"All this I have told you so that you will not go astray." (John 16:1)

Why will they 'go astray'?

Jesus says this to his close followers just after what is considered the 'last supper.'

This statement also indicates clearly that this discussion was intended for Jesus' disciples. How do we know this?

The term "go astray," taken from the Greek term σκανδαλίζω (skandalizō), means, according to the lexicon, "to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall," and "to cause to fall away." It can also mean "to stumble."

Certainly, the word is being used here metaphorically, as Jesus is not discussing the act of walking or some other physical exercise.

Both of these meanings - 'to fall away' or 'to stumble' assume that someone is falling away from an already established path, or stumbling after walking appropriately. This means the person is falling away from something, or stumbling after achieving some dexterity or skill level.

This is also appropriately captured in the term "go astray" as the word "astray" assumes they are leaving a place where they have not been astray.

And because we know Jesus is speaking to his close disciples, we can understand that these disciples have achieved a certain level of spiritual advancement as they have been following Jesus.

It means that Jesus is talking about his disciples returning to a life focused upon self-centeredness (sinfulness) after their having been serving Jesus in his mission to spread love of God to the masses.

This statement is quite different than a statement that would be pointed to those whom Jesus might initially teach to: Those who have yet to hear his message. For those, it would be assumed they are already "astray," and Jesus' teachings would deliver them.

Why was Jesus so concerned about them?

The bottom line is that Jesus was concerned that after he left the planet - after the death of his physical body - some of his disciples might abandon their spiritual advancement and return to a life focused upon the pleasures of the physical world, and the promises of name and fame the physical world presents to us.

This idea of going "astray" might be curious to some who would imagine that once a person comes into the fold of being a disciple of God's representative, that they can afterward fall away from whatever advancement they had achieved.

This is answered by understanding that the Supreme Being never takes away our freedom. This is because love requires freedom. No one can be forced to love someone, even the Supreme Being.

It is for this reason that all of the activities of fanatical religious sects around the world that try to force or pressure others to engage in their religious rituals actually do more harm than good. 

No one can be forced to truly worship and devote themselves to the Supreme Being. A person may be forced to bow or forced to wear a particular type of clothing, but they can never be forced to love God. They can not be forced to devote their lives to the Supreme Being.

This is why the Supreme Being created the physical realm in the first place: To give us the independence to act out our self-centered desires. He also created the physical world in such a way that we could not see Him with these physical eyes. This was all in an effort to give us the freedom to choose to love Him, and even have the freedom to accept His existence - or not.

Why do our bodies die?

These physical bodies are not us. The body is like a costume we wear for a while. 

They are more like automobiles. We get into them and drive them for a while before they die. Then we leave them behind to decompose, just as an abandoned car rusts away.

God designed these physical bodies in such a way that when we are in them, we begin to identify with them - not unlike how a person will identify with their car or house. But in the case of our physical bodies, we think they are us. This is even though every bit of logical and scientific evidence points to the fact that we cannot be these bodies.

These bodies are constantly changing, and their environment is constantly changing around them. The atoms that make up the body are constantly being recycled. Science has shown that the body we had on five years ago is now gone. We now have a new body on, made of new atoms. We can even see this visually as we look at our baby body. The entire body looks different. And it is made of different atoms and molecules.

Yet we stay the same. This is because each of us is a spiritual being. We each have a spiritual form outside the form of the physical body. This spiritual form comes from the spiritual realm - a place of activity and love - the place where the Supreme Being dwells with all of His loving associates.

We are here in this physical world because we rejected the Supreme Being. We decided to exercise our freedom. We desired to enjoy separately from God, and separate from our relationships with our spiritual family - God's other children of the spiritual realm.

So now we have it. We are now lost in this physical world chasing our self-centered dreams with little or no remembrance of our actual identity as spiritual. We are lost within these virtual identities of this body of a particular race, family, sex and social status. We are stuck seeking happiness within a world where everyone else is also seeking their own self-centered happiness. In other words, we are stuck in hell. We are "astray."

The only way to return home is to ask the Supreme Being if we can come home. But we have to make the decision voluntarily. And once we do, the Supreme Being will direct us to one of His representatives to guide us back to Him.

Is this what Jesus was doing?

Jesus is God's representative, and he has been guiding his followers back home to the spiritual realm. This is because they made that decision. They wanted to return to God, and this is why many of them followed Jesus.

But this doesn't mean they cannot still change their minds. At any time, any of his disciples could decide they didn't want to return home. They can decide they want to remain seemingly independent of God and go back to chasing their dreams.

We all have this freedom: To return to our relationship with God or chase our dreams.

If we decide we want to return to Him we can simply ask Him, with a humble apologetic heart, if He will forgive our self-centeredness and allow us to return to Him and the rest of our family in the spiritual realm.

You see, the Supreme Being is merciful. He is forgiving. He doesn't have to rely upon anyone dying for our sins to forgive us. At any moment, if we ask Him to forgive us and take us back, He will forgive us. He is kind like that. He unconditionally loves us.

This is because God is our Best Friend and well-wisher. He always wants us to be happy. He knows that we will only be happy when we return to our relationship with Him.

It isn't as though it will be easy, however. This means we have to change - from being self-centered to becoming God-centered. From serving ourselves to serving the Supreme Being. It is not easy to change. It requires work. And time. And effort. And determination.

We have to become determined to change. We have to become determined to meet the various challenges this world presents to us. These challenges consistently put us to the test: Do we really want to return to our relationship with God? Are we really ready to give up our self-centered dreams of being happy independently? Are we serious? Are we committed?

Jesus understands the challenges his disciples will face as they attempt to perfect their devotion to the Supreme Being, and attempt to carry on his mission. He knows they will be challenged, but he knows that these challenges are designed to increase determination for those who are serious. 

These challenges, along with the various temptations of this world, are designed to separate the serious from those who are not serious. They are designed to help those who are serious become committed. And they are designed to carry away (go astray) those who are not serious.

This commitment is defined by Jesus - and Moses before him - with the words "all your heart," "all your soul," and "all your mind:"
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)