Did you know that with the exception of Judas Iscariot, that all of Jesus’ Disciples were loyal to the end? But did you also know that there was another group of people referred to as His disciples who left Jesus and never walked with Him again? Stick around and we’ll talk about it here on five minutes of truth.
The vast majority of people know exactly who the Bible is referring to when it mentions Jesus’ Disciples. Even if we can’t remember all of their names, we know that when we hear the word “disciples” our minds immediately go to Jesus’ Twelve Disciples who are named in the Gospels.
However, John records in his Gospel an extraordinary event where Jesus is conversing with three groups of people. This conversation is captured in . And the three groups to whom Jesus is teaching? The first group is often described in a variety of ways, but more than anything they were people who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah and were dedicated to ensure His failure and ultimately His death. The second group in this story is the group comprised of the 12 Disciples. These were Jesus’ dedicated followers Whom He called as His original 12 Disciples.
The final group is the most interesting for a variety of reasons. They are referred to in the Bible as “Jesus’ disciples” ( & 66) though they are not the same as the 12. These are different disciples. Probably people who had seen Jesus’ miracles and heard His teachings and were intrigued by His message. These are probably the same people who were part of the 72 folks Jesus sent out on a mission trip in Luke chapter 10.
However, these disciples, as opposed to the 12, would not stay loyal to Jesus…and, in fact, they would actually walk away from Him. Why? Because…simply put…Jesus told them that in order for them to be true followers they would have to: “eat My flesh and drink my blood”. After initially complaining about the difficulty of this teaching, John writes, perhaps, some of the most heartbreaking words in all of Scripture. John wrote: “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” ().
On the surface, one might be sympathetic to their plight. This teaching Jesus was espousing had to have been incredibly difficult to understand. Jesus tells all of the people listening to Him that: “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (). This had to be a hard teaching to comprehend. In fact, the disciples (not the 12) actually make this point in when they exclaim: “This is a hard teaching, who can understand it?”
And though there are examples in the Scripture where Jesus goes into great detail explaining some of His more complicated teachings, He does no such thing here. In fact, when they question His comments about people eating His flesh and drinking His blood, Jesus simply repeats the claim 4 times…He doesn’t explain it. He simply repeats…4 times…that they need to eat His flesh and drink His blood.
As a result of their not understanding this curious teaching, the other disciples (not the 12) decide that since they could not understand what Jesus was saying…that it was too hard to understand…they rejected all that Jesus had done up to that point…and they walked away from Him forever.
But what about the 12? They have been a bit of an afterthought in this story up to this point. They heard the same teaching. They heard the same complaints. It would be the height of foolishness for us to believe that they did not have some of the same doubts. So what did they do? After the other disciples leave, Jesus turns to the 12 and asks the most important question: “Do you also want to go away” ().
And as he did so often, Peter spoke on behalf of the 12 when he stated: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” ().
But notice what he didn’t say. He didn’t tell Jesus: “Yeah, this whole drinking blood and eating flesh stuff…we got that. We understand all of it”. He never claimed or hinted at the fact that he or the rest of the 12 understood anything that Jesus had taught. In fact, they didn’t understand that teaching any more than the other disciples did.
What did they do? They trusted Jesus…even when they didn’t understand a word that Jesus meant. They came to understand it…at the Last Supper…but they thought the drinking blood and eating flesh stuff was just as weird as the other disciples thought it was. But they trusted Jesus…at a time when it was hard to do so. And isn’t that what faith really is? Is it really faith if we understand everything that Jesus said or did? Or is it faith when we trust Him when every single cell in our body is screaming out for us not to. When something happens to us we don’t understand what are we going to do?
Leave and never walk with Him again…or do we say Lord, where else am I gonna go? You alone have words of eternal life…whether I understand everything or not.
On behalf of myself, Robert Houghton and all of us here at Growth Project…keep reading God’s Word.
Dr. Purvis started Growth Project with Robert Houghton after spending 20 years on active duty as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. After many moves and multiple deployments, he settled in Winter Haven, Florida to do God’s will. A glutton for educational punishment Danny has a BA in English from Carson-Newman College, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He has been married to his wife Kimberly (whom he met when they were 6 years old) for nearly 30 years and they have four wonderful children.