When Jesus was Cancelled (and How it Impacts our Witness)

by Sep 7, 2021Personal Evangelism, Theology

Just think of this amazing scene captured in John 6.

Roughly 20,000 people were celebrating Jesus and rejoicing at His unexplainable power. However, just one day later, thousands of them walked away from Him – disappointed, frustrated, and confused. In less than a day, the culture moved from celebration to cancellation. What happened?

It all started with a lunch like no one had ever seen.

A very large crowd was following Jesus out of curiosity because He had gotten their attention by healing the sick among them. He asked them to sit down as he turned a little boy’s lunch into a meal for 5,000 men (and likely 20,000+ people overall).  Everybody was amazed, including the disciples. But let’s talk about what happened the following day.

The same people find Jesus on the other side of the lake. Why are they looking for Him? Well, they’re hungry again. And Jesus wastes no time calling them out on it:

“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” (John 6:26)

However, it’s what He says just a few verses later that sets the stage for His cancellation.

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you’ve seen Me, and yet you do not believe.” (v35-36)

Jesus Gets Cancelled By The Culture At Large

In the verse above, Jesus lays it out for them plainly by telling them He is who they should really be looking for, not physical bread. He then shares several other provocative claims that make it absolutely clear He has come from heaven (v38) and has authority to grant eternal life (v40). So, how do the people respond?

Verse 41 states they started complaining about Him. But that doesn’t slow Jesus down in the least. He takes the “bread of life” metaphor and turns it all the way up by stating “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves.”(v53)

It can be tempting to get lost in the powerful language used here, but when we start at verse 26, we see this whole section is about one thing: belief. He is challenging them to see that He is more than a quick fix for hunger pangs. Far beyond granting a bit of food, He calls them to see that He alone grants eternal life (v27). He uses their desire for bread to issue two strong metaphors that illustrate He is the “bread of life” (vs 35 and 48). When the people argue and complain, Jesus simply maximizes the metaphor to emphasize that He alone is the source of eternal life with God.

Many were not interested in following Him completely, and simply could not get past the strong language, so they departed – by the thousands. But don’t miss what Jesus does next (or how His disciples respond).

Jesus turns to His true disciples (He just went from about 20,000 followers to only 12!) and asks a very pointed question: You don’t want to go away, too do you?” (v67). And what was the response? “Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know You are the Holy One of God.’” (vs68-69)

How To Apply This In Our Witness Within Cancel Culture

“Ok” you say, “this is a great theology lesson. But what does this have to do with our witness or evangelism?”

Well, a lot actually. Three considerations stick out.

We must consider how Jesus responded to these people.

He was in an authentic conversation using something they were familiar with (their need for bread) to explain how He fulfills so much more. Shouldn’t we be seeking to do the same in our conversations with others? Getting to know their needs and where they’re coming from so we can then explain how Jesus meets them where they are and provides far more than they could imagine?

We must consider why He was cancelled.

After Jesus clearly explained who He was, they decided they were not interested and turned away. That’s it. He wasn’t crass. He didn’t insult them. He didn’t mock or belittle them or make fun of their political leanings or beliefs. He just presented Himself as the answer to their needs. Will people still want to respond like this crowd did? Of course, because the truth Jesus is the only way to God will always be offensive to some. But we should make sure it’s only because of that message that they are offended – not our demeanor or attitude. The message may offend, but we should not be offensive in our presentation of it.

We must consider the response of His true disciples.

There will be those who recognize Jesus for who He is and will run after Him. And there will be those who don’t. We must be careful not to get discouraged when some (or many) don’t make the response we’d like. It should never prevent us from starting that next conversation. We must be like the disciples and remember that however someone responds, it will never change the fact that the words of Jesus are “the words of eternal life” and we are called to share them with others. We simply never know when the next person will say, “yes!”

To bring it full circle, there’s no question about it. Jesus was cancelled 2,000 years before it was the trendy thing to do. There truly is nothing new under the sun. And yes, there are times when we will be cancelled as well for carrying His message forward – but, as tempting as it is to be combative in our fractured culture, let’s do all we can to make sure that – if we are to be cancelled – we are cancelled only because of His message.