Disciples Swim Against The Current

Sandeep Poonen

The same incident of Peter walking on the water that is described in Matthew 14 is also referenced in John 6:15-25. What we read further on in John 6 (the very next day according to John) reveals more of Peter’s heart as a sold-out disciple. Jesus preaches about being the bread of life that came down from heaven, a spiritual sustenance so much more vital than the physical manna was for the Israelites in the wilderness. And He concludes with these words in John 6:53 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”
 How would you and I have reacted if someone talked about eating flesh and drinking blood. This would have sounded like a barbaric person talking about drinking human blood or eating human flesh.
 But Jesus explained that He wasn’t speaking literally (John 6:63-64). He was speaking words to feed our spirits, not our intellect. These were words that were meaningless if we did not also have faith in God. (It is our confidence and dependence (faith) in Jesus that changes the words of Jesus from being letters on a page to being food for our spirits. If we read the Bible without faith, it will remain merely a book of history or good moral advice. But if we read the Bible with simple faith in a Sovereign and good God, it will surely be food that gives us spiritual life).
And we find a vivid illustration of what faith practically looks like in Peter’s response when Jesus asked the twelve if they wanted to leave Him. Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (v69).
Lord to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.
 There are times when we may not understand the words of Jesus or the ways of God. But in such situations, it is good for us to ask this question, “To whom shall we go?”
 Why did Peter say this? Because this was the very next day after he had walked on water with Jesus. Jesus was more than a good preacher or One who multiplied bread. He was the One who helped him walk on water and saved him when he was sinking.
Now we also saw that this miracle is a parable to the power of Jesus to help us walk on top of the sins that enslave us. So also, if we like Peter, have not come to see Jesus as One who helps us walk over the storms of sin, then Jesus will not have the words of eternal life. But if Jesus becomes to us, this real Friend who alone can help us walk on top of our sins, we too will respond like Peter did.
Various people have asked me various intellectual questions about Christianity. And in times past, I too have struggled with intellectual questions about Christian beliefs. But I’ve learned to ask this question when I cannot explain the ways of an infinite God with my finite mind: “What’s my alternative? Since I cannot answer these questions, do I also want to throw away Jesus’ magnificent description of love? That God loved me when I was a wretched sinner and sacrificed what He held most dear just for me?”
 For me, the answer to this question has settled me. So no matter what I CANNOT fathom about God, I AM CONVINCED that God loves me much more than a doting mother loves her newborn child (Isaiah 49:15- 16). He thinks of me more often than I could ever count (Psalm 139:17- 18). He works full-time to make all things work for my good (John 5:17; Romans 8:28). And He looks at me as one who has always perfectly obeyed, whenever I come in helpless dependence on Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21).
We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God
 This is a beautiful combination: A belief and a coming to know. The truths about God are not theological words that we blindly believe. These are truths that have deeply transformed my life. They have helped me walk on top of my temptations in my daily walk. This is what settles it for me. We believe with our hearts, and we come to know from daily living with Jesus.
So I chose to believe what is written in the Bible, but then as I LIVE MY LIFE with simple trust in that, I “come to know” God as truth and rest and joy. I “come to know” Jesus as the Holy One who was God and came from God. This getting to know the one true God because of Jesus is eternal life (John 17:3).
Swimming against the current
But what makes Peter especially stand out here is how he utterly disregards what others think of Jesus. MANY disciples turned away from following Jesus (John 6:66). But Peter was firm in his own view of who Jesus is. Since he had experienced the saving power of Jesus, he was unmoved even when others left Christ.
This is a mark of a true disciple of Jesus. I cannot be a servant of Jesus if I seek to please people (Galatians 1:10). And I cannot be a disciple of Jesus if I am swayed by what other people think, or based on what is popular. And it’s sometimes harder to stand firm against other disciples of Jesus. Those who left Jesus were probably good people who also marveled at the teachings and miracles of Jesus. But when Jesus preached things that they couldn’t understand, they started to grumble (John 6:61). Then, Peter had to choose whether he would follow the crowd or stand by himself based on His own life with Christ?
It is when we are opposed by the “many” Christians that we are sometimes tested in our seriousness to follow Jesus. There have been times when it was clear what God wanted me to say or do. But I also knew that the most would not like it. I was being tested – either to shy away from what I believed to be right, maybe because I feared being called legalistic by well-respected Christians. Or I could look at Jesus and seek His affirmation alone.I have had to make this choice on different occasions. I have seen friendships and ministry opportunities dry up as a result. But I hear the same question posed to me: “Are you going to go away from Me, Sandeep? Yes, the vast majority of My so-called disciples are going in one direction. But you see that I am in the opposite direction. So, what will you do? Do you want to leave Me also?”
A disciple of Jesus is fearless to swim upstream (against the mindset of the heathen and religious world). He is secure and at rest in the love of his Father, because he has given up all authority over his own life. So he fears no one and will say whatever he hears the Father saying (John 5:18-20). He doesn’t need the affirmation of the masses, other sincere-sounding Christians, or religious leaders. He only seeks the affirmation of Him who judges “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
This is the only kind of disciple that Jesus recruits. Jesus made a clear statement about our fierce loyalty to Him – even over our dearest loved ones (Luke 14:26). The fight for our loyalty is not necessarily the devil or this world system. It can even just be a lower view of Jesus in our daily life – as a great preacher with wise thoughts, or Someone who primarily meets our earthly needs.
In order to be a disciple (not the condition for going to heaven, but the condition for one who wanted to follow Jesus the Master utterly and completely starting today), I must love Jesus infinitely more than my closest loved ones. The disciples had to love Jesus much more than their spouses and their children. It doesn’t make the others bad or evil. But the quality of a true disciple of Jesus is an immovable allegiance to Jesus. That at a moment’s notice, the disciples could reject even the sweetest and closest of their friends when it meant deviating away from what Jesus was calling them to do.
Peter was such a disciple – he gave up all to follow Jesus. So he was willing to swim against the natural current, and was willing to stand apart from popular opinion, even if these opinions were held by very good people.
He believed and had come to know Jesus for Himself as a Savior in the storms that he faced. And he would not be moved from that.
May God make us disciples with a heart like that!