Following Jesus is necessary; it is not easy.
We live in a time when the people who exert the greatest influence on American culture think it fashionable to flaunt and condemn Christianity. With an assertiveness and obnoxiousness that would be condemned as “intolerance” if it were directed at any other faith, these self-appointed guardians of political correctness work to marginalize everyone who lives and practices the true faith.
In my generation, the most notorious opponent of Christianity was Madalyn Murray O’Hair, a woman who brought suit to remove prayer from public schools. It’s an amusing testimony to the power of her legacy that though she’s been dead several years, Ms. O’Hair can still cause an email firestorm when spam about her taking a case to the FCC makes the rounds every 2 years or so.
Her atheism flowed from a poisonous personality that gradually gave way to some of the vileness only hell itself could devise. It may interest you to know that Ms. O’Hair’s son William Murray, became a Baptist minister, author, and lobbyist for conservative values. As a child, he was named by his mother as the plaintiff in the lawsuit she used to remove prayer from public schools. Rev. Murray says of his mother, “she was just evil.” She was murdered by members of her own organization in 1995, the dismembered bodies of O’Hair, her son, and her granddaughter were recovered in the woods near Camp Woods, Texas five years later.
Good news - the Church has survived all of Ms. O’Hair’s activism. The Church will also survive the current crop of “talking heads” who are likewise so eager to remove Christianity from the public sphere.
Bad news - things will get more difficult before Jesus comes again. Following Jesus in America is certainly not as difficult as it is in other parts of the world, but it has never been an easy thing to do. As a reminder to be faithful, this morning we’ll see how some people who identified themselves as Jesus’ disciples turned their backs on Him.
1. Accept Jesus’ teaching though it can be hard to take. (vs. 60-65)
John reported MANY OF HIS DISCIPLES COMPLAINED. The may’ve been complaining about what Jesus taught earlier in the chapter. Here are couple examples of the teaching to which they were reacting.
“UNLESS YOU EAT THE FLESH OF THE SON OF MAN AND DRINK HIS BLOOD, YOU HAVE NO LIFE IN YOU.” (53)
“I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE (48). THIS IS THE BREAD THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN. YOUR FOREFATHERS ATE MANNA AND DIED, BUT HE WHO FEEDS ON THIS BREAD WILL LIVE FOREVER.” (58)
Their complaint was this teaching seemed HARD to them. As we see in v. 52, they took these words very literally, saying, “HOW CAN THIS MAN GIVE US HIS FLESH TO EAT?” Taken literally, the idea is repugnant, against God’s law, and physically impossible.
Taken as a figure of speech, it was meaningless to them. They did not understand the symbolism Jesus used. Further, Jesus’ reference to their FOREFATHERS might have made them feel defensive and a little more peevish. So, HARD = difficult. The teaching was difficult to understand and accept.
John also wrote they were GRUMBLING and offended by what Jesus said. The Greek word translated as GRUMBLING can also be rendered “complaining, murmuring.” They bellyached, but not to Jesus
When operating in our flesh alone - that is, without spiritual insight - it’s easy for us to take offense. Maybe they felt Jesus was trying to make them look ignorant. Jesus was not responsible for offending them; they chose to take offense at His words. As a result, they did not BELIEVE and He called them on it (64).
Jesus’ reply revealed four more truths about Himself.
He predicted He would ASCEND TO WHERE HE WAS BEFORE. John told us in chapter one where Jesus was before, and that was with God the Father. John’s gospel does not tell us about the Ascension of Jesus but we read about it at the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts. It marked the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. This is a proof of the divine side of Jesus’ nature; He existed before all creation and participated in creation. Jesus is telling them He is God but they’re not having it.
Their complaints were materialistic (of the FLESH) but the Spirit’s contributions bring life. They missed the symbolism in His words because they had no sense of the Spirit’s testimony in what Jesus was saying. Jesus clearly informed him of the spiritual origin of His teaching and promised that those who believed them would have LIFE.
We saw in 2:24-25 Jesus knew the content of people’s hearts but here He reveals this supernatural insight to them. He said, “SOME OF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE.” Jesus said this before many of them turned away and left Him, predicting and explaining their response before it happened. Jesus knew FROM THE BEGINNING who would turn and walk away. He also knew which of the Twelve would be His betrayer.
He repeated what He said in verse 44; it was impossible to come to the father apart from His words. Many of His listeners supposed they were in God the Father’s good graces because they were descendants of Abraham. Jesus exposed that assumption as false. The truth is, there is no relationship with God the Father without believing His words.
2. Do not turn your back on Jesus. (66-71)
This was the last straw for MANY OF those who had claimed to be HIS DISCIPLES. In chapter two we saw the superficial faith of those who were wowed by His miracles. In chapter six we see the superficial faith of those who wanted another miraculous meal.
Jesus exposed their motives in v. 26: “I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, YOU ARE LOOKING FOR ME, NOT BECAUSE YOU SAW MIRACULOUS SIGNS BUT BECAUSE YOU ATE THE LOAVES AND HAD YOUR FILL.” If He had continued to feed them and ask for nothing in return, they would have hung around. As it was, I guess you can say they couldn’t “stomach” the truth!
Jesus asked the essential question: “Do you want to leave me too?” It’s a question each of us answers daily by the choices we make. We’ve established Jesus knew people’s hearts, so this is not a question He asked for information’s sake. There may have been some frustration or other emotion behind this, but I believe His purpose in asking is to draw out His disciples and give them a chance to declare faith.
Peter gave the correct answer. Is there frustration or disappointment in Peter’s reply, “WHERE ELSE CAN WE GO?” Even so, we have to credit Peter with having the faith to realize two important things:
“YOU HAVE THE WORDS OF LIFE.” This statement implies Jesus alone has the WORDS that lead to LIFE. There are all kinds of things competing for our attention but only Jesus has the WORDS OF LIFE.
“WE BELIEVE AND KNOW YOU ARE THE HOLY ONE OF GOD.” This is how we are saved: the Holy Spirit works in every life to draw us to Jesus. By belief in the works and words of Jesus, we gain access to God the Father. By faith we accept the salvation Jesus provided for us and receive the forgiveness of God the Father. We then have life eternal.
Jesus affirmed Peter’s statement of faith as true, as if He’d said, “I hear you and that’s why I chose you to be my TWELVE.” However, He also knew that one of the Twelve was not faithful; worse, he was a DEVIL. The word DEVIL means “slanderer” and is not usually used to refer to a human being. Here it is a figure of speech to show how diabolical Judas was being.
John’s editorial comment in v. 71 explains who the unnamed DEVIL was and why he was devilish. John 13:2 says THE DEVIL PROMPTED JUDAS to betray Jesus. In 13:27 we read Satan ENTERED INTO Judas. This does not excuse Judas’ choices; it merely explains how he was able to betray Jesus.
Following Jesus is necessary; it is not easy.
We spoke briefly at the beginning about opposition to our faith coming from outsiders. This event reminds us that sometimes people who claim to be disciples oppose and reject the teaching of Jesus. It’s necessary to remind ourselves that current situation exists in part because the Church in America allowed it to happen. We dozed peacefully at the wheel and wonder how we landed in the ditch!
The American Church will most effectively resist the conductors of culture to the degree we choose to follow Jesus truthfully. We must take up the message Peter defined in vs. 68+69, without any compromise with this culture. We must affirm, with our words and deeds, that Jesus is the sole means of eternal life, the HOLY ONE OF GOD. This message must go out by our love and be proven by our integrity. Friends, this must happen as millions of convinced Christians live their daily lives in the Holy Spirit. We must give our all to Jesus but not give an inch to the world.
Greek Lexicon, Walter Bauer.