“But he was sad at this word and went away mournful….” Mark 10:22

“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”  John 6:66

Encounters with Jesus, the Son of God had many, vastly different outcomes. In some cases miraculous healings transpired.  In some cases mighty leaders were made to look foolish.  At other times little children left having received a great blessing.  Thousands were fed in at least two encounters with the seemingly the meagerest of provisions.  And finally, nearly the final encounter, all of our sins were sacrificed for and thus forgiven as Jesus died on the cross for us and our salvation.

Yet we sadly see in scripture and perhaps even in our own experience with others who are close in our lives or maybe, in our darkest times, with us; that just an encounter with Jesus Christ does not guarantee redemption or salvation.  More is required……..on our part.

Let’s take the passages above.  The first passage is an ending of a very familiar encounter.  A rich man encounters Jesus.  Is as so often the case in scripture, the rich man, like beggars and the lame, the blind, the downtrodden, sought Jesus out.  This man comes to Jesus with a vitally important, for all eternity question:  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus takes the time to answer him, in fact answering him twice.  Also, in fact, in the passage from Mark, where this passage is taken, it says that Jesus looked at him and loved him.  However, I don ‘t want to focus on Jesus answer but I want to focus on the rich man’s reaction to the encounter.  He turned away.  Let that sink in; he turned away! The rich man had encountered the One True, Son of God.  He had asked the Son of God a question.  The Son of God, Jesus, answered him; in fact answered him in love.  The Son of God invited this man, asked him to join Jesus and follow him.  And let me repeat again; the rich man turned away and left.

In the second passage above, it was not just a man, it was a group.  Also this was not a group that had happened to one day briefly stumble upon Jesus and give him a brief moment of their time.  No this was a group of His disciples.  Scripture doesn’t give us a specific number or specific amount of time they had been with Jesus, but to called disciples meant there was a significant amount of time and effort involved in their following Jesus.  They had listened to Jesus, agreed with Jesus, gladly followed Jesus; then Jesus went too far and the wheels came off the wagon.  For Jesus spoke of being the bread of life.  If that was not enigmatic enough, Jesus went on to say that only people who truly believed in Him, would eat His flesh and drink His blood and have eternal life!  Jesus had gone too far.  As scripture puts it, the disciples complained that it was a hard saying which could not be understood.  So they turned and walked away.  These disciples who had seen Jesus miraculously heal, they had been there when Jesus fed the 5,000.  They had been in the presence of the True Son of Almighty God.  They encountered Jesus and they walked away.

Why did they walk away?  Why was the encounter with the One Christ, why was that encounter not enough to convince them to stay?  Well in the first case, giving up the world in terms of his rich possessions was too much.  In the second case, the words of Jesus were too hard to understand, too out of the ordinary to comprehend, too vastly different to commit to.  Truth in fact, in both cases, the man and the group, did not see Jesus as the Christ.  A good man? Sure. A wise man, even a prophet from God? Probably.  But the One and Only, Perfect Son of God Almighty……naah.

However, some stayed.  The twelve stayed.  Martha and Mary stayed.  Nicodemus, who had come to Jesus at night and Joseph of Arimathea stayed and some more as well.  Why did they stay?  Out of the words of the disciples themselves:  To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  Martha says later, Yes, Lord I believe You are the Christ, the Son of God.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, it is like so many of the blind and lame that he healed, when He would first ask them:  Do you believe that I can do this for you?  It was the reason that He could do so little in his own home town.  When the people first believed in Him, truly believed in Him as the Son of God, the Christ; then, and only then could they truly follow Him.  Understand, that didn’t mean they completely understood Him; no, far from it.  But their faith allowed the power of Christ to come into to them.  Their faith allowed the power of Christ to defeat the power and wisdom of the world.  Their faith that He is the one true Son of God, King of Kings, Christ the Savior, allowed them to pick up their cross and follow Him.

So first we must ask ourselves:  Have we had an encounter with Jesus Christ?  And if we have, and this is as vital as having the encounter itself; having had that encounter; who do we believe Jesus Christ is?  If He is only a good man, only a very wise human, only an extremely enlightened, spiritual man, we might as well turn away and follow another.  For all those thoughts about Him will bring us no blessings, find us no peace, will not deliver us from our sins.  We must believe that Jesus is the Christ, Holy Spirit conceived, virgin born, all powerful, all knowledgable, perfect, without sin, dying for our sins and our salvation and rising again on the third day.  Now He sits in the greatest place of power; the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty.

It is not just the encounter but the faith that comes from it that makes all the difference.  Yet even here, we are not left simply to our own devices.  For we can call upon Christ and the Holy Spirit to help us to strengthen our faith and have mercy on our weakness.  Please, for your soul’s sake, do not let an encounter be all you have with Your Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim with all our being that Jesus Christ is Your Only Begotten Son, whom You sent to earth to be our Savior.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that each and every day our faith would be strengthened in Jesus Christ, allowing an ever greater relationship to be had with You through Him.  Forgive us when we are tempted to turn from that encounter with Christ to the enticements and ease of the world.  Have Mercy upon us, allowing us to see and receive Christ as our Savior and then partaking in the joy, peace and blessings You, through Your Grace pour out upon us.  That in living into the faith of Jesus Christ as our Savior, we might show and testify to the world concerning the Words of Life of Jesus Christ which bring glory and honor to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we faithfully pray.  Amen

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