Then said Jesus to the twelve, Will you also go away?…
I. JESUS" QUESTION. "Will ye also," etc.? This implies:
1. His regard for the freedom of the will. Christ does not destroy, nor even interfere with, the freedom of the human will, but ever preserves and respects it. He ever acknowledges the sovereignty of the human soul and will.
2. That it was his wish that each disciple should decide for himself. "Will ye," etc.?
(1) The personality of religious decision. Religion is personal. Every religious act must be personal, and is ever judged as such.
(2) The importance of religious decision, "Will ye," etc.? A most important question to them in its immediate and remote issues. Their destiny hangs upon it.
(3) The urgency of immediate decision. If they had a wish to leave him, the sooner the better. The question of our relationship to Christ cannot be settled too soon. It demands immediate consideration.
3. That it was not his wish to retain them against their will.
(1) This would be against the principle of his own life.
(2) It would be against the principle of all spiritual life.
(3) And against the great principle of his kingdom, which is willing obedience and voluntary service. Whatever is done to him against the will, or without its hearty concurrence, has no virtue, no spiritual value. All his true soldiers are volunteers. Unwilling service must lead to separation sooner or later.
4. His independency of them.
(1) He is not disheartened by the great departure. Many went back. He was doubtless grieved with this, with their want of faith and gratitude, but was not disheartened.
(2) He is independent of even his most intimate followers. "Will ye," etc.? If even they had the will to go away, he could afford it. One might think that he could ill afford to ask this question after the great departure from him. He had apparently now only twelve, and to these he asks, "Will ye also," etc.? He is not dependent upon his disciples. If these were silent, the very stones would speak; if the children of the kingdom reject him, "many shall come from the east," etc.
5. His affectionate care for them. "Will ye also," etc.? In this question we hear:
(1) The sound of tender solicitude. There is the note of independency and test of character; but not less distinctly is heard the note of affectionate solicitude for their spiritual safety. He did not ask the question of those who went away.
(2) The sound of danger. Even the twelve were not out of danger. Although they were in one of the inner circles of his attraction, they were in danger of being carried away with the flood.
(3) The sound of tender warning. "Will ye also," etc.? You are in danger. And their danger was greater and more serious than that of those who left; they were more advanced, and could not go away without committing a greater sin.
(4) The sound of confidence. The question does not seem to anticipate an affirmative reply. With regard to all, with the exception of one, he was confident of their allegiance.
II. THE DISCIPLES ANSWER. Simon Peter was the mouthpiece of all. The answer implies:
1. A right discernment of their chief good. "Eternal life." This, they thought, was their greatest need, and to obtain it was the chief aim of their life and energy; and in this they were right.
2. A right discernment of Jesus as their only Helper to obtain it. Little as they understood of the real meaning of his life, and less still of his death, they discerned him
(1) as the only Source of eternal life;
(2) as the only Revealer of eternal life;
(3) as the only Giver of eternal life. "With thee are the words," etc.
3. Implicit faith in his Divine character. "We believe and know," etc. They had faith in him, not as their national, but as their personal and spiritual Deliverer - the Saviour of the soul. and the Possessor and Giver of eternal life.
4. A determination to cling to him.
(1) This determination is warmly prompt. It is not the fruit of study, but the warm and natural outburst of the heart and soul.
(2) It is wise. "To whom shall we go?" They saw no other one to go to. To the Pharisees or heathen philosophers? They could see no hope of eternal life from either. To Moses? He would only send them back to Christ. It would be well for all who are inclined to go away from Christ to ask first, "To whom shall we go?"
(3) It is independent. They are determined to cling to Christ, although many left him. They manifest great individuality of character, independency of conduct, and spirituality and firmness of faith.
(4) It is very strong.
(a) The strength of satisfaction. Believing that Christ had the words of eternal life, what more could they need or desire?
(b) The strength of thorough conviction. They not only believe, but also know. They have the inward testimony of faith and experience. True faith has a tight grasp. Strong conviction has a tenacious hold.
(c) The strength of willing loyalty. "Lord, to whom," etc.? "Thou art our Lord and our King, and we are thy loyal subjects." Their will was on the side of Christ, and their determination to cling to him was consequently strong.
(d) The strength of loving attachment. The answer is not only the language of their reason, but also the language of their affection. Their heart was with Jesus. They could not only see no way to go from him, but they had no wish.
(e) The strength of a double hold. The Divine and the human. The hold of Jesus on them, and their hold on him. They had felt the Divine drawing, and they were within the irresistible attraction of Jesus. They were all, with one notorious exception, by faith safely in his hand.
1. Loving faith in the Saviour is strengthened by trials. It stands the test of adverse circumstances. In spite of forces which have a tendency to draw away from Christ, it clings all the more to him.
2. The success of the ministry must not always be judged by additions. Subtractions are sometimes inevitable and beneficial. The sincerity of the following should be regarded even more than the number of the followers.
3. It is afar greater loss for us to lose Jesus than for Jesus to lose us. He can do without us, but we cannot do without him. He can go elsewhere for disciples; but "to whom shall we go?" B.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?