Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Jesus has just concluded one of His most famous discourses, having talked of being the Bread of life, coming down from Heaven, eating His flesh, drinking His blood, and His giving us eternal life. Some of the greatest claims Jesus ever made are found here. The listeners, having been miraculously fed, and having heard Jesus= words, will now have to receive or reject Jesus as Messiah.
John 6:60-65 (Holman) Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, AThis teaching is hard! Who can accept it?@ Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, ADoes this offend you? Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn=t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some among you who don=t believe.@ (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who would not believe and the one who would betray Him.) He said, AThis is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.@
Jesus= teaching was Ahard@ in the sense of it being hard to accept, not difficult to interpret. The discourse was offensive, not unintelligible.
His speech had been admittedly mysterious in places. But the parts they understood were what bothered them. AThe hardness was in their hearts and not in the saying@ (Calvin).
They had a preconceived notion of what Messiah would be like. When Christ=s concept differed from theirs, they rejected Him despite the miracles.
A miracle is no match for pre-determined judgment. Despite all the evidence, the crowd retained their preconceived ideas and rejected God=s Son.
Intellectual difficulty rarely keeps people from becoming Christians. Even unbelievers realize there must be some mystery in religion. Most reject Christ not because He baffles their intellect, but because He challenges and condemns their lives. The obstacle is the height of Christ=s moral demands.
Knowing they cannot have Christ and their sins at the same time, people reject Christ because they love their sins more than they love Him. Jesus never regarded unbelief as an accident, misunderstanding, or misfortune, but always as sin, as rebellion, as wilfully making the wrong choice.
It is difficult to forsake sin. It has a death grip on our natures. To be saved, a person must admit their past has been all wrong, their future goals have been wrong, many of their desires were perverse, and they cannot help themselves. They must be willing to commit themselves without reservation to Another as Lord.
Such confession, humility, and whole hearted surrender are always difficult and hence very rare. This crowd would not do it. They refused to believe.
John 6:66-67 From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, AYou don=t want to go away too, do you?@
This crowd, to be fed by Jesus, had earlier shuffled into groups of hundreds and fifties (Mark 7:40). Now they shuffled into oblivion. The noise of their movements was the sound of a rattling B the rattle of death. They deserted the Giver of life. It is a scene of tragic pathos.
It is also a scene of temptation. The disciples were now faced an extreme test. Most people yield to the authority of numbers. The pull of the deserting crowd could easily draw the Twelve away from Jesus.
To this point it had looked as if Jesus might become the head of a popular movement. People had flocked to Him at every juncture of His public ministry. AMany had believed at Jerusalem@ (2:23), He had more disciples than John the Baptist (4:1), the Samaritans had flocked to Him and begged Him to stay (4:40-41), in Galilee a large multitude followed Him (6:2).
Now the mood suddenly changed. The masses reversed their thinking. A huge defection occurred. Everyone seemed to be leaving. What will the Twelve do?
If they would ever forsake, it would be now. Jesus was looking for loyalty. The choice had to be theirs. Christ detains none against their wills. His soldiers are volunteers.
Every Christian faces such dilemmas. At times the majority is going the other way. To go with Christ sometimes means going with the few or alone. It wrenches our heart, but we have to decide. It is inevitable.
Our future can be determined by our choice of close friends, types of entertainment, reading materials, a church, a mate. Our future often rises or falls on how we decide in these vital areas. Often the Christian thing to do is diametrically opposed to the world=s philosophy.
Every day we make choices which eventually determine whether the current of our lives shall flow toward Christ or away from Him. AMinor@ decisions often yield Amajor@ consequences.
A courthouse in Ohio stands in such a way that raindrops which fall on the north side of the roof go into the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and the North Atlantic. Raindrops that fall on the south side go into the Ohio River, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. A little puff of wind determines the destiny of a rain drop for 2000 miles.
On Cutbank Pass in Glacier National Park (Northwest Montana), three brooks are so close together that a person can stand in one place and pour water into all three. One brook carries water to Hudson Bay, another to the Pacific Ocean, the third to the Gulf of Mexico. A few inches at the first makes thousands of miles of difference in the end.
We never make an unimportant spiritual decision. Lifetimes, vocations, descendants, others, and eternity always hang in the balance.
The Twelve heard Jesus= hard sayings. They saw the crowd=s defection. What will they do? Peter served as their spokesman.
John 6:68-69 Simon Peter answered, ALord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!@
The Twelve had found in Christ all they were looking for in God. Peter=s confession was significant, for it was made after the disappointment of popular hope. Jesus found loyalty in the Twelve.
The test of an army is how it fights when tired. The test of Christ=s army is how it reacts when it appears to be unpopular or unprofitable to follow Him.
Many have passed the test. Noah stood firm when the world was drowning in wickedness. Moses chose to identify himself with the slaves of Israel. David refused to give in to his men=s advice to kill King Saul. Job=s wife told him to curse God. But Job later said, AThough He slay me, yet will I trust in Him@ (13:15). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said they would not bow even if God did not deliver them.
There is no real alternative to Jesus. Peter knew it was folly for the Twelve to leave Christ unless they knew where to better themselves.
Christ is unexcelled when compared with any other choice. Knowing Him is life indeed. Those who consider retreating would do well to consider whether they can expect to find rest and peace anywhere but in Him. Make sure we have found a better way of life before we desert the Christian way.
Where else will we go? The world? It will only deceive us. Sin? It will destroy us. Philosophies? They raise questions but give no answers. Eastern religions? They know nothing of the Living God. Atheism? It knows nothing of life after death. What we once were? Retreat is impossible. Christian, in APilgrim=s Progress,@ thought about going back, but chose not to when he remembered he had no armor for his back. Remember this when tempted to stray. Retreat is no option to believers. We have no hope but in going forward.
Once we realize there is no viable place to go, and we no longer consider retreat an option, we can settle down to our task and proceed. To whom shall we go? There is no one beside Jesus.