#104 "An Upside Down Kingdom"
July 10, 2007
"From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6: 66-69)
When we choose to follow Christ, things don't always make sense. We are instructed to give in order to receive. To return good for evil. To love our enemies. God's Kingdom is an upside down kingdom. There are difficult sayings in our Bibles. Things we don't understand. We face situations in our lives that often don't seem to make sense if we are children of God. Bad things do happen to good people. To saved people. Why? Jesus promises us that we will face trouble and tribulation in our lives. Hard teachings. Upside down thinking.
Things were no different 2000 years ago when Jesus walked the earth in the flesh. He preached the very things out loud, in person, that we read in our copy of the Bible. On top of that, the people saw Him perform miracles and wonders and signs. They watched Him feed the five thousand. They saw Him walk on water. He spoke in parables and metaphors. To those who had "eyes to see and ears to hear", it made some sort of sense. To others...well, it seemed sort of upside down, hard and even unbelievable. On top of all this, Jesus tells the disciples that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Talk about being offended! As often happened, His teaching wasn't understood. A violent argument started in the crowd regarding what He meant. Their perception remained at a materialistic level. They wondered, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" (John 6:52) As good Jews, they knew the command, "You must not eat...any blood." (Lev. 3:17) Yet this blood was the means of atonement. They were shocked and puzzled. Hard teaching. Upside down thinking.
Jesus rejected their desire to make Him their political King. He demanded personal faith. He stressed total human inability to work salvation and the total ability of the works of God. This was unpalatable to many people and we see that "many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him." Kind of the same as today, don't you think?
Have you ever watched someone that you know personally turn away from Christ and return to an old life of sin? I know you've seen the news reports of pastors and evangelists who have given in to sin and temptation and ruined their careers and entire congregations. Maybe you personally just can't seem to follow those hard sayings of Jesus and walk through the narrow gate where few travel. (see Matthew 7: 13-14) Are you one of those disciples who turned back and no longer follows Christ? The sayings are too hard. The kingdom is too upside down. The results don't come quickly. Bad things continue to happen. No one that you know lives this way. Pop psychology makes more sense. Maybe Oprah, and Doctor Phil and Judge Judy have better answers. At least they're easier to understand. But the Savior Himself turns and looks you straight in the eye and says, "Will YOU leave me too?"
How will you answer Him? In our text, Peter was the spokesman for the Twelve. He says, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." The path may have been hard, but Peter was convinced that Jesus' words lead to life. Are you convinced? To whom shall YOU go? To the bookstore for a self-help book? To the TV for the daytime talk shows that show you how the world is doing life? To the counselor's office for a little couch time? (I'm not against good, biblical counseling, but..) Or....will you go to the One, the only One, who has the words and the gift of eternal life? Jesus says, "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."
Some have said to me, "well, that was Peter..the apostle...he's a saint...I don't have that kind of faith." Today I read the words of Peter himself that said that you and I have been given the same (of equal value and honor) faith as Peter and the other apostles. (2 Peter 1: 1b) Peter was a human being just like us. He was a sinner, a doubter, a man who cursed and even was arrogant enough to rebuke the Lord Jesus Himself. The only perfect Man was Jesus...we are right there in the same league as Peter. You have that same kind of faith.
The reality is that you will never find fulfillment in the things of this world. You will never find the answers in a book store, on the side of a coffee cup, or on the TV. The only number one best seller is your Bible. The only one who holds the words of life and all of the answers that you will ever need is your Savior. His words may be strange. They may sound upside down and inside out. They may be hard at times. You may need to muster up every ounce of courage and determination that you have to obey them. But they have been tried and tested and will never fail. Many around you will turn from Him and His words and no longer follow Him. There are many on the broad road that leads to destruction. They stay on while the going is good, but when things get tough, they'll desert. What about you?
"You do not want to leave too, do you?"......Jesus
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