time with him. They had answered the call to link their life to his regardless of what happened… like most of you.
You’ve made your choice to follow Jesus, yet he still asks the Twelve and you: Are you in or out? Commitment or convenience? Fair weather followers or no matter what followers? I can imagine Jesus holding his breath while he awaited their answer.
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God’” (John 6.68-69).
When choosing who you are going to serve, this is THE most important question you need to ask yourself.
This question is critical because it removes all the fluff and forces you to gauge whether you believe Jesus is worth giving up everything to follow.
The Twelve didn’t realize what hung in the balance with the choice they made. We don’t know the name of a single person from the crowd that walked away, but we do know the names of the Twelve.
We know they turned the world upside down. All because they chose to follow Jesus and not walk away. To treasure him above the trinkets the world offers that we think are valuable. To remain faithful through all the persecution that lay ahead.
Friend, you don’t know what hangs in the balance in the choice you make. You will never know what God would have done in you and through you if you choose to follow anything other than Jesus.
If you quiet yourself and listen, you might hear God ask you, “Do you want to leave too?” What will your answer be?
Steve Wilmot is a former Edgerton, Ohio area pastor who now seeks “to still bear fruit in old age” through writing. He is the author of seven books designed to assist believers to make steady progress on their spiritual journey.