Only yesterday, multitudes were rejoicing as Christ multiplied the loaves and fish – He had thousands of disciples. But today everything has changed – all but the original twelve departed from Him. What happened?
First we are reminded that discipleship will be tested. As believers we are challenged to examine ourselves, make our calling and election sure, and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Not everyone who appears to be a disciple, in fact is, and Scripture is clear that there will be many who call Jesus Lord, but will not endure to the end.
Discipleship is tested by doctrine. We see this today, as many are falling away from the faith, heeding deceitful spirits (I Tim 4:1) and self-centered, ear-tickling teaching (2 Tim 4:3). Secondly, discipleship is tested by trials – as some who believe for a while, but are without a firm root, will fall away upon testing (Luke 8:13). And lastly, discipleship is tested by the world and its cares and pursuits (Luke 8:14). Demas is an example of one who deserted Paul because of love for the world.
In the midst of all of this, we can find great encouragement in the faith-filled statement of Peter in verse 68. His confession is the same as all those who are disciples indeed – that we have nowhere to go but Christ, because we know that He has given us eternal life. The writer of the book of Hebrews was confident of this kind of faith in true believers, as after he expresses the perils of falling away in chapter 6, verses 1-8, he is convinced of a better report in the ones who are truly saved (Heb 6:9).