To Whom would we go?
© 2022 C. O. Bishop
We looked at a sad story last week, where many (possibly the majority) of Jesus’s disciples left off following Him and went back to their old lives. We saw that not all of those who remained were believers, and we concluded that very possibly some of those who walked away truly were believers.
We ultimately concluded that all the “dividing” lines that we try to establish, saying, well, “so and so must not be a believer” are not necessarily dependable…that we can only examine out own hearts and ask, “Have I actually received Christ as my Savior? Have I placed my dependance on His blood as my only hope for salvation?” That is where the true dividing line exists, and it is invisible to our eyes.
I can’t see your heart, and you can’t see mine. In the long run, we can get a pretty clear idea, if the person confesses that they are a sinner, and that Jesus died for them…and we then see their actions and words matching that profession of faith. But the only one about whom we can be sure is ourselves. God says He wants us to know that we have eternal life.
What about those who stayed with Him?
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
We are not told what percentage walked away. What we do see is that Jesus addressed His twelve chosen disciples, chosen to be apostles, and asked them where they stood.
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Peter’s Reply: “To whom shall we go?”
There are three points to mention here, in Peter’s answer:
- Lord, to whom shall we go? Peter felt that he had no other options. I recall having that same thought, as a new believer. Someone asked me “Why Christianity? Out of all the World Religions, what makes you think that Christianity is right, and the others are wrong?” I thought for a moment and finally replied, “I don’t know about all the other religions. Maybe the others are OK too… I’m not comparing. I only know that this is where I get off the bus! This one is my ‘stop!’ This is where I stand.” In subsequent years, God continually has confirmed that my decision was correct, and wise.
Years later, having been asked to sing in a wedding in Colorado, I had to “get off a bus” at a deserted bus stop in the middle of the night, in a snowstorm in Granby, Colorado. I knew this was the stop I where was told to get off, but there was no one there to meet me. All the buildings were closed, and there was no shelter. But I got off the bus, believing that this was my stop. Everyone else on the bus went on without me, and I stood there alone with my bag, in the dark and the blowing snow.
As it turned out, the bus had been much delayed by the road conditions, and I had arrived very late. The people waiting for me had gone back home briefly, but they were on their way back. In about fifteen minutes, they came sweeping into the parking lot in a large, heated four-wheel-drive truck, and we all drove off to safety, and a warm house.
But I had some time, there in the parking lot, to reflect on the nature of faith: I had nowhere else to turn. Had I stayed on the bus, and gotten off at a “safer” place, my friends would have had no way to find me. (This was long before cell phones existed!) Peter knew he had nowhere else to turn as well. This was his “stop,” too!
- Thou hast the Words of Eternal Life! Peter knew there was something different about the teachings of Jesus. He had already come to believe that Jesus was The source of Eternal Life. How? Perhaps from the sermons he heard in Sychar, where Jesus led many Samaritans to faith. Perhaps seeing Jesus walk on water, and getting to take a very short stroll on the waves, himself. Perhaps taking part in the feeding of the Five Thousand, the day before. But, somehow, in the course of all the teachings and miracles, Peter had come to a personal faith in Jesus as the Messiah…the Christ.
More specifically, he knew that the Words Jesus spoke were the key to his salvation: He believed in Jesus for the Words He had preached, which matched up with the Works He had done, and were born out by His gracious, loving behavior as their teacher and friend. Had there been any doubt about it, the doubts had probably been removed by Jesus’s comments immediately before, in verse 63: “…the Words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are Life.” Peter had caught on: He knew Jesus was the source of life!
- And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God! That is quite a confession of faith! I’m not sure how Peter came to that conclusion. Somewhere along the line, he had come to the correct conclusion that Jesus was the Messiah. It probably started back in John 1:41, 42, when his brother Andrew told Peter that Jesus was the Messiah. Maybe even earlier, when John the Baptist declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the World…but I don’t know for certain that Peter heard that comment.
It is even possible that Peter had overheard the conversation with Nicodemus, where it was declared that He had come into the World to save the people, and that he came as God’s Son, with that mission in mind. If he did, then that would explain the conclusion that he and all but one of the other disciples had drawn. But as I read the exchange in John chapter 3, it rather sounds as though the conversation with Nicodemus might have been in private…or maybe not. We aren’t told.
So, how did Jesus respond to this confession of faith? (Ah, that’s nice! I was getting worried about you, there!) No, Jesus knew their hearts. His question had given Peter an opportunity to testify, and, possibly for the other disciples to respond as well. (Maybe they all just nodded…we aren’t told.) But Jesus spoke to address the fact that not all of them believed: He knew their hearts.
70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
What a strange reply! Part of the reason for this reply might have been to let Peter know that not all of them believed: That Peter really couldn’t speak for the whole group, though most of them might have agreed with Peter. Probably all of them would have verbally agreed at that point. But it isn’t until chapters 13 and 15 that Jesus spells out what the issue was. Judas was not a believer and never would become one.
Possibly, also it was to begin warning Judas that Jesus knew his heart. The word he used (translated “devil”) could be translated “accuser,” or “slanderer.” It could have indicated that he was a traitor… in any case, it meant that Jesus, Himself, has made a deliberate choice, specifically to fulfill prophecy. He had chosen, among His twelve closest companions, the one who would prove a traitor. So, that was out in the open. They all knew there was a traitor in the camp, but they had no way to know who it was, nor any way to defend against his eventual treachery.
Devil? Demon? Satan?
By the way, the word translated “devil,” here, is the Greek word “diabolos:” it is used 38 times in the New Testament, and 35 times, it is translated “devil,” while twice it is translated “false accuser,” and once a “slanderer.”
(The word for “demon” is from a different Greek word, “daimonion”… and it is used 60 times, and translated “devil” all but once. It carries the idea of an evil spirit, and is sometimes applied to Satan, but usually in the context of demon possession.)
There are other words translated “accuser,” so we don’t want to jump to the conclusion that anyone who accuses should be called a “devil.” In fact, the “Evil One,” called “that old Serpent, and Satan, and the Devil,” is called the “accuser of the brethren.” (Revelation 12:9, 10) But it is not this same word: it is the Greek word, “kategoros:” it is used seven times, and every time it is translated “accuser”…and never in a righteous sense.
The verb form, “kategoreo” is used 21 times and almost always in a very negative sense: people falsely accusing Jesus or the disciples. In John 5:45, Jesus cautioned the people that He himself would not be accusing them before the Father…Moses would, because they rejected what Moses said. That is the only counterexample: all the rest are people accusing harshly, trying to get someone else in trouble.
So, when we are acting as accusers (and it happens!) we are behaving like the “Accuser of the Brethren.” We ought to feel quite uncomfortable with that position! It is not fitting that a follower of Jesus should behave like Satan, the Enemy of our souls. It is not fitting that we should take an adversarial stance toward other believers at all. We are to be striving toward keeping the unity of the faith…not attacking one another. Give that some thought!
What about Judas?
Jesus called him a “devil” in this passage, meaning an accuser. In another passage, Jesus referred to him as the “Son of Perdition,” the only one Jesus lost, of the twelve, and it had been planned ahead of time, to fulfil prophecy. Did Judas have a choice? Ironically, yes! I believe he did!
But In His complete foreknowledge, Jesus chose one whom He knew in advance would make this choice, and placed him in the ideal location to betray Jesus. Was it entrapment? No, Judas acted entirely of his own will, right up until he became possessed by Satan, personally. There is only one other person in Scripture called the “Son of Perdition:” it is the Antichrist, and, interestingly, he also is said to be indwelt by Satan, personally.
No one is forced to reject Christ
Each made their own choices, just as Pharaoh originally hardened his own heart against God, but there came a time when God “held him to it,” and God hardened his heart, to bring about the destruction of Egypt.
As I mentioned last week, there are some people—believers—who think Judas “lost his salvation.” But Jesus makes it clear from the very beginning, that Judas was never a believer: he was never saved; never cleansed!
Peter and the other apostles had come to the conclusion that Jesus truly was the son of God. And, when He demonstrated His authority over the physical world (walking on water, calming the storm, etc.) it terrified them, because they were only barely beginning to unserdtand His Deity.
What about Peter?
In one situation, (Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33) Jesus addressed Peter as “Satan.” He said “…get thee behind me, Satan!” (WHY?) Peter had attempted to step in and tell Jesus not to go to the Cross. But that was the whole reason Jesus came! So…what did Jesus mean, by calling Peter “Satan?” The name “Satan” means “adversary.”
Peter was behaving as an adversary to the plan of salvation. He did not know it, because he did not understand Jesus’s plan at all. Jesus makes it clear that Peter was thinking entirely humanistic thoughts, not aligning himself with God. But he did not say that Peter was acting like the devil—he was acting like a man! The entire human race has been in opposition to God’s plans ever since the Garden of Eden!
Was Satan involved?
Did it mean that the “real” Satan was somehow involved? Not necessarily, but we can’t rule it out, either. In Acts chapter five, he stirred up two believers, Ananias and Sapphira, to lie to God. Satan can stir up believers to be adversaries against one another, and against God’s agenda.
We want to avoid that, obviously. We want to be walking closely enough with God and in close enough fellowship with one another, that it is very hard to drive a wedge between us.
Peter was simply wrong, and Jesus called him on it! It is interesting to see, though, that Peter had just been called “blessed” by Jesus, (Matthew 16:16) because he had stated, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” But seven verses later, he was in trouble for shooting off his mouth in opposition to God’s plan of redemption for the whole world. Could Satan have inspired that? Maybe…but Jesus only said he was “thinking like a man!”
What about Us?
We know we have no one else to whom we could turn, and we are not looking for another. We believe that Jesus is the Only Savior, and God in the Flesh, and God’s chosen sacrifice, for our salvation. We know that he was named the “Lamb Slain from the foundation of the Earth.”
We know that 1st John 5:11-13 assures us that “…this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Not only can we know that we have eternal life, but God says He wants us to know!
So, What Now?
Since we know all that, and we have placed our faith in Him, we need to consider how to act as though we are “On His Team.”
God is “on our side,” as we see in Romans 8:31 “If God be for us, (and He is!) who can be against?” but the question remains: Are we on His side? It is possible for us to be drawn away and behave like an accuser, or behave like an adversary! We saw that in Peter’s life and that of Ananias and Sapphira! We are warned against such behavior, throughout the New Testament, and we want to avoid that behavior, at all cost!
How do we Learn to Walk with God?
We need to deliberately steep ourselves in the Word of God, continually allowing the Holy Spirit to reshape our lives and reshape our thinking, so that our thought patterns change. We need to be sensitive to the Spirit of God, so that we are constantly in tune with Him, and at peace with one another. We need to be on the lookout every day, moment by moment, to see God’s leading and direction in our lives.
Yes, we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. So, let’s allow Him to reshape our lives to be a continual honor to His name.
We see in Psalm 119:9 that God says the only means by which we can cleanse our lives is by applying His Word to our lives. He offers no other way…and even that only works by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and by faith. We literally have co one else to whom we can turn, and He gives us only a narrow pathway in which to follow Him. We need to follow, step by step!.
Lord Jesus please use your Word, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to transform our hearts and make us over into Your image. Cleanse our lives. Raise us up as Your ambassadors, to honor You in all things.