Polycarp is a famous name in the history of Christianity. He lived between 69 and 155 A.D. Polycarp was the Bishop of the Church in Smyrna, a city in Asia Minor known today as Izmir in the modern day Turkey. He is said to have known the apostle John and to have been instructed by him in the Christian faith. An account of Polycarp’s arrest, trial, conviction, and martyrdom, was written after his death by some members of his congregation. Although Polycarp wrote some great books defending the Christian faith, his greatest contribution to Christianity may be his martyred death. His martyrdom stands as one of the most amazing stories of true faithfulness and full commitment. The Roman emperors had unleashed bitter attacks against Christians during this period, and many Christians gave their lives for the sake of Christ. Polycarp was arrested on the charge of being a Christian. Amidst an angry mob, the Roman ruler took pity on such a gentle old man and urged Polycarp to proclaim, “Caesar, not Jesus Christ, is Lord.” If only Polycarp would make this declaration and offer a small pinch of incense to Caesar's statue, he would escape torture and death. To this Polycarp responded, “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
Steadfast in his stand for Christ, Polycarp refused to compromise his beliefs, and thus, was burned alive at the stake. Historical Background of John Chapter 6 In the gospel of John chapter 6 we see a different picture than this one. John 6 begins with a large crowd following Jesus. As John 6 comes to a close, however, a small group is gathered around the Lord. The crowds turned back for many reasons. Some left because of Jesus’ radical demands as we see in John 6:60, “When many of His disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Some have left because of their unwillingness to follow Christ’s teachings as we see in verse 66. For some, Jesus of Nazareth was not the Messiah of their expectations. He demanded full obedience and full commitment of His followers; halfhearted discipleship is not enough. With Jesus, there is no middle ground; one either is or isn’t. Now, it is Jesus and the Twelve. In John 6:67 Jesus asks this critical question: “Do you also wish to go away?” Can you imagine the silence that ensued? I bet you could have heard a pin bounce on the hard dirt floor. Peter, always speaking first, breaks the silence. In verses 69-70 he says, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
As we look together at this passage this morning, please allow me to underscore two important observations: First: Clinging to Christ Friends, as we walk with the Lord there will be times in our lives when we will not understand God’s mighty acts. There will be times when Christ will not meet our expectations. There will be 2 times when we will get so confused. There will be times when we pray but no answer. What do we need to do then? Quit? Leave Jesus? Abandon our faith? Absolutely not! For me, this story is about staying with Jesus; staying with Jesus even when we don’t understand Him; staying with Jesus even when others leave; staying with Jesus even when we are confused; staying with Jesus even when He says creepy things. The twelve remain when others walk away. I hope you and I today would stick with Jesus even when we are perplexed. “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Lord, you have liberated, comforted, healed, and transformed our lives and we’re sticking around. Like the disciples who remained when the crowds deserted Jesus, we are still here. Please listen to the words of the Scripture by Asaph in Psalm 73:25-28, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” Like Asaph and the disciples who remained when the crowds deserted Jesus, we are still here and I am praying for us to continue to be near God. Second: Genuine Faith Cannot Walk Away When Jesus asked the disciples if they too are leaving Him, Peter answers for the group. He expresses their total commitment and states the fact that they know Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and is the way to eternal life.
Peter had taken a step that many in his day had not, or could not take. In this passage, Peter introduces to us what a genuine faith is. A real faith in Jesus has two components: believing and knowing or experiencing. Listen again to the words of Peter in John 6: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” These two possessions, believing and experiencing, allowed Peter to make an absolute commitment of his life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Genuine faith cannot walk away. There came a time of weakness in Peter’s life when he failed the Lord. He did turn his back on Jesus for a time, but he did not walk away forever! Once we have felt the powerful touch of the Almighty God, once we have walked in the light of His glory, once we have tasted of His goodness and experienced His best, we will never be satisfied with substitutes and imitations! We may wander for a time, but we, like the prodigal son will “finally come to our senses.” We will remember what it was like in the Father’s house and we will come home! When we do, God will receive us with open arms and perfect restoration. Friends, today’s message challenges us to the core – or should do, if we’re hearing it right. We are a culture that has turned its back on Christ and on the Biblical truths. Look at the way we live, the way we think, the way we talk, the way we spend our money, the way our values are set, we will find out that we have created our paradise away from Christ and His will. “Do you also wish to go away?” At some time each one of us will have to wrestle with the question. But would we go, and what are we looking for?” To a different church or religion? To some vague notion about being kind and respectful toward others? These are good things, but do they fill that deep place that longs for God? Do they give hope in things not seen? Do they stand with us when the rest of our life falls away? Do they connect us to what is holy in life? Nowhere else. No one else. My friends, let’s cling to Jesus because genuine faith will never walk away. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street Blackwood, NJ 08012
(Sunday June 12, 2016)
Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor