John: Who Can Accept This Hard Teaching?

Read John 6:60-71

The last section in this chapter challenges us all to accept that which is hard to understand. Those of us that have worn the Christian badge for many years might have a hard time understanding the challenge here, but I want to strongly encourage you (exhort) to read this chapter from the eyes of one who does not yet believe. If His closest disciples found this concept difficult, we need to check our own hearts as well.

There are two groups of disciples in this narrative: The Twelve and The Many. I’m not exactly sure how this all worked in those days, but the concept of discipleship was common in that culture. Actually, it’s common in our culture, but we don’t use the term outside of church very often. Apprentice might be a more universally accepted title. The structure is the same, however. One learns from someone who is a bit farther down the road in their learning. Nothing new here, just setting the stage for understanding the hierarchy that existed amongst those who are listening to Jesus.

As with the previous post, it’s important to look one verse back to appreciate the current text. In this case, we see that Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. The group that’s gathered there chose to be in the audience; they came to learn. In other words, this is not a random group of people on a street corner, the people in this story are those who were immersed in Jewish culture.

Since this is the last post for chapter six, I also want to zoom out a bit and look at the lesson John is teaching us in this writing. If we examine the chapter as a single lesson with multiple parts, we gain some rich insight into how John is trying to help us understand Jesus’ methods.

Let’s expand the structure with what we’ve learned in each post:

  • John: Feeding Thousands – John 6:1-15.
    • Jesus cares about our physical needs.
    • The crowd wants to control Jesus.
    • They eventually ask for food that does not spoil.
  • John: Jesus Walks on Water – Don’t Be Afraid – John 6:16-24.
    • Jesus cares about His disciples.
    • They are afraid, but Jesus comforts them.
    • Between the two episodes, reverence for Jesus is increased.
  • John: Jesus is the Bread of Life – John 6:25-59.
    • Jesus is the answer to eternal life.
    • He is the Son of God.
    • He must die in order to be raised up.
    • Blood must be shed.
    • Eternal life is ONLY possible through His death and resurrection (this becomes clear as we read more of John’s teaching).
  • Many Disciples Desert Jesus – John 6:60-71.
    • Many, if not most, won’t be able to accept this teaching.
    • The Twelve are confused; this is a new lesson for everyone.
    • Those who were on the fence about Jesus simply can’t accept this teaching.

It’s amazing that the disciples have the guts to say this is hard to understand.

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” John 6:60

I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in the fact that they not only thought this, but they said it out loud. They had to know that Jesus wasn’t going to let this slip by; He was going to confront them. That’s what I love about these guys and that’s the kind of community I hope to be a part of. Don’t just accept the answers, ask more questions. At the same time, don’t be cynical! This is not a prompt to be confrontational! Not at all!

Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! John 6:61-62

Jesus explains that the Spirit gives life, the flesh is meaningless. He knows that not all will believe in these words.

For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” John 6:64-65

Jesus is not one to hold back, especially with His chosen disciples.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69

Peter’s answer is the response that we know we should have deep in our hearts. When we reflect on this mortal life, I hope we too would come to the same conclusion: to whom shall we go? It’s a bit sobering to think in terms of eternity when we look at our daily activity.

Was this the event that pushed Judas over the edge?

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) John 6:70-71

Perhaps he had too much pride to walk away with those who couldn’t accept this teaching. In his mind, he “had” to stay. John adds the parenthetical note to be sure we don’t miss the point that early on in Jesus’ earthly ministry He is fully aware of Judas’ intentions. I think it’s safe to say that John didn’t get it at the time; his discernment alarm was not that finely tuned at the time.

We’re all pretty good about hiding feelings, even when they betray us. In our culture, admitting we don’t understand something is looked down upon. That’s what I love about one-on-one discipleship. In these personal settings, our discussions have the capacity to ask questions without the facade. At least that’s my prayer!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I hope you’ll read this chapter from the eyes of one who does not yet believe and remember that His closest disciples found this concept difficult. Lord help us to check our own hearts as well. Help us to see the difficulty in accepting that which we have become comfortable in believing so that we can lead others to Christ.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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