You know in my lifetime I have seen people who seemed to really be interested in walking the walk of the Christian life. They are regular attenders at church and Bible study. They use the current Christian buzz words. They seem to have a good relationship with Jesus. But then one day they fade away and the next time I see them they are no longer interested in living the Christian life. It always has puzzled me as to how one could walk away from Jesus. And then today in hearing my son read the scriptures from the book of John I saw clearly something that I had never really seen before. Let’s take a look at this passage together.
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? 62Then what 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—they are full of the Spirit and 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 them.” 66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. John 6:60-66, (New International Version or NIV).
I have purposely left the numbers of the verses in the text because we will be going back to see what the hard teaching is but first let’s look at what many followers of Jesus did. You see Jesus had many disciples in the beginning of His ministry. He was popular among the ordinary people because of the way He taught and what He said and mostly the miracles that He performed. Many wanted to follow a winner like Jesus. However Jesus knew why they were disciples and He also knew that He needed to prepare twelve men to carry out the work of building His church on earth. So He began to teach about who He really was and why He came and many disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing! It was so shocking to their linear thinking and yet Jesus was speaking about things in abstract. Yes these things would come to pass but not everything would be literal as some things He spoke of would be metaphorical. So let’s look at why these many disciples were grumbling and turned away from Jesus.
28Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
30So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
41At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” 43“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. John 6:28-59, (NIV).
Everyone could believe that Jesus had the potential to be the Messiah and help the Jewish leaders overthrow the Roman government and make a free Israeli empire. But Jesus didn’t come to make an earthly kingdom and so it was time for Him to weed out the men who would not be able to believe in His true purpose as a Spiritual Kingdom on this earth. God had so much grander plan for people than what most men could conceive, a Kingdom that would last through the ages in the form of the Church built on the chief cornerstone Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 3:11) crucified and resurrected. The teaching that Jesus was the bread of life was incomprehensible to most who heard it and so they fell away and thought Jesus was weird! With their linear thinking they thought Jesus was speaking of cannibalism and of course we know this was not the case. And in fact the early church was accused of cannibalism probably because of this particular teaching. So what does Jesus do after so many fell away from His teaching 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 have come to believe and to 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.) John 6:67-71, (NIV).
Jesus turned to the twelve whom He had called to follow Him who had travelled with Him and learned from Him for three years and asked a question. How would you have answered the question? Would you have stayed or would you have gone away as many others had done? The truth is that each one of us has already answered that question. We will either choose to follow Jesus and walk the walk as well as talk the talk in faith or we have chosen not to believe Jesus and turned away. Some people felt the teaching was too hard to follow through with while others simply didn’t believe Jesus. It is the same with people today. Many will come but few will be serious about following Jesus daily year after year. Jesus knows that and I am sure it makes Him sad but at the same time He will take good care of us who remain faithful throughout this earthly lifetime. I want to encourage you to be faithful and stay focused on Jesus no matter what is going on in the world around you each day.