It is easy to imagine that many believed that Jesus’ ministry was as good as over on that day in Capernaum (John 6). The previous day he had miraculously fed five thousand, and within twenty-four hours “many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66).
The crowd had wanted a new Moses who offered daily bread and deliverance from Rome, not someone inviting them to “Eat my flesh and drink my blood” (John 6:53).
From the disciples’ point of view, this must have been a public relations nightmare. You could hear them reason in their heads: ‘Who spends months going from town to town, teaching in the temple courts, the streets, synagogues, and fields, only to scare everyone off with demands of extreme commitment?’
Whatever was going through the apostles’ minds, Jesus was not about to stop anyone from exiting the building. So, he turned to the 12 and asked: “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:67).
If Jesus came into our church assembly the week after a lot of people had left, and asked the same question of us, what would our response be? Some would be incredulous. They would have established who had contributed to the walkout and would want to confront them. Others would be sad but resigned to the fact that people come and go.
However, the only answer that a true believer should give is that which the apostle Peter gave: “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” (John 6:68-69).
Assuming that the Gospel is being preached, no Christian has a reason to forsake the Lord’s church. Whatever problems may confront us, we are to work through them in a spirit of love.
Yes, a lot of people have left the Lord’s church and that will always be. This we must never contribute to, and this we must forever grieve. But tragically this is done, like those who left Jesus in Capernaum, by choice.