When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.
I don’t know if you have realized this, but over the years the Lord Jesus has become more caricature than real. We have made him into our image and likeness, rather than trying to make ourselves in his. Ask the average Christian to describe Jesus and, in all likelihood, he will paint a picture of a soft-spoken, tender-hearted person with arms stretched wide and eyes misty with love. I wonder what this person would make of the Jesus in today’s story. He is blunt in what he says; almost brutal.
Let me give you some context. When the incident described here takes place, our Lord has hundreds of disciples. He would be the envy of any modern-day preacher who was trying to grow his flock. And then, he suddenly tells the people that unless they ate his flesh and drank his blood they would have no life in them. (That’s John 6:53. Please make a note.) Then, in the next verse, he says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:54).
Scripture says that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” I don’t find that surprising, because we don’t want to hear stuff like that. We wanna hear Jesus saying, “Peace be with you”, or, “Do not be afraid”, or, “Come to me and I will give you rest”, which perhaps accounts for the impression most people have of Jesus as this saccharine sweet guy with soft smiling eyes. But for every time he says something that is reassuring, he says something that is extremely disturbing.
I am gonna give you just a few examples; you can look up others on your own. Jesus once told a disciple to following him. The guy said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Really? That’s Matthew 8:22. Then, one day a rich man went seeking answers from Jesus, and Jesus said to him, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor. Then come, follow me”. Seriously? That’s Mark 10:21. You will find plenty of examples, but a few, if you wanna check them out are Mark 10:11-12, Matthew 5:48, and Luke 12:4-5.
Now, I am not trying to warp your impression of Jesus, but correct it. If we say we are followers of Jesus, we need to know who we are following. And why we are following him. Just because we were born into the faith is not reason enough. A lot of people will run away when they discover the “real” Jesus. But Jesus isn’t look at their disappearing backs because he’s got his eyes on us. And he asks, “Do you also wish to go away?” I hope that we can all answer like Peter did: “Where, Lord? Where will we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
And that’s the mark of a real believer. We don’t quit following Jesus, no matter how hard his words are to swallow, or how difficult it is to do what he says. Because we know he has the words of eternal life.
Now spend a few minutes reading today’s passage — that’s John 6:60-69 — on your own. Also read the verses we referenced in the talk today and highlight them in your Bibles. Use a marker or underline them with a pencil so you will recognize them the next time you read them. And write down at least one point that strikes you in your notebook.
God bless you.