When many of Jesus’ disciples heard him, they said, “What he says is hard to accept. Who wants to listen to him anymore?” Jesus was aware that his disciples were criticizing his message. So Jesus asked them, “Did what I say make you lose faith? What if you see the Son of Man go where he was before? Life is spiritual. Your physical existence doesn’t contribute to that life. The words that I have spoken to you are spiritual. They are life. But some of you don’t believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning those who wouldn’t believe and the one who would betray him. So he added, “That is why I told you that people cannot come to me unless the Father provides the way.” Jesus’ speech made many of his disciples go back to the lives they had led before they followed Jesus. So Jesus asked the twelve apostles, “Do you want to leave me too?” Simon Peter answered Jesus, “Lord, to what person could we go? Your words give eternal life. Besides, we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus replied, “I chose all twelve of you. Yet, one of you is a devil.” Jesus meant Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. Judas, who was one of the twelve apostles, would later betray Jesus.
Today’s scripture will definitely not win the touchy-feely award for the year. But we forget that Jesus didn’t make the message “user” friendly. That is what happens in this passage.
In the earlier parts of John chapter 6, Jesus created a controversy among the Jews because of his claim to be the bread of life. (v. 52) This caused quite a stir to say the least and it even caused some concerns among those who followed Jesus. So Jesus confronts their “complaints” by asking about the implications of their reaction. Because of this confrontation many people decide to leave him and go back to their previous way of life. Jesus then asks his hand-picked band of believers if they too want to call it quits. And as so often happens, Peter has the right answer if not completely in the right context. In my minds eye I see Richard Gere in the movie ‘An Officer and A Gentleman’ telling his drill sergeant that “I got no where else to go!”
So here we have these people who had been following Jesus around calling themselves his disciples. Yet in the end, these people who had come to Jesus and heard his teaching, we discover their level of discipleship didn’t amount to much. They were disciples in name only. And Jesus doesn’t cut them any slack. They were grumbling to each other, just as the Israelites did in the desert and Jews did earlier in the chapter. Don’t people usually complain to someone else first? If they had been complaining directly to him there wouldn’t be anything to figure out.
Believe me there is enough of Jesus’ teaching that we can find offensive; if we live in the flesh. But for those of us who are born in the Spirit we can trust Jesus even when his teachings or his ways are puzzling. Remember, Jesus didn’t tell anyone to leave they had to make that decision on their own; unfortunately many did.
I think there are three things that we can learn from this passage. First, there are people who seem interested in truth but in the end reject it. There will be people we try and teach but who will refuse to obey and quit. If it happened to the Master it will happen to us.
Second, Jesus kept on teaching even though he knew what was going to happen. He knew some flat out didn’t believe and others who were following him with the wrong motivation. It didn’t matter. He kept confronting their errors refusing to back down or compromise. And he lost people because of it. Even after they left he didn’t apologize or tone down the message to draw them back, even though a miracle or two would have been all it took.
Third and I think this is perhaps the hardest lesson I took from this passage, is that using every worldly “trick” in the book to attract people to church so that we can convert them is a waste of time and effort. Jesus had just fed the five thousand and they wanted him to do it again just to prove it wasn’t a one-off miracle. Jesus told them no. He knew that if people come just to satisfy their physical needs they would never be satisfied and never stay. That is why he emphasized the spiritual first and foremost so that they could become spiritual.
So what we find in this passage is that there is a difference between salvation and discipleship; they are two very different relationships. In the last line we see that Judas had the best seat in the house to witness God revealed in Jesus. But he lacked the trust and love to see Jesus as he was. It’s a shame; the human heart is very capable of seeing the great beauty of God and still rejects him.
Christ is the way of salvation, and the pursuit of holiness is non-negotiable for Christians. Jesus challenged the people who were offended. He doesn’t condemn everyone within earshot. The question is how do we respond when the Spirit reveals our hearts to us? We have to decide for ourselves what our reaction will be; a deeper faith in God or a turning back to our old associations.
If people are offended by the truth and leave we should be saddened when it happens but we can’t sell our souls in order to prevent it.
Father, You know that I trust in You. Yet at times it seems as if You are far away. Show me in what respect I depend on somebody or something else, instead of on You only. I know You will always be with me, if I remain close to You. Hallelujah! Amen.