When I was in college I heard someone say something that changed the trajectory of my life: “There are only 2 things in this world that are eternal – people and God’s Word – therefore, we should invest our lives in these 2 things.” It was this statement that propelled me to switch from pursuing biomedical engineering, which was my major, to pursuing full time ministry.
Jesus said something similar in John 6:27, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life…” But note the context in which He says this. Jesus has very recently fed 5000+ people on the side of a mountain near the Sea of Galilee. He has very recently healed a bunch of sick people in a public way. The crowds are clamoring to be around Jesus not just to see what He will do next but they are asking themselves, “I wonder what Jesus can do for me?”
In 6:25-71, Jesus makes it clear that this is the wrong motivation for following Him. He begins to say some things that sound that the talk of a crazy man… “Eat my flesh, drink my blood.” He is very intentional in what He is doing. It is not His goal to get a huge crowd of people to follow Him. If He wanted to do this He would say things that made people feel good about themselves and try to gather as big a crowd as possible. Instead He deliberately tries to get those people who are following for the wrong reasons to stop following after Him.
Those who are true disciples of Jesus follow Him not because of what He can do for them but because of who He is! Note the conversation that Jesus and Peter have at the end of chapter 6…
66 From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Peter and his buddies were following Jesus because of who He was. This was not always the case for them, but they had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah of God and not just someone who could do things for them and make them feel good about themselves. They were learning what it means to count the cost of following Jesus – because life was getting ready to get harder for them, not easier.
A few weeks ago when I preached I made the statement that, “If following Jesus does not cost you something you may not be a disciple.” I’m still learning what it means to count the cost. And I hope that you are too.