When people leave – Pt 2 How did Jesus handle rejection?

(To read the first post in this series click HERE)

I was reading John 6 the other day and the headline above verse 60 screamed out at me: “Many disciples desert Jesus”.

I wondered how that made him feel. Seriously.  Go with me here.

I know he was God. And I know he knew in advance who would be staying and who would be leaving. But I also know he was human like me, capable of human emotions even when he knew the outcome. Like when his friend Lazarus died. He knew that he was going to raise him from the dead, but the shortest verse in the Bible says that “Jesus wept” anyway. He cried. Like I cried when my best friend died in a car wreck. It makes me feel better to know that he was capable of feeling what I feel.

So how did he feel when disciples started bailing?

You get the feeling that these weren’t just faces in the crowd. By this time the crowds had grown extremely large. He has just finished a miracle of feeding at least 4,000 people. That’s the second time he’d done that one. People were so desperate to see him that they literally chased him across a lake. When some of them misunderstood something he taught, they started grumbling about it. Some of the crowd decide that he was getting a little to full of himself and they start to leave. The murmuring grew until many of those close to him, his disciples, decided to quit following. They weren’t just faces and you get the feeling that they didn’t go quietly.

How did he feel? How did he process it?

At that point he turns to the ones that he is closest too, the Twelve, and he asks, “Are you going to leave too?” Hit the pause button. What are the emotions of those words? Words are never spoken in a vacuum. There is always texture and feeling and context. What were his? What was he thinking?

Honestly, we don’t know. He’s God and we are not. But I think we can learn some things from Jesus about a healthy process when people leave.

  • Be secure in the Fathers love. There was never any doubt in Jesus mind about whether or not the Father loved him. I’ve got to believe that he knew his worth had nothing to do with how many were at the synagogue this Sabbath as compared to a year ago. The echo of the words of his baptism, “This is my son and I am really pleased with him”, can’t be under estimated. A friend told me recently that our first thoughts every morning should focus on how much our Father loves us. Everyone else may think you are a jerk, but hey, what difference does it really make if God loves you?
  • Try to play for an audience of one. Jesus says in verse 38, “I have come to do the will of God who sent me, not what I want.” There’s a lot of pressure in trying to please everyone. As the crowd grows there will be more voices clamoring for your attention and potentially becoming offended if you don’t play their hand. One is a much less stressful number.
  • Learn to process it with your inner circle. Even Jesus didn’t go at it alone. In response to his question Peter says, “Where are we going to go? You have the words of life.” You need people like that. “I’ve got your back” type of people. Sure you need some who will tell you when you’ve got spinach in your teeth, but you also need a few “I’m not going anywhere boss” types for situations like these. Do you have people like that in your inner circle? Do you have an inner circle?
  • Trust in God’s sovereignty. Jesus knew ahead of time who would leave and who would stay. You and I don’t. It would be a great gift to have. It would certainly save time and a lot of grief. You may not know, but God does. And according to Romans 8:28, he’ll weave it into the plan in a way that serves both yours and his best interest.

The bottom line: When people leave for whatever reason, God’s got your back. What else do you really need?

Question for pastors: How does Jesus example help?


Question for church members: Does your pastor know you’ve got his/her back?

Greg is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the early adopters of the multi-site model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

6 comments
DB Beem
DB Beem

Just a brief comment. The people who left Jesus, didn't go follow God elsewhere with an equally viable 'church', they left Jesus, because they weren't really interested in following Jesus as Lord. I think that is a huge difference. At my old church, it was often said about those who left, "That they 'left the church.'" In the Monday Analysis, it was said that the people who left "didn't want to take up the cross," or that they "wanted to live a comfortable life." As if to say, that leaving this church meant not really following Jesus anymore. When I left, I wanted to make sure that it was clearly understood, that I was going to follow Jesus elsewhere. I wasn't leaving "the church," I was leaving a church." The key difference in all of this is keeping Jesus as the focus, rather than the church. Leaving a church is not necessarily leaving Jesus. Blessings

Angie Turner Irving
Angie Turner Irving

Good reminder. I love my pastors and try to let them know it, but to support them intentionally every day is a good goal for me.

Jared
Jared

Awesom! Thanks so much for posting these two. As a new senior pastor ( in the last 5 months ) I assumed the lead of a church where the founding pastor resigned and moved on. I was the senior associate for 3 years before i became the new senior pastor. We have experience both the ones who have moved on ( to be expected ) with some but the some of the others took us by surprise. But, the ones that have come and said " I have your back " have been amazing. People we have known for a few years who have stepped up and stayed and been supportive in a fragile situation have been incredible. What could have been a disaster by Gods grace has been a miracle to watch. I loved what you wrote about Jesus and thinking on his humanity and what he was most likely feeling. Helped me appreciate those who have our back even more.

Matt Balogh
Matt Balogh

Very Helpful. Just went through this and even though I was at peace with God's approval and calling it really was sharing with those who "have my back" that brought me out. I drew them close talked to them, planned with them, really cut myself off for a week form others. It seemed a little weird but the next week I was able to fully engage with the people. Having those who assure you they with you through thick and thin whose personal disagreement with a strategy(not theology) will not sway their loyalty is absolutely priceless. This post and the one before it were extremely helpful.

Kathy Baxley
Kathy Baxley

"One is a much less stressful number" is all that needs to be said. We so live in a world where many of us try to live to please everyone else, never taking into consideration our own well being. Eventually it catches up. Leaders have to take care of themselves too, so that they can better take care of others. Thanks for that revelation. While it may not be all that matters, it is what matters most.

John Dobbs
John Dobbs

Both articles are filled with the wisdom of experience Greg. Thanks for sharing. So many of us have grappled with this...truly all ministers will. Not long after I moved here, one of our members told me in all seriousness, "I've got your back." I was surprised by this (as the new minister wondered why I needed someone to have my back!) ...but also comforted... and I remember that from time to time. I still believe him.