Has your faith ever been tested to the point of wanting to walk away from Jesus? As we continue our sermon series Loaded Questions, Blake Holmes shows us what it looks like to wrestle with God’s goodness in the face of life’s challenges and what genuine faith in Him looks like.
Do You Not Understand? | John 3
Why Do You Call Me Lord? | Luke 6
Have You Not Read? | Matthew 21:12-16
Do You Love Me? | John 21:15-19
Why Are You So Afraid? | Mark 4:35-41
Do You Want To Go Away As Well? | John 6:60-71
Who Do You Say I Am? | Matthew 16:13-28
Do You Want to Be Healed? | John 5:1-18
Has your faith ever been tested to the point of wanting to walk away from Jesus? As we continue our sermon series Loaded Questions, Blake Holmes shows us what it looks like to wrestle with God’s goodness in the face of life’s challenges and what genuine faith in Him looks like.
Good morning, friends. We are continuing our series Loaded Questions. These are questions Jesus asked, and we think they are loaded questions. They are pregnant with meaning and relevance, not just for his day but for our day as well. In the first week, we looked at the question, "Do you want to get well?" In the second week, we looked at the question, "Who do you say I am?"
This morning, we're going to look at John, chapter 6, where Jesus asks a very important question and one that ministered to me, specifically, in one of my darkest hours. That question is "Do you want to go away as well?" Let's look at John, chapter 6, starting in verse 60. We'll read through verse 71, and then in order to provide context, we'll have to go back to the beginning of the chapter and unpack some of that. But let's look at verse 60 and start reading there.
"When many of his disciples heard it, they said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, 'Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.' (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.'
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you want to go away as well?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.' Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.' He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him." Would you please pray with me?
Father in heaven, we come to you this morning, acknowledging that our hearts are filled with many distractions. Lord, we just declare our dependence upon you. Father, thank you for your grace. Thanks, Lord, that just this morning we've been able to sing praises to your name, be reminded of truth through song. We've been able to celebrate in Communion and be reminded of your Son's broken body and shed blood for us.
Lord, now we come, and we read your Word, and I pray that you would take your Word and open our eyes, strengthen our hearts, deepen our faith, move our affections for you, that, Lord, we might be found faithful in our hour of testing, just as Peter was found. When those around us may choose to walk away, Lord, may we declare with great confidence and faith that you are the Christ, the Son of the Holy God. So, we surrender this morning to you, asking your blessings upon it. In Jesus' name, amen.
This morning, I'm going to unpack three points. The first one is simply this: many people claim a faith in Jesus. Many people claim to be followers of Christ. "I have a faith in Jesus." The second point is that everyone's faith will be tested. At some point or another, what we say we believe is going to be tested. We will come to a point of trial whether we really believe what we say we believe. The third point is that a genuine faith endures to the end. A genuine faith always endures to the end.
So, let's unpack the first point: many people claim a faith in Jesus. In fact, this is exactly what happens to open up chapter 6. Many people, crowds of people, are gathered around Jesus. This is the height of his ministry. He has worked many miracles. He has allowed the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the crippled to walk. So, as you could imagine, people are gathering around him…throngs of people. He's having even to teach from a boat as people are gathering to hear, "What does he have to say?"
We see in verses 1 and 2: "After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick." When you read signs in the book of John, it's really important, because there are seven signs in the book of John, which, theologically, John is trying to convey to us that Jesus isn't there just to do great party tricks…heal people, feed the multitudes.
All of his miracles are signs pointing to a great truth, pointing us to who Jesus Christ is. "God has become man, Immanuel, God with us, and he has entered into our world. This is the very Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah. He is walking in your midst." So, now the people have heard about the miracles he works, and they're gathering around him. This is the height of his popularity, but there's going to come a turning point in chapter 6.
As you read from there, we see that Jesus feeds 5,000 people. That doesn't even count women and children. There's enough food from just a few fish and loaves of bread that there are baskets left over. So, the people now are not just coming to him looking to be healed but looking for food. This is the one who could provide food for the multitudes.
In verse 26, Jesus says to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." Again, there's the word sign. They're coming to him because they have a need, and they're looking to Jesus. "Hey, Jesus, meet this need." But there's another reason they come to Jesus. This is found in verses 14 and 15. This is going to take a little bit of explanation, but they're also coming to Jesus because they're looking for freedom.
Look at what it says. "When the people saw the sign that he had done [the feeding of the 5,000] , they said, 'This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!'" The Prophet was the one Moses spoke of whom God would send. "Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself."
If you understand anything about your Bible during this day, the nation of Israel was occupied by Rome, and the Jews expected the Messiah who would come, the descendant of David who would fulfill the Davidic covenant and overthrow their enemies. So, when they saw the one who could heal people and feed people, they were like, "We're going to make him king. The miracle worker is going to be able to work miracles and overthrow our enemies." So they go to take him by force.
What's crazy is Jesus is like, "No, no, no. That's not why I've come," so he withdraws. What I want you to think about is that many of us come to God, come to Jesus, looking to make a deal. We come to Jesus hoping he will make life work for us. I mean, I made deals with God all the time when I was a kid. Perhaps you did too. Right? "Lord, if you would just help me pass this test… Lord, if I could make the team… Lord, if she would say yes, it would change my life forever. Please."
Then we get older, and for many of us, we come to God making many of the same requests. We come to God… "Lord, if you'd just allow me to be married… If you'd just allow me to get this promotion… If you would just heal my loved one… If you would just do this… If you would just do this…" What happens is we impose our expectations on God. We look to God wanting to seize him to take him by force to fulfill our agenda for him, as if he is accountable to us rather than we are completely dependent and accountable to him.
We come to Jesus, and he's our healer. He's our financial adviser. He's our matchmaker. He's our political candidate. "Lord, be this for me. Make life work for me." The question is…What will you do when life doesn't work out? What will you do when he doesn't meet your expectations? Consider the answer to this question…Why are you following Jesus?
If someone were to ask you, "Hey, tell me, why do you follow Jesus?" how would you answer that question? Why are you even here today? Some of us think he'll make our life easier. Some people will even teach you that he'll make you richer. Some people follow Jesus because "Maybe he'll make me more popular." Why do you follow Jesus? Do you believe God owes you something? Do you come to him with your agenda, going, "Hey, God! If you do this…"
I remember when my wife and I… We have four kids, and they were really young at the time. We decided we were going to take a trip down to the Hill Country. So, we gathered up the kids. We drove down to the Hill Country. We had done most of our homework online. We looked at the pictures, did all that. I remember passing by some really nice houses and apartments. As we were getting closer to our destination, I grew in excitement and anticipation, like, "This is going to be a great trip."
But then, as we got a little bit closer to where our apartment was, and I pulled up and looked at it, I was like, "Uh…that doesn't quite look like the picture I saw. I mean, it's close. There's a roof, there's a door, but it's not really what I remember online." So we go inside. I decided, "Hey, we're going to make the most of it. I'm going to be the good dad. I'm going to be optimistic and cheerful."
I go inside. Four young kids, road trip, and now it's time to… "Let's all have snacks." So, I go to the kitchen and open up the cabinet and grab a plate, and I kid you not. It felt like there was syrup on the plate. It was nasty. It was dirty. So, I go to the next plate and kind of the same thing. I'm like, "These haven't even been washed." I don't want to say anything to my wife, but it seems a little odd. I arrive, and there I am. All of a sudden, I have a newfound love for washing dishes.
So, I'm putting dishes in the dishwasher. Then I say, "Hey, kids. Come on down." I think maybe we can go swim or something like that. My kids are running around upstairs. They come downstairs. They're little at the time, like I said. They all sit on the couch, and they're barefooted, and when they sit down, all of their feet are up like this and I can see them, and they are all…every single one of them…just black with dirt.
I go, "Where have y'all been?" "Oh, we were just running around upstairs." I'm like, "This is not turning out the way I had hoped it would." I just wanted out of there, because what I was told was reality was very different from my experience. Here's the thing, gang. I think there are many people who are telling you, "When you walk with God, you are going to be happier, healthier, more successful, more popular. Everything is going to go up and to the right."
Now, walking with God, for sure, will bring you a joy you cannot experience apart from him, but let me tell you something. On this side of heaven, we are going to experience pain and setback and heartache and disappointment. Jesus even tells us in Luke, chapter 9, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."
Following Jesus comes at a cost. If you're going to follow Jesus, it is a life of sacrifice and self-denial, but all too often, we come to Jesus hoping to make a deal, that he'll make our lives work. Candidly, if you go into a lot of Christian bookstores or the Christian section of a bookstore, it's really just kind of self-help veneered and Christian talk of how you can make God make your life easier. This sets us up for profound disappointment.
Many people claim to have a faith, but when they arrive in the apartment, and everything is dirty and sticky, and it's not what they expected… Now you enter into a time of testing. What do you believe? In John 6, the crisis of faith has nothing to do with dirty apartments or blown vacations, but the people have a crisis of faith because of what Jesus teaches.
He has fed the 5,000 people. It's the time of the Passover, and he begins to teach the crowds, because he's not here just to gain a popularity contest and to create a massive following. He wants the people to understand who he is. He's looking for people to trust him. So, now he's going to take this moment, and he's going to teach them. He's going to make some outrageous claims, and the people are offended. They begin to walk away. Let's look at verse 32.
"Jesus then said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' They said to him, 'Sir, give us this bread always.' Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'"
Verse 38: "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me." Notice what verse 41 says. "So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, 'I am the bread that came down from heaven.'" Jesus feeds the 5,000 people. It's the time of Passover. He reminds them of what God did in the wilderness following the exodus, how God provided bread for them in the wilderness, and he makes these outrageous claims.
He claims to offer a bread that's even greater than Moses, and the religious leaders are like, "Hey, man. Nobody is greater than Moses. Who do you think you are?" He claims to be the very Bread of Life and that he has been sent by the Father. At this point, the people are so offended by his teaching, they're out. He's no longer going to fulfill their purposes, meet their agenda for their lives, so they walk away.
He goes on in verse 53, and he talks about, "Hey, if you're going to follow me, you have to understand." He speaks of "You're going to eat of my body and drink of my blood." At that point, even his disciples, we're told, are like, "This is just plain strange. I can't follow you anymore." Look at verse 60. "When many of his disciples heard it, [even] they said, 'This is a hard saying [this is a hard teaching]; who can listen to it?'" "I can't even listen to this anymore."
So, the disciples… Not the Twelve (there were crowds following Jesus), but those who considered themselves followers, learners. Even they said, "I've had enough." You see, what happens is Jesus works miracles. People want to be fed, they want to be healed, but then he calls them to something, and they go, "Hey, I'm out. You're demanding something of me. That's not what I expected. That's not what I signed up for, and I'm tapping out."
Jesus warns, and he goes, "Hey, if you're offended by my teaching, wait till you see what's about to happen. I'm about to be lifted up. I'm about to be mocked, betrayed, beaten, and put on a cross." Verse 61: "But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, 'Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?'" "You take offense at my teaching? You haven't seen anything yet."
Then verse 63: "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." His point is that genuine belief comes by means of the Holy Spirit. There are people who are checking out, and what he's saying is, "Hey, listen. It's the Spirit of God who's going to help you to continue to remain faithful. It's the Spirit of God who's going to help you understand the teaching. It's the Spirit of God who gives life." Just so we understand that none of this is taking Jesus by surprise, we're reminded of his omniscience in verses 64-65.
"'But there are some of you who do not believe.' (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.' After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him."
The chapter begins with large crowds of people. Everyone wants to follow Jesus. Many are proclaiming a faith, but then they come to a point of testing, and what tested them was his teaching. The religious leaders are offended. They don't like what he claims. Even his disciples, his companions, say, "Hey, I can't follow you anymore. What you're asking of me is too much. What you want me to believe about you is too much, so I'm out."
It's at this point that Jesus looks at the Twelve, the apostles, and he asks the question, not just of them, but what, I would say, he asks of all of us during our time of testing: "What about you? Are you going to leave as well?" You see, we must make a decision when life doesn't go our way. When we hear the word cancer, when we're overlooked for the job, when we're betrayed by a loved one, when we experience heartache and pain, what are we to conclude?
Is it at that moment when God doesn't make life work that we're tapping out? What is it for you that, "Hey, if this happens, God, you know what? I'm out"? What expectation do you have? What are you coming to God with, saying, "Hey, bless this or I'm walking away"? Will you stay or will you go? You see, the reality is we're in one of three places. Some of you have experienced that crisis of faith before, where you've been through a trial of testing where you were close or maybe you did tap out.
Some of you are in it right now. Maybe you're here today because life feels unbearable. It feels overwhelming, and you're just wondering if God has anything for you. Or maybe that crisis is right around the corner, and you will soon experience it. I want to tell you about a time where it was the greatest crisis of faith I experienced. I tell you this because I want to talk to those who find themselves in a similar place, and I want to offer you hope. I want to offer you encouragement.
When my son was 4 years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. Many of you have heard that story. You know that my son today is doing well. You know how the story ends, but at this time, when he was diagnosed with cancer, I walk into this hospital room, and I see him in this bed, and he looks terribly sick at the time. He's 4. It's that night in 2007 that I felt utterly alone. My wife was pregnant with our fourth child. My two daughters were at home, and there I was with him in the hospital room about 2:00 in the morning.
Everything was dark, and the floor was quiet. I'm looking out at the highway, and I'm seeing the cars go by. It's like the whole world is going by, yet a bomb has gone off in my house, and I can't make sense of anything. I had walked with the Lord, at that time, for many years. I'd graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with honors. I had memorized and studied a lot of Scripture, and do you know how much Bible I could tell you that night? I had nothing. My mind was blank. I mean, I had nothing, and I felt nothing but despair.
The nurse walked in, and she was covered head to toe in protective gear, literally over her tennis shoes…rubber gloves, mask, covering her head. She takes a sealed tray, and she breaks the seal and opens up the tray. I look at her, and I go, "What are you doing?" She goes, "Well, I'm about to give him chemotherapy." I said, "Why are you dressed like that?" She said, "Well, I can't allow any of this to touch my skin."
So, there I am, as a dad, and they're about to inject a poison into my 4-year-old boy. When she left and I looked at him… He felt terrible. As he slept, I wept. I'm telling you, I heard the voice of evil. "Walk away. Punt. Tap out. God has betrayed you." My mind was blank. As sure as I heard the voice of evil, I also heard the voice of hope, and it came from this passage: John, chapter 6.
As clear as I am standing in front of you, I also heard, "Are you going to walk away as well? I mean, is this it, Blake? The ways in which I've blessed you and you've walked with me for this many years… This is it? This is the turning point? You want to tap out now?" I remembered the words of Peter. What I'd offer to you is this: genuine faith endures to the end.
We learn from Peter's answer. He says, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" "Where am I going to go? I mean, where am I going to go?" "You have the words of eternal life…" "You alone. You have the words of eternal life." "…and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." Peter's answer reveals that those with a genuine faith choose to stay with Jesus even when others walk away. They recognize, "Well, where would I go?"
Friends, your theology matters. It matters so much. You do not determine your theology on the tenth floor at Children's Medical Center or you will land in a really dark place. You have to know what you believe. You have to know the character of God, because you will come to a point of testing. I'm telling you this story so that you don't believe the nonsense that's being sold out there about how God just always wants you to be happy, wealthy, successful, and popular, and when you follow him, life always works. That's not true.
You will experience pain, but he never leaves you, and he meets you in your time of need. I'm talking to the few of you who know exactly what I'm talking about, who have sat in that room before. You've heard the voice of evil. What I want to do is I just want to sit there. I want to go into that hospital room with you. I want to put my arm around you, and I want to remind you, "Follow the way of Peter. Do not tap out, because God is good."
We know and serve and love a God who has entered into our world of pain, and he offers us hope. He is not like Buddha, immune from our pain, eyes closed, arms folded, indifferent. He's a God who loves us, who came in flesh and blood to provide a way of escape so that we might experience life. He has been tempted in all things we are, and yet without sin, and he meets us in our time of need.
Those with a genuine faith trust in his Word. Notice what Peter says. "You have the words of eternal life." I recognize, even when the world betrays me, even when it doesn't feel like God is anywhere near, I trust in his Word. It is my compass. It is my guide. It tells me true north, even when life doesn't make sense. I may not feel like God is near me. I may not be happy about where I am, but I know what's true. I know what is true regardless of how I feel.
Those with a genuine faith profess him as Lord. Notice what Peter said. "…we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." This is in reference to the way Isaiah described God as the Sovereign One. "We have come to know and believe that you are sovereign. Nothing takes you by surprise." Nothing makes God go, "Oh man! I didn't see that coming." God is there with us, providentially at work, writing our story, and he always has our best interests in mind.
I remember going to camp, and I was kind of bullied into doing the ropes course. I don't like heights. I found myself standing on top of what they called, I found out later, the Pamper pole. Has anybody ever done the Pamper pole? A few of you. Well, the reason they call it the Pamper pole is because, when you get up there, you're going to wish you had Pampers so you don't embarrass yourself. It's scary. You stand on the pole. Your legs start to do this. It feels like the pole starts to do this a little bit. The goal is to jump to the other side and grab the trapeze.
So, I stood up there, trying to look courageous, scared to death, and I jumped. When I jumped, I hit the trapeze, but my body weight took me, and all of a sudden, I found myself flying through the air. I was terrified. It felt like my world was spinning and I was surely going to die, but as you know, you're harnessed in. You can't see it, but there's a rope that is tied to your back. You can jump as far and as high as you try, but it is impossible for you to hit the ground. It's impossible. It can be scary. It can feel overwhelming. You can feel like you're freefalling, but you're never going to hit the ground.
What I want to tell you, friends… There's going to come a point in your life where you are going to be faced with the question, "Is this the time when you walk away?" and you have to answer. "What am I going to do?" A genuine faith endures to the end. What I want to tell you is that laced throughout this whole chapter is something also really profound. I don't want you to feel like, "Oh man! It's going to be the time of testing. What am I going to do? What if I'm not strong enough?" What I'm telling you is God's Spirit never leaves you.
Your world can feel out of control, but his Spirit is like that rope. Regardless of how you feel, you are tied in. This is the deep end of the water of theology of what I'm about to share with you, which I can't completely unpack, but I know many of you understand. I want you to write these verses down, because what we see in verse 44 is a genuine faith is initiated by God. A genuine faith is initiated by God's Spirit. Verse 44 says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."
A genuine faith not only is initiated by God, but it's empowered by God. Look at verse 51. Jesus says, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." What he's saying here is just as we need food in order to live, and we're completely dependent upon food in order to survive, spiritually, we have to give our lives to Jesus in order to be rightly related to God, to be made new, to be forgiven, to experience life. Spiritual life is empowered by God.
Thirdly, the spiritual life is secured. A genuine faith is secured by God. Look at the promise of verse 37. "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." Here's what I'm telling you. When you find yourself in the ICU, when you find yourself in the living room brokenhearted, when you receive the phone call, I want you to know it is God's Spirit that sustains you. He will not leave you. He will not forsake you. He will give you what you need. He will hold you, and he will not let you hit the ground.
The Heidelberg Catechism is not one many people are familiar with. Catechism is not a word we use in church very often anymore, but it simply means to teach. In 1563, this confession of faith was written to instruct, to teach the church, to encourage them. The catechisms were arranged in a question-and-answer format. What I wanted to close with is the way it starts. The question is, "What is your only comfort in life and in death?" Listen to this answer.
"That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him." Let me pray for us.
Father, I pray that everyone who has trusted in your Son, just as this confession says, would be reminded today that they are not their own but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who has fully paid for our sins with his precious blood and has set us free from all the power of the Devil. He also preserves us in such a way that without the will of our heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from our heads. Indeed, Lord, all things must work together for our salvation. Therefore, by your Holy Spirit, you also assure us eternal life and make us heartily willing and ready from now on to live for you.
Lord, would you strengthen us today for whatever we are facing or whatever tomorrow holds, that, Lord, we would not come to you with a set agenda, asking you to fulfill our purposes and our needs, but, Lord, we would come to you by faith, trusting you, and when the crowds walk away, Lord, when it looks like the world has been turned upside down and we can't make sense of what's happening around us, may we, like Peter, declare, "You're the Christ, the Son of the living God," and may we hold on with a genuine faith, knowing it is your Spirit that empowers us and never lets go. It's by your Spirit we pray. In the name of Jesus, amen.