November 25, 2019
Disciple or Deserter ?
Desertion in the face of the enemy is
one of the worst crimes military
personnel can commit. They're betraying
their country, their branch of military
service, their officers, their follow
combatants and, surprisingly,
They will never live down their decision
to desert. It will haunt them to their
dying day. What is this saying to us?
Jesus - the
"Lord of hosts" or General of heaven's
armies - experienced desertion in His
ranks. We know of the traitor, or
course, but there were others besides
Judas who walked away from walking with
John says when Jesus broached some
especially deep and challenging subjects
in His teaching in Capernaum one day,
"From that time many of his disciples
went back, and walked no more with him"
(John 6:66). Note these were
"disciples," not Jewish religious
leaders, Romans, Greeks, or Jews hearing
Jesus for the first time. No, these had
walked with Jesus, as surely as the
twelve. But now, they "walked no more"
These disciples-turned-deserters were
men and women who had already left their
homes, families, and livelihoods to come
and follow Jesus, drink in His teaching,
become like Him, and spread His message
and ways everywhere. But now, on this
day, something happened that changed
their minds so drastically they reversed
their courses, abandoned Jesus, and went
back to their old lives, unfaithful and
unfulfilled, forever haunted by their
decision to desert.
It's very likely Jesus knew many of them
personally, their names, what village or
hamlet they came from, what their home
synagogue was like, who had been their
rabbi, what their occupation was, who
their parents, siblings, and friends
were, and so forth. He knew it all, if
not by human communication, by divine
So, their treachery - after all His
love, care, and personal ministry to
them! - must have hurt the Son of man
and perhaps prompted Him to weep private
tears like the public tears He shed at
Mary's and Martha's unbelief,
Jerusalem's apostasy, (almost surely)
Judas' betrayal, and Peter's denials.
know how many went back on the day in
question, but in view of the numbers
typically associated with Jesus'
meetings, "many" probably means hundreds
if not thousands.
How many thousands, or millions, have
followed their footsteps in
unfaithfulness down the centuries? And
Some preacher's challenge offended them.
Or, they refused to endure a long trial
of injustice. They began despising the
Lord's correction. Maybe they became
weary of self-examination. Or, they
began seeking recognition and honors.
Perhaps their crosses became too heavy.
It may be they refused to forgive
someone. Or, they simply would not stop
judging and condemning others. Maybe
they clung to their worldly
entanglements, sinful relationships, or
long-fed trust in money and possessions.
Or, in some other way they turned from a
Savior-first to a self-first or
Then one day, to the surprise of many,
and perhaps even themselves, they openly
left their God-assigned post and duty in
the face of the enemy. These are the
deserters. They grieve Jesus and break
To avoid repeating their crime, let us
search our hearts for the earliest
beginnings of spiritual desertion.
any biblical truth that, despite its
obvious biblicality, you simply don't
like? Is there any duty God has called
you to that you're beginning to neglect?
Any relationship you're becoming
unfaithful in? Any correction you're not
yielding to? Any person you're refusing
to have God's mind about? Any flesh
you're refusing to cut off? Any
reconciliation you're stubbornly
refusing? Watch out, lest you, too, go
the way of the deserters.
If convicted of even the smallest inward
despising of Christ's truth or will,
wise Christians immediately confess and
repent, seeking Christ's grace and
complying with His Word. Consequently,
they continue walking with Him. These
are the disciples.
Never say, "I could never desert Jesus!"
Like Peter, thousands before us have
loudly proclaimed just that - only to do
the opposite when they suddenly turned a
corner and were stumbled by their
reaction to an unexpected correction
issue, offense, or temptation.
They have also forgotten one of the most
basic facts of spiritual life: we never
stand still spiritually! We are either
humbly, hungrily moving forward or
foolishly, forgetfully sliding back. The
first is a disciple; the second a
deserter. The first, though rigorously
tested, grows increasingly happy; the
second, though untested, ends up
Humbly, hungrily moving