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The Heart of a Disciple


JOHN 6:60-71                                                                                      07 JULY 2024



Imagine a church that grows from a dozen members to well over 5,000 in just three years. It has strong leaders, enthusiastic members, and a preacher who is true to the Bible. Miracles happen every day, and the whole country is talking about it.

Then, one morning … after the Preacher gives one short sermon … boom … the congregation goes from 5,000 back down to the original 12.

That’s what happened to Jesus in the text we just read. Jesus had developed a huge following. His congregation grew to the point that no building in Galilee could hold them. All four Gospels describe one meeting where He fed 5,000 men … not even counting the women and children (Mt.14, Mark 6, Luke 9, Jn.6). After that, the people wanted to grab Jesus, make him their King, and march to Jerusalem in a big Victory Parade.

That’s when Jesus ducked out. He and his men sailed a boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But the next morning, his determined fans tracked him down. Instead of feeding them breakfast, Jesus preached a short sermon where he told them, “I am the bread of life.” The people were bewildered. Their stomachs were growling. Their blood sugar level was getting low. Their mouths were watering for bread and fish. What did “I am the bread of life” mean?

The crowd started grumbling. As the day went on, most of them “quit the church” so to speak. Even many of the 70 disciples that Jesus had sent out as missionaries left him. When Jesus looked around at the end of that day, only the 12 remained.

What Is The Heart Of A Disciple?

Since we’re studying “discipleship” I think it makes sense to take a little time and look at those first 12 Disciples. They were 12 remarkably diverse men.

• Andrew was known for bringing others to Christ. As soon as he met Jesus, he ran to tell his brother the news.

• Philip also told his brother, Nathanael, about Jesus. Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) evidently had a good sense of humor. When Philip told him about Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael quipped, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:43-51)

• Next, we have James and John--- a couple of fisherman brothers. They were the sons of Zebedee, and cousins of Jesus. Evidently they were not the shy, timid type. Jesus nick-named them the “Sons of Thunder.”

• And then there’s James, son of Alphaeus. He was sometimes called "James, the less.” Perhaps he was smaller, younger, or quieter than the other James.

• Matthew was a tax collector, employed by the government of Rome.

• Simon the Zealot --- was an insurgent, working to overthrow the same government Matthew worked for.

• Which brings us to Thaddaeus --- who was sometimes called Jude, or Lebbeus

That adds up to 10. The last 2 were singled out in the TEXT we read --- one for his faith and one for his unbelief. They are probably the best-known of the Apostles, but for opposite reasons. One is famous. One is infamous. But Peter and Judas have more in common than you might think.

• Both were personally called by Christ

• Both answered the call and walked with Jesus every day for 3 years

• Both were leaders among the men: Peter was the spokesman; Judas was the treasurer

• When so many others turned away, both men stayed with Jesus. They stayed with him all the way through that Last Supper at Passover.

From all appearances, they both looked like disciples. But, as I Samuel 16:7 says,

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

One man had the Heart of a Disciple, and the other did not. So, we need to ask, What is the Heart of a Disciple? Comparing Peter and Judas is an effective way to see what is at the Heart of Discipleship. It is interesting to see their similarities. It is essential to see their differences --- because one of these men served Christ all his days. The other one committed suicide.

When we compare Peter and Judas, the first thing we see is that a Disciple Holds to Belief, not Doubt.

1. A Disciple Holds to Belief, not Doubt

Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” John 6:63-64

Deep in his heart, Judas doubted that Jesus was who He claimed to be. But Judas probably believed many OTHER things about Jesus.

He believed Jesus was powerful. He believed Jesus was going to set up a Political Kingdom. Most important, Judas believed Jesus could deliver what he wanted. And what Judas wanted was wealth, power, and status. This is obvious if you look at the event that pushed Judas over the edge.

It was 6 days before Passover when Mary anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. She broke open the jar of perfume and poured it over his head and feet. Then she knelt before Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. While the aromatic fragrance filled the house, bitterness filled the heart of Judas.

John chapter 12 says that Judas complained, “What a waste! We could have sold that perfume and given the money to the poor..”

The next verse gives a glimpse of what was really in the heart of Judas: He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12:5-6

Jesus told Judas, “Leave her alone. She has anointed me for my burial. You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me with you.”

Was Judas’ pride injured because Jesus rebuked him? Was he angry to see all that money slip away from his control? Was he frustrated because he saw his “gravy train” drying up?

We don’t know everything that was in the heart of Judas. But we do know that from that moment on, Judas looked for an opportunity to betray Jesus. (Matthew 26:14-16)

Peter, on the other hand, believed that Jesus was who He said He was. When Jesus asked his 12 disciples, Will you leave me also? It was Peter who gave the first great confession of faith: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:68-69

2. A Disciple listens to the Word not the World

Peter was a true Disciple because he listened to the Word, not to the World. There has always been tension between the teachings of the world and the teachings of Christ. Look at some of the conflicts for the early Disciples:

The World vs The Word

Creation Myths vs The Genesis creation account

Secularism or Pagan Religion vs One True God

Infanticide and Euthanasia vs The Sanctity of Human Life

Permissive morality: promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality, etc. vs Biblical morality: purity and fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman

Now, we may be 2000 years past those times, and times certainly have changed, but the issues are not that different today.

The Word of God has not changed at all

The World vs The Word

Evolutionary Theory vs The Genesis Creation Account

Secularism or New Age Religion vs One True God

Abortion and Euthanasia vs The Sanctity of Human Life

Permissive morality: promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality, etc. vs Biblical morality: purity and fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman

It’s bad enough that there is conflict between the Church and the World. It is worse when that same conflict happens within the Church itself.

Recently, the Episcopal Church has been in turmoil over the issue of homosexuality.

Recently, that denomination voted to accept the ordination of a homosexual Priest.

Right after that decision, one of the TV news shows interviewed an Episcopal Priest.

This particular Priest represented the church members who disagreed with the decision of their leaders. I want to share what he said. I couldn’t have said it better myself. He told the interviewer:

“You’ve got to realize that we are not Christians because we have philosophically thought our way through to brilliant human-conceived notions. We are Christians because we have a Revelation from the outside --- by God and of God --- in the Old Testament --- in its fulfillment in Christ --- and in His explanation (as He said would come) through the Apostles. Then he came to the clincher when he said: “As Christians, Scripture is what determines our right and wrong. We are a people of the book.”

Now, that is quite a bold statement for an Episcopal Priest.

He went on, referring to the church leadership: “These people have not merely changed church policy. They have rebelled against Christ and His teachings.”

It took real courage for that Episcopal Priest to say those words. He was putting Christ above his Career and above the minds of an erring people. (from Focus on the Family broadcast, October of 2005)

In John 6:63, Jesus said,”The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

 When you are forced to choose between God’s Word and the world, whose side will you be on?

You may have to choose whether you want to be Politically Correct or Biblically Correct.

• Will you obey the Government or God?

• Will you listen to the Media or the Master?

• Will you follow Christ or Culture?

• Will you believe the Word or the World?

The fact is that none of us have the strength to stand against the world on our own. That’s why a Disciple has to live by the Spirit, not by the power of the Flesh.

3. A Disciple lives by the Spirit, not the Flesh

Jesus said, The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. John 6:36

Here is the fundamental difference between Peter and Judas: Peter lived by the Spirit. Judas lived in the flesh.

We think of Judas as a man who was unworthy of the name “Disciple.”

On the other hand, Peter is exactly what a Disciple should be.

But the truth is --- in and of themselves --- neither man was “good enough” to be a Disciple.

Have any of you ever thought, “I’m not good enough to be a disciple of Jesus?”

Do you know someone who thinks they are not good enough to be a Christian?

A comparison of Peter and Judas shows what’s wrong with that kind of thinking.

• Judas was out for himself: He wanted status and power.

But Peter also wanted status and power. He, along with the others, argued over who would be greatest in the Messiah’s Kingdom

Judas failed to understand the purpose of Jesus.

But Peter didn’t understand it either. Both of them thought Jesus would overthrow Rome and set up an earthly Kingdom where they could rule with him.

Jesus called Judas a devil.

John 6:70 says: Then Jesus replied, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!"

The next verse explains that he was talking about Judas Iscariot.

But Jesus also called Peter a devil.

In Matthew 16, Jesus told his men that he was going to be crucified in Jerusalem.

Peter pulled him aside and argued, “Never, Lord! This will never happen to you!"

Then Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Matthew 16:22-23

• Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

• And Peter denied Jesus three times with curses.

• Judas felt remorse and threw the thirty silver coins on the floor of the temple. Then he went out and hanged himself.

• Peter repented with tears. Later he was reconciled with the Resurrected Jesus.

Peter went on to preach the sermon that we know as the first Gospel sermon – the sermon that began the church on the day of Pentecost.

And when Peter died, it was as a martyr who had lived all his days as a true disciple of Jesus.

Here is the greatest difference between Peter and Judas: it was evident at their greatest time of crisis.

• Judas turned to himself and committed suicide.

• Peter turned to Christ and lived out all his days as a true disciple.


Have you reached a turning point in your life? If so, what was your reaction or course of behavior?

Have you ever failed in a big way, like Peter did?

Have you betrayed Christ with your words or actions?

Have you realized that you are unworthy to be a Disciple?

Then join the club. Jesus said we are all members of that group without Him

None of us is “good enough” on our own merits to be a Disciple of Jesus.

So, a true disciple holds to belief - doesn’t doubt; listens to the Word –

 doesn’t listen to the world - lives by the Spirit, not by the flesh.

The Heart of a True Disciple is to give yourself --- heart and soul --- to Jesus Christ.




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