The Troubled Disciples Leave Jesus
Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”
Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you?
John 6:60-61 (NLT)
Notice that this verse says it was many of Jesus’ disciples who turned away from Him. These weren’t the Pharisees or scribes who never believed on Him. These were people who were learners or pupils of Jesus (John 6:66). Evidently, they hadn’t completed their journey to becoming disciples of Jesus, but they had begun the process. Yet, at these hard sayings, they turned back. What a pity.
Our Lord’s teaching was not hard to understand but hard to accept once you understood it. The Jewish religious leaders both misunderstood His words and rejected them. They were “offended” by what He taught.
Jesus knew that His disciples were offended by this hard saying, but what was His reaction?
Did He apologize or try to explain the symbolism?
No! He gave them an even tougher statement to wrestle with.
This scripture, as well as Matthew 15:12, shows that people will be offended by the Gospel. As much as possible, however, we should make sure that it is not we who are offensive. But we cannot labor under the deception that everyone will receive the Gospel even if the truth was presented properly. We know that Jesus represented His Father perfectly, and yet most people rejected His message.
In these two instances when Jesus realized He had offended the listeners, He didn’t apologize and try to make concessions to gain their acceptance. Instead, He got harder. This hard message of commitment is not only beneficial to those who receive it, but it serves a dual purpose in that it exposes the “tares among the wheat” (Matthew 13:25).
Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again?
John 6:62 (NLT)
They stumbled over the fact that He claimed to come down from heaven. This was not the talk of a mere man. Jesus was claiming deity for Himself.
In this verse, Jesus was employing the same reasoning that He used when He spoke to Nicodemus. In effect, He was saying, “If you find these previous statements offensive, then you will never be able to receive the fact of My ascension back to the throne of God. If you can’t handle My death for the sins of the world, then you certainly can’t handle My resurrection and ascension.”
The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
John 6:63 (NLT)
Jesus had just made all these hard statements that the crowd had interpreted as speaking of cannibalism. Then He spoke of His ascending up into heaven. Here, He revealed that the words He was speaking were spirit and life. This is revealing that He was speaking metaphorically, and it also makes reference to the fact that the Holy Spirit had to quicken these words to the people’s hearts (John 6:44 and 1 Corinthians 2:14). Jesus wasn’t going to explain Himself. He left that job to the Holy Spirit.
Billy Graham said that one of the greatest turning points in his ministry was when he quit trying to convict people and just let the Holy Spirit do His job. This doesn’t mean that we don’t speak plainly and try to impart understanding. But ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the only one who can enlighten a person’s heart. We need to let Him do His job as Jesus did here.
God’s Word is spirit and life. Therefore, being spiritually minded (Romans 8:6) is being Word minded. God’s Word is like a window that lets us peer into the spiritual world.
Jesus explained that His language was figurative and spiritual, not literal. Jesus was stating that our spirits, not our flesh, are where our life comes from. These people were so dominated by their physical lives that they were missing all the spiritual significance of His words. Although God’s Word does benefit our physical man, the Word is spiritual and must be understood through the spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). God’s Word is spirit, and it takes our spirits to illuminate its truths to our minds (Proverbs 20:27).
The Word of God is not paper and ink. Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), and He existed in spiritual form long before any words were inspired by the Holy Ghost to be written down (2 Peter 1:21). The Bible is simply a physical representation of Jesus and spiritual truth. It is inspired of God and, therefore, totally accurate and reliable. Yet until we receive the spirit that these words express, the Bible will not profit us (Hebrews 4:2). This is why many people have read the Word and may even have memorized it and yet aren’t reaping its benefits.
If we want to know what spiritual truth is, we must believe the Bible, for it is spirit and life. If we want to be led by the Spirit, then we must follow God’s Word. If we want to hear from the Spirit of God, then we must listen to what God says in His Word. The Spirit (Holy Spirit) and the Word (Jesus, John 1:1) are one (1 John 5:7).
But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.)
John 6:64 (NLT)
Jesus was able to perceive who were in faith and who wasn’t, yet He didn’t reject those who were just going through the motions. Instead, He preached the Word even harder, and they wound up rejecting His words as in this case.
There are those among us who are not true believers (Matthew 13:24-30). But instead of us rejecting them, we need to simply preach the true Word of God without compromise, and they will cull themselves out from the true body of Christ.
Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.”
John 6:65 (NLT)
This is referring back to His statement in John 6:44. We can’t come to the Lord on our own. We can only come when He draws us. Therefore, we don’t need to reject His invitation. There is no guarantee He will extend it again (Genesis 6:3).
At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.
John 6:66 (NLT)
The result of this message was the loss of most of our Lord’s disciples. They went back to the old life, the old religion, and the old hopeless situation. Jesus Christ is “the way” (John 14:6), but they would not walk with Him. This was no surprise to the Lord, because He knows the hearts of all people.
Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
John 6:67 (NLT)
Jesus had just seen many of His would-be disciples leave Him. Yet, instead of trying to get them back or grieving over His loss, He turned to His twelve disciples and offered them the opportunity to leave too. What security!
Most of us would evaluate success by the size of the crowds. But Jesus was different. Response to His message wasn’t what was important to Him. The thing that drove Him was the acceptance of His Father, not the crowds. He had said what He heard His Father say (John 5:19, 30; and 8:28), and He knew that His Father was pleased. That’s all that mattered to Him. That should be all that matters to us.
Jesus wasn’t pleading with His disciples and asking them to stay. He was, in effect, saying, “There’s the door if you want to leave too.” Jesus was totally secure in His Father’s love.
Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.
John 6:68 (NLT)
Bob Nichols ministered a great message from this passage of Scripture at Andrew Wommack’s 2003 Ministers’ Conference in Colorado Springs on October 8. He spoke of five things Peter mentioned that kept the disciples from leaving Jesus. These same things will keep us from leaving Jesus.
- Jesus was Lord. If He is truly Lord, then there are no options.
- What other options do we have? Understanding that Jesus is the only way to the Father, to truth, and life will keep us from pursuing anyone or anything else.
- Peter was committed to the Word that Jesus taught. He knew it was truth.
- Faith made the difference. Faith will keep us holding on to Jesus.
- Peter was sure. We have to go beyond just hope and be sure of the things we believe.
Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
John 6:69 (NKJV)
I’m sure the things Jesus had said were hard for His disciples to hear too. They had exhibited a great knack for not understanding what He was talking about on other occasions (e.g., Mark 8:16-18). It was just the day before when it was pointed out that their hearts were hardened. So, they must have been struggling with His statements about eating His flesh (John 6:51) and drinking His blood too (John 6:55-57).
But they were already sure that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is the first time Peter had ever made such a bold declaration (compare with Matthew 16:13-19). This is a great lesson to learn. We can’t let what we don’t understand keep us from operating in what we do understand.
Then Jesus said, “I chose the twelve of you, but one is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, one of the Twelve, who would later betray him.
John 6:70-71 (NLT)
Jesus was not only aware that one of His disciples would betray Him, He knew exactly who it was.
The preaching of the Word of God always leads to a sifting of the hearts of the listeners. God draws sinners to the Savior through the power of truth, His Word. Those who reject the Word will reject the Savior. Those who receive the Word will receive the Savior and experience the new birth, eternal life.
Do you feel your need because there is a spiritual hunger within?
Are you willing to admit that need and come to the Savior?
If you will, He will save you and satisfy you forever!
DECLARATION OF FAITH
The spirit is what quickens things and brings them to life. The flesh does not renew or prevail over anything of lasting value.
God quickened me into this new life by the Spirit, through the living word. My spirit has been renewed and re-created with the very nature of God.
I fully understand that the Word of God is spirit material. In the same way that Jesus used His words to bring things to life, I use His words to bring things to life as well.