There are books galore on the topic of leadership. It would take you an eternity to read them all because new books about leadership are being written and published every day. Have you ever read a book on following, or becoming a good follower? I’ve never read, nor have I ever seen a book on that subject. So I typed “books on following”, and “books on being a follower” into the web browser of my computer. What I received in response was books on leadership. I then typed, “how to be a follower” into my web browser and was given many YouTube sites telling me how to become a follower of someone’s social media site, such as Facebook, Twitter, and others. With the click of a button or an icon, I can instantly become someone’s follower, and receive updates. With the click of another button or icon, I can also instantly “unfollow” a person. It’s as simple as that! There are also many online courses being offered which will give you tools and techniques proven to increase the number of your followers.
In this age of social media, “following” has taken on a new meaning. The number of one’s followers is a sign of popularity. Gaining new followers can easily become an obsession, as well as a source of personal pride and competitiveness. A friend of mine recently told me that he goes to social media sites mainly to get information. He’s interested in keeping up-to-date on certain people and organizations. What immediately comes to your mind when you think of the words “following” and “follower”?
During the lifetime of Jesus Christ on this earth, followers were often referred to as “disciples”. In this passage of Scripture, John 6:60-71, we are going to study the effect that Jesus’ conversation had on His followers, and observe how Jesus responds to the situation.
I. THE VERBAL REACTION OF MANY (verse 60)
In verse 60 of John, chapter 6, we find the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ conversation with His crowd of followers. “Many, therefore, of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’ ” The word “disciples” is the Greek word “matheton”, which literally means “learner” or “pupil”. In the first century, when you wanted to find out more about a person, and learn from him, you followed him around. There may have been several motives for doing so, such as curiosity, entertainment, a desire to join the crowd, as well a personal commitment to that person.
For example, since you’ve come to this site and are reading this article, you may be a blogger yourself, and have your own blog site. Let me ask you a question. Can you follow a blog site without truly being a follower of that site? I would say that the answer to that question is “yes”. You can click the “follow” button or icon for a number of reasons. You may have read one article, liked it, and clicked the “follow” button because you wanted to get email alerts when new articles are added to the site. You may have clicked “follow” because you want your name and photo added to the list of other followers in the hope that readers might check out your site as well. It’s a form of advertising. Or you may have read several articles and are eager to continue to learn, grow spiritually, and share what you have learned with others. Those are just a few possible motives. As you can see, there are many possible reasons for following, and not all those reasons demonstrate long-lasting commitment.
Verse 60 says that “many“, not “all” of his listeners, had a negative attitude about the teachings that Jesus had just expressed to them, and they put their attitude into words, saying, “This is a difficult saying; who can listen to it.” The Greek word translated “difficult”, literally means “hard”. The word does not mean “hard to understand”, but “hard to accept” once you understood it. You might say that Jesus’ words were “offensive” – His teachings were opposed to their own personal beliefs and prejudices. Therefore they rejected His whole conversation. True disciples wouldn’t react in that way. A true disciple would be willing to listen, to learn, and to believe in Him because of who He is, even if the teaching might seem, at first, to be offensive. The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, made the following statement: “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand so that you may believe, but believe so that you may understand.” The Lord Jesus has already given this crowd of followers plenty of reasons to believe in Him and trust Him.
Bible expositor, Alfred Barnes, tells us the doctrines that were apparently offensive. First, that Jesus was superior to Moses; secondly, that God would save all that He had chosen, and those only; thirdly, that He was the bread that came from heaven; and fourthly, that it was necessary that an atonement should be made, and that they should be saved by it. Barnes goes on to say, “These doctrines have always been the most offensive that men have been called on to believe, and many, rather than trust in Him, have chosen to draw back to perdition.”
When these so-called disciples said, “Who can hear it?”, they meant, “Who can put up with it?”. “Who can listen to His words any longer without losing their patience and responding with outbursts of anger?”
II. JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE CROWD (verses 61-65)
The mumbling and grumbling has started again, and verse 61 tells us that Jesus is aware of it. Now He is faced with a choice. Is the Lord Jesus going to politely back away from the conflict? Is He going to give excuses for His offensive words? Is He going to say something like: “I didn’t mean to . . . what I really meant was . .That didn’t come out right . . . what I was trying to say is . . . I’ve had a lot on my mind lately . . . I didn’t sleep well last night , , , Maybe we should start this conversation all over again.” Do those excuses sound familiar? Have you ever used any of them yourself? Be honest!
The other choice would be to stand His ground, give further evidence of the truth of His statements, and then move along in the same direction, full-speed ahead.. This is the course of action that Jesus pursues in spite of their opposition. It’s full-speed ahead! He begins by asking them a question: “Does this cause you to stumble?” He’s letting them know that He hears what they are saying, and He also knows the condition of their hearts. The word “stumble” is the Greek word “skandalizei”. We get our English word “scandalize” from that Greek word. Jesus is saying, “Are My teachings offensive to you?” “Do they go against what you want to believe?” He is also leading into what He is about to say next. His second question, found in verse 62, is “What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before?” Jesus is not telling these followers that they will see His ascension into heaven because Acts 1:6-13 tells us that only the eleven apostles watched that happen. Jesus is speaking hypothetically. One of the statements that offended some of these followers was that Jesus claimed that He had come down from heaven. Now He’s saying, “What if you saw me ascend to heaven – the same place that I told you I came from?” “Would that offend you all the more?” You might say, from Jesus’ response, that He is separating the chaff from the wheat!
(MORE COMING SOON)
Welcome to another work-in-progress that is just getting off the ground: John 6:60-71. It begins on a sad note, but the Lord Jesus is going to work His way through it, and so are we. I hope you’ll join in on this construction and enjoy learning some things first-hand yourself also.