The two forces that sustain disciples under trial
Updated: May 20
Week 20 in the Word – May 14, 2021
In John chapter 6, the gospel writer relates an instance in which the faith of the disciples was severely tested. Jesus feed 5000 people with a few loaves and fishes. Afterward, He taught the crowds that He was the Bread of life, similar to the manna that God sent down on the Israelites in the desert many centuries before. He expounded on the concept of feeding on Him, that is, eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Some took this literally not spiritually and allegorically as they should have. He was telling them that He would give Himself as the actual Lamb of God (John 1:29) who would lay down His life for His sheep (John 10).
At that point, many who had been listening to Jesus either misunderstood Him or did not believe Him. John tells us what happened next:
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” (John 6:66-69).
There were two forces that kept Simon Peter steady when many others walked away from the Lord. One, there was no one else to whom he could go and find the words of eternal life. Two, Simon Peter (and he included the rest of the 12) had become convinced that Jesus was the Holy One of God. To leave Jesus would have required a force pushing them away from Him and a force pulling them toward someone or something else. Neither of those forces existed.
Rather there was a magnetic attraction that drew Simon Peter and the rest toward Jesus and there was revulsion that kept them from being drawn toward any other teachers or doctrines.
If you are in the midst of a trial of faith, consider that there are two forces by which you can persevere. You will remain steady by believing in Jesus more and by rejecting all that contradicts His Words of eternal life. The twelve disciples were given the option of leaving Jesus but only one of them eventually would do that. The rest remained because they were convinced there were no other real possibilities and because they were convinced that Jesus was the Holy One of God. Those two forces will hold you too.
Our Old Testament readings last week took us through the end of I Kings and into II Kings. We met some of the kings who followed Rehoboam on the throne of Judah and some who followed Jeroboam on the throne of Israel. We followed the ministries of Elijah, and Elisha, powerful prophets of God who were authenticated by numerous miracles.
Our New Testament reading took us into the gospel of John with its focus on Jesus as God the Son, the Word who became flesh. We saw that John’s concern was to present Jesus in all His glory so that readers might believe that He is “the Christ the Son of God and that by believing you might have life in His name” (John 20:21). John introduced us to several who had close encounters with Christ, like Nathanael, Nicodemus, and a Samaritan woman.
This week we will be finishing II Kings and starting I Chronicles. The northern kingdom of Israel will fall to Assyria. The Assyrians will take Israelites into captivity and resettle other populations into Samaria. Meanwhile, Judah experiences ups and downs with more bad kings than good. Hezekiah and Josiah were the notably good kings but even their influence was not enough to stem the judgment of God that came upon Jerusalem in the form of defeat and captivity by the Babylonians.
First and Second Chronicles repeats the history of Israel and Judah from a slightly different angle than the books of Samuel and Kings. There is a focus on the kingdom of Judah and the Davidic line through which the Messiah would come. It is easy to appreciate this emphasis as we know that Jesus Christ is the One who would sit forever on the throne of David. Beware that the first chapters of I Chronicles are lengthy genealogies and make for slow and tedious reading, I read them through while listening to the audio version of the passages on BibleGateway.com here. See the tip of the week below for help on reading this kind of literature in the Bible.
In the New Testament we will be reading John’s gospel chapters 5-7. Jesus heals a paralytic man by the pool of Bethesda which leads to further conflict with the Jewish authorities. But it also provides the opportunity for Jesus to reveal more about Himself and His claim to deity and to be the One who will judge all the earth upon the resurrection of the dead. After feeding 5000 people Jesus presents Himself as the Bread of Life, the one who gives eternal life to those who feed upon His body and blood. In shock some former disciples stop following Him.
Tip of the week
When reading the genealogies in the Bible, keep in mind that the Bible reveals the truth and power of God who works in time and space where our forefathers lived and where we now live. The inclusion of documentary data like genealogies is concrete evidence that our God is ruler over all of human history. He works in and through real people, just like us. Our names are not in those genealogies but the people who are listed were people who God knew, and their lives were not forgotten or meaningless. Neither are ours.
Week of May 14-20, 2021
May 14/Day 134 Reconciliation with God Brings Joy that Lasts (II Kings 9-11; John 5:1-24) Audio here. May 15/Day 135 The Trap of Popular Opinion (II Kings 12-14; John 5:25-47) Audio here. May 16/Day 136 A Humble King (II Kings 15-17; John 6:1-21) Audio here. May 17/Day 137 What Pleases God (II Kings 18-19; John 6:22-44) Audio here. May 18/Day 138 Why We Choose Belief or Unbelief (II Kings 20-22; John 6:45-71) Audio here. May 19/Day 139 Be Careful What You Don’t Wish For (II Kings 23-25; John 7:1-31) Audio here. May 20/Day 140 The Spirit of God; The Water of Life (I Chronicles 1-2; John 7:32-53) Audio here. If you do not have a copy of my book you may want to order one here. You may also hear Pastor Charlie Evans great audios for each devotional by clicking on the links above.