60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67″You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71(He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel is long. 71 verses long. It could be that we have the entire conversation that took place. It could be that John give us the highlights. Either way, it is 71 verses in our English translations and John packed those 71 verses full to the brim. There is not much left to the imagination in these verses even if they are a synopsis of a larger conversation.
So, as we conclude our reading of chapter 6 together, I would ask you to reflect on what you read. Now, ask yourself this question: What did I hear Jesus saying? “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” What those gathered that day heard was difficult. They were still grumbling. “Well, this was all good when we got a meal out of the deal. When he stopped feeding us while we listened…well, this is just too difficult without a meal.”
Can you imagine that Jesus asks us to follow him in the difficult road that involves the consumption of his flesh and blood? Can you imagine that Jesus says those would be his disciples will, in fact, participate in his life and his death. His cross is unavoidable. If we want his life in us we will participate in his death. And it was this that ‘offended’ the people who were listening to Jesus that day. “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” When the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed there will be two distinct results. One is that some will believe. The other is that most will turn back and longer follow. Those who try to get there on their own (maybe because of a miracle or full tummy) will not last. “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” Those who are drawn to Christ by God will last because they will hear what the Father is saying (remember: They will be taught by God, 45). A few heard Jesus that day.
He said to them, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” This verse breaks my heart. It crushes me. It throws me down and stomps on my chest. My soul heaves up inside of me when I hear Jesus ask this question: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” What’s this do to you? Yes, Jesus the Son of God, the Almighty who walks on water, magics bread out of nothing, heals the blind and all that. Jesus the Son of Man: Rejected by his own, not welcomed by those whom he made, esteemed not by his brothers. Man of Sorrows. I hate talking about feelings, but forgive me for a minute: Do you feel the pathos in Jesus’ voice: You don’t want to leave too, do you? Do you hear him suffering for those who had left and concerned whether there were any on earth who had the courage to hear the voice of God.
I don’t like that verse. It puts us on the spot, shines a light on us. The penetrating, demanding voice of the Son of God, Son of Man, probing deep into us: You don’t want to leave too, do you? He forces our hand and makes us choose. Go with the crowd who are disenchanted? Or stay with Jesus? Go with the frustrated empty bellied crowd? Or stay with Jesus who is already filling us? Go with the vulgar culture whose only interest is in the here and now? Or stay with Jesus who has been promising all throughout this chapter life, life abiding, life to the full, Resurrection Life—now? What choice has the Father given us?
“What about you? You don’t want to leave too, do you?”
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” All throughout this chapter Peter and the others had heard Jesus saying only one thing: I am the way of eternal life, I will raise you up, I am your hope, I am your salvation, apart from me there is no life, I am the Way, I am the Bread of Life, I am Resurrection Life. This is all that Peter and a few others heard. I guess it matters what we are tuned into, what we are listening for, Who we are listening to. As soon as some heard Jesus say something about eternal life they were hooked. Go back through chapter 6 and mark out all the times Jesus says something about eternal life. Don’t be content with this life and the stuff of this life. Don’t be content with mere life. Stay with Jesus and have Resurrection Life even now.
Jesus speaks the Words of Life. Peter nailed it: To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. To whom shall we go? Even now this question is relevant and must be asked and answered. According to Scripture, according to Jesus, there is nowhere else to go. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Bread of Life.
“The final decision must be made while we are still on earth. The peace of Jesus is the cross. But the cross is the sword God wields on earth. It creates division. The son against the father, the daughter against her mother, the member of the house against the head—all this will happen in the name of God’s kingdom and his peace. That is the work which Christ performs on earth. Who has a right to speak thus of love for father and mother, for son and daughter, but the destroyer of all human life on the one hand, or the Creator of a new life on the other? Who dare lay such an exclusive claim to man’s love and devotion, but the enemy of mankind on the one hand, and the Saviour of mankind on the other? Who but the devil, or Christ, the Prince of Peace, will carry the sword into men’s houses? God’s love for man is altogether different from the Love of men for their own flesh and blood. God’s love for man means the cross and the way of discipleship. But that cross and that way are both life and resurrection. ‘He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.’ In this promise we hear the voice of him who holds the keys of death, the Son of God, who goes to the cross and the resurrection, and with him takes his own” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, (Touchstone: New York, 1995 ed), 219. Emphasis mine.)
The question I leave you with is this: If you want to have eternal life, where are you looking for it at? Are you searching in places where it cannot be found? Are you investigating the world’s idols? Are you seeking life in some sort of mysticism or mystery? Are you buying into false claims of false hope? Do you hear Jesus saying impossible things or do you, like his true disciples, hear Him saying: I am Eternal Life?
Day 28 of 90 with Jesus is brought to you in hope that you will, if you have not already, give your life to Jesus, the only Bread of Life.
Soli Deo Gloria!