When Jesus came, He entered a highly religious society. This was not a time like the one where people half thought about God’s Law and spent most of their time visiting temples to other gods. This was a society who knew their theology better than anyone. They knew God’s ways better than He did!
They had certain expectations about who the Messiah was, How He would come, and what sort of changes He would bring. They expected a great prince who would come and bring an end to Roman rule and a mighty empire such as Rome’s which Jerusalem herself ruled. They had studied the scriptures and had now doubt about what they foretold!
But they missed it. All their learning, all their knowledge, was useless and even debilitating when the realities of God’s Chosen One came. They were blessed by God, so what bad could happen to them, right?
Jesus brought a hard message which was more than their flesh could bear. They would have to give up their prestigious positions. They would have to give up material wealth. They would have to give up their ideas of who God was, who they were in God’s eyes, and what kind of life they could have in God’s order. It was simply too much to bear for most of them.
And Jesus did not make it easy. He was not trying to get the largest number of followers possible. When thousands would gather around Him, wanting what He had been offering, He would draw a line in the sand and say something that so went against their flesh, that they would get away from Him as fast as they could. He was a terrible evangelist! He didn’t care about numbers, but instead wanted only those who wanted Him above all else with a pure heart of love.
“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
66From 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.
68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:60-69)
So most of those who followed Jesus were not willing to accept what He offered even though He truly offered the bread of life. Kingdom life. It was not the way they wanted their religion. It was not the way they wanted their God. They preferred a different kind of God and rejected the actual God.
What happened next? God is gracious and so He gave another couple decades for those who lived in that land to see the new Kingdom reality. Those who did (we’ve read archeological estimates that it must have been at least 20%) laid down their lives for Christ just as He had done for them.
The majority chose their religion and their idea of God over who God actually is and the One He had sent. After a time, God again tore down the Temple. Not one stone was left on another so that no one could claim to worship Him in the old way. He had brought a new Kingdom and made it clear to all that they must join His Kingdom or reject it, but the old way was gone.
Photo credit: ManonManon