To whom shall we go (John 6 v 67-71)

Introduction

  • I wonder are you one of those people who says – I never like to take sides.
  • Now there may be some wisdom in that in certain situations of utter indifference.
  • But it seems to me that the spirit and philosophy of our age brings this thinking to every walk of life – it is not that I am against Christianity – I am just not completely sold on it – other religions seem to have something to say.
  • And so we get many people who imagine that the safest place to sit in matters of religion is on the fence.
  • But again and again throughout the gospels we see that with regards to Jesus Christ one cannot be a fence sitter.
  • I am sure that by this stage you will have realised that the gospel of Jesus Christ always divides.
  • There is no neutral ground with regards to Jesus Christ, there is no no man’s land, fence sitting is out of the question.
  • This sixth chapter shows that truth – it is full of Jesus work and words  – and as is the pattern throughout John’s gospel having set out the facts of His work and words we are caused to see the outcome, how people react?
  • Already we have seen that for some of the people Jesus words were according to v60 a hard teaching – it was harsh to their ears, it was unacceptable in their opinion.
  • But thank God that is not the end of the story, that by His great grace there are some who believe.
  • There are those for whom His words are not harsh and unacceptable – but rather they are the words of eternal life and they will not budge from following Christ.
  • In our verses this morning in John’s gospel we want to examine these verses under two headings.

1. An Informing Question

  • I think that it will help us in our minds if we can visualise the scene and put ourselves in the 12’s minds.
  • These past weeks have been so exhilarating.  They had watched the crowd of disciples grow by the hour.  They were looking with great anticipation to a kingdom being established.
  • They have a growing confidence that the days of God’s victory and rule are not far off.
  • Jesus has been preaching to packed houses, the synagogue at Capernaum bulging at the seams.
  • He has unfolded very clearly who He is, where He is from, what He has come to do and how men and women are to respond.
  • But in spite of His wonderful works and life giving words of the Lord of heaven and earth the vast majority are now getting up and getting out.
  • The vast majority of those who a little earlier had been so drawn to Jesus Christ like some great magnetic force are now being repelled, scurrying off back to their own ways of thinking and living.
  • And in their droves the crowds that were once so impressed are leaving, turning back we are told in v66 and no longer followed Him .
  • And as the silence falls and the sound of voices and footsteps fades into the distance – Jesus is now standing with a small group of 12 men.
  • This is a crisis moment in the lives of these 12 men.  Can you imagine the look on their faces?
  • Can you imagine what must have been going through their minds, how confused they must have been – this is the Messiah and yet the people are going away?  What’s gone wrong?
  • And then into that poignant moment the Lord utters a question.  It is addressed to the small group of men that remain. V67 You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus asked the twelve .
  • Or to quote the poetic words of one of the older versions, will ye also go away ?
  • I think that we need to realise from the outset that the question Jesus asks is not some sort of moody, glum, defensive snapping, like a child in the playground when some friends have began to no longer play.
  • There is a calmness in the Master’s voice.  In the original language the question is written in a way that expects the answer no.
  • Jesus knows how things are for these men.  He knows what is in a man.  He knows that 11 of them could not and would not now abandon Him and that according to v70 one of them is a devil, the betrayer.
  • So why does He ask the question?  Why does this question still echo down to us through the centuries?
  • The only answer can be to help these men and to help us learn something about Christ’s work and about themselves and ourselves.
  • Christ is teaching these men vital lessons for their life’s work.  Isn’t it interesting what the Lord doesn’t do or say?
  • He is not phased whatsoever by the departing masses.  No doubt He is grieved for He wept over the wayward Jerusalem.  But in His question He is showing that He is absolutely determined to do the job that has been given to Him.
  • He is making it clear to these men, 11 of whom are His mission team to the world that the message of the gospel is not up for negotiation.
  • It is unchanging.  He is not dashing after the multitudes and saying – wait a moment chaps, maybe that was a little bit extreme of me to say that I was the only one who can truly satisfy; maybe I was taking things too far when I claimed to be sent from God to rescue sinners.
  • Come back now and we can work things through and find something that we are all happy with.
  • No just this stark challenging question – will you also go away ?
  • And is the Lord not still uttering that to His followers.
  • Out there in the world and within bounds of the so called church there are those that would say to us – your message is too harsh, you are too rigid, you need to loosen up a bit, you need to make it easier, be a bit broader.
  • And to ministers of the gospel in light of many who have departed for a softer easier message where the truth is muted and to a be nice be good philosophy, Jesus says – will you also go away ?
  • To elders in churches as they have watched church discipline disappear from many churches and go the way of the world Jesus says – will you also go away?
  • To you fellow Christian – as the vast majority around are going away to man’s thinking.  As the world says lighten up, maybe under pressure from family or friends to tune down to fit in.  he is saying – will you also go away ?
  • To you young people who feel your isolation as a Christian surrounded by a sea of unbelievers – some who seemed to be followers have jettisoned the faith he asks – will you also go away ?
  • Friends I trust that you are grasping this in our work of seeking to establish a reformed witness in this town.
  • Oh yes there are many ways that we could build church here – I dare say with a few of the gimmicky devices – nice band, a few soloist, and the watering down of the Word, some self help seminars we could have this place bulging in a few months.
  • But let us always hear the Lord echo in our minds – are you also going to go away ?
  • Oh that we will know His great grace that we will not budge from His Word, that we will keep ever in our minds our one great goal – to glorify God.
  • And He will be glorified when His work is done in His way whether there are two, or twenty or 100 people in this building.
  • And so the question is for our benefit today and our stirring – that we will see that Christ’s work is not to be tampered with.
  • Can you see them – a little band – just 11 real believers and the Lord is going to use them for His glory.
  • Do not ever feel like the poor relations from the country when we appear so small in comparison with others?  Remember the great premise of the Scripture is that He delights not in man’s strength but works in our weakness for He gets all the glory.

2.  A Vital Answer

  • As ever Simon Peter who is a master at blurting immediately replies, v68 Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God .
  • These are men facing a crisis and by God’s great grace – they are concluding that there is only one to whom they can go.
  • And Peter is saying that there is no way that they are going to depart, they are not going to be Lundy’s, traitors, run aways.
  • For they have found in Jesus Christ the only one who can meet their deepest needs – to whom shall we go ?
  • J.C. Ryle that famous reformed Anglican bishop of Liverpool in the 1800s called this statement of Peter’s the irreducible of true discipleship . P266 Upper Room
  • Another commentator calls it the most meaningful and glorious confession .
  • There is no one else Lord who compares with you, how could we give up, turn back. – to whom shall we go ?
  • These are men who have passed a life-changing marker, crossed over the Rubicon.
  • They have come to a point in their spiritual journey where they simply would not and could not go back.
  • It is by no means a full and mature faith that they have, but it is real faith in bud form – they cannot turn back.
  • They have come to see that no one else is who Jesus Christ is that no one else has what He has.
  • He is the Holy One of God – they see Him as God’s set apart one – that is what holy means.  This is Messiah, this is the long promised Redeemer.
  • They are not offended like the retreating masses that He has said He is greater than Moses that He is the Bread that has come down from heaven.
  • We believe and know – and the tense that is used here for the verb means we have believed and we continue to believe.  The dye has been cast.
  • They have rested all their hopes in the Holy One that stands before them.
  • They realise that He alone has the words of eternal life – that all that He says about getting to heaven is true – that he who feeds on Him will live forever.
  • That in Him alone they have found life.  That they cannot save themselves – only Jesus can.
  • Is that how it is for all who listen today – can you say with Peter – Lord – to whom shall we go ?
  • Have you realised how utterly spiritually bankrupt you are and Christ the only one who can rescue?
  • Or are you still saying – well Jesus is good, Son of God, Saviour, but I am not too bad, maybe accept me as I am, what about all the good people in the world.
  • Or by His grace have you passed that marker.  Oh like Peter there are many things you don’t understand – but as you think of heaven and hell and your death and your hope – you say – Lord to whom shall we go ?
  • And realise my friend that saying this with Peter, believing what these 11 believed will leave you just like them – on your own, in the minority at work at school, maybe even in your wider family
  • Peter is resolved not to go the way of the crowd, not persuaded by the mumbling and grumbling of the departing crowds, unimpressed with they parting.
  • His life like ten others and millions since has become inextricably bound up to Jesus Christ.
  • You see friends – truth is not found in popular opinion, not found in the view of the masses – but in Jesus Christ.
  • And when we have grasped who He is and what He alone has done for sinners any retreat will be utterly impossible – to whom shall we go ?
  • There is no one else who can deal with our sin, no one else who can give us a right understanding with God, no one else who can take us to heaven –  we shall not be moved – that is what true faith says – to whom shall we go ?
  • And note this and there may even be a hint of this in Peter’s thinking – that when we come to that sort of resolve and belief it is not because of anything in us.
  • In the original language the we in v69 is emphatic – literally – and we, we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God .
  • We he says, we are not like all those others – we, we believe .  And to still even the faintest hint of pride Jesus reminds them and every Christian of the underlying reason that we believe v7 Have I not chosen you .
  • It seems to me that many in our world are so confused about to whom shall we go.
  • We are good in the material realm with going to the experts – car broken – mechanic, kitchen needs rewired go to electrician, boiler playing up go to the plumber.
  • But when spiritual crises comes or some big life event people make the most terrible mistakes.  Their mind seems to go into total confusion.
  • To whom shall we go they cry – some go to their horoscopes, some go to the men in the pub, some the coffee break gurus of the workplace as they file their nails or poke mud from their boots; some go to clubs – drown out the trouble, some to drugs illegal or prescribed some go to the cults, some to the agony aunts column, some to the new age counsellor; some to the helter skelter of a frantic work schedule; some to the white coated scientist.
  • And none have any answers that really last, for none but Jesus can deal with the heart of our problem.
  • But my friend there is one to whom we must go and Peter had grasped this even though so tentatively – he has gone to the one who said come unto me and I will give you rest.
  • He came into the world to deal with our biggest problem, He died on the cross that sinners might go to Him for forgiveness and newness of life – he has the words of eternal life.
  • I tell you go to Him for everything that you need – when you know that death draws near – He is the resurrection and the life.  He has taken the sting from death, warmed the bed of death for those who believe.
  • When you have no resources, all your strength gone.  He can help you in any need any situation – bow yourself down before Him, humble yourself, believe on Him and all His life giving power will enable you to live a new life – Go to him.
  • To whom shall we go – there is only one to go to
  • By Him there is strength to bear any burden;
  • By Him there is grace to forgive seventy times seven, ability to love your enemy; patience to cope in the most extenuating trouble; gentleness, peace, self control.
  • To whom shall we go to – who will you go to – there is one that says come to me and I will give you rest, take my yoke for it is easy, learn from me for I an gentle and humble in heart .
  • Oh that by that sovereign grace of the eternal God we would each one say with Peter – Lord to whom shall we go.  You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Christ the Holy One of God .
  • No middle ground – no fence sitters with Jesus – with Him or against. Believing or unbelieving.
  • The only alternate to going to Christ and remaining with Him is as for Judas – eternal darkness.