“…many of His disciples went back…” John 6:66 (KJV)
These were disciples. They were not just hangers-on or wannabes or potential disciples. They had cast their lot with him, and then changed their minds.
When they “went back,” where did they go back to? Physically, they went back to their homes, business and friends. They returned to their previous vocations and community identities. They reverted to their pre-Jesus life style.
Spiritually, they went back to the Judaism of their childhood. They retreated into the security of previous worship styles and religious forms. They stopped looking to Jesus for guidance and once again embraced the sacrifices and rituals of Judaism.
Why they went back is an even more important issue. Why, after making a commitment to follow Jesus and taking a public stand that likely had caused them public condemnation, would they “walk with Him no more?” The explanation lies in the fact that Jesus was asking them to become even more intimately involved with him. He was calling for a wider break from the world. He was asking for a closer walk, greater obedience and additional service. He was asking for more than they were willing to give, so they “went back.”
Today, the Holy Spirit deals with us in much the same way. He calls us to increasingly set ourselves apart from the world. He asks us to rely more on him and commit to even greater acts of faith and obedience.
When we become aware of what he is asking, it is almost as if we are wading in a stream with Jesus. He begins crossing to the other side and the water starts getting deeper. We begin to hang back. He urges us to continue with him. He reaches out his hand and says “Come on across with me.”
We stop and say, “This is about as deep as I want to go. I don’t know what’s in that deeper water. This is far enough for me.”
Then we retreat back to the safety of the shore where we started. Sometimes this retreat is all the way back into childhood. We go back to past spiritual experiences and devotional levels where we were close to him and felt his approval. We insist on taking comfort in past rituals and worship patterns. But we can never again be totally at peace with God because we know that Jesus called us to more and we refused to obey.