Three Painful Questions
Lord, many may leave, but it is my determination to stay on.
Read John 6:60–71
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet 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. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
70 Then 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.)
New International Version (NIV)
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“God has not promised us an easy journey, but he has promised us a safe journey” (William C. Miller).
The mood changes from high elation (wanting to make Jesus king; John 6:15) to stout rejection. Why? Because people can accept Jesus as a good and powerful man, or even a spiritual one. However, when he speaks of being God’s Son whose mission is to give eternal life, he discloses his true nature. Jesus recognizes that even his own disciples are struggling here: “Does this offend you?” (61). Were they already canceling their career plans with Jesus? His God-talk with its exclusive life-and-death claims is not what they expected. “They were ready to dominate but not to die” (S. Guthrie). Though they have seen only a fraction of Jesus’ mission which will take him to the cross and back to glory, already Jesus is proving too much God! Many disciples in the crowd now leave in disappointment.
Poignantly, the second question asks the twelve whether they will leave, too
(67), even while the Greek negative particle that is used shows that Jesus is urging them not to leave. Though no one can come to Jesus unless God
enables them (37,44,65), believers have a responsibility, a call to stay close to Christ. Simon Peter blurts out that there is no other option but to stay (68). The reason? No one else speaks the words of eternal life.
The third question (70) soberly reminds us that Jesus chooses us, yet the
obligation to stay close remains ours. Even one of his closest disciples will betray him. I remember a minister who shared with me how his ministry
seemed empty, that he was pretending all the time and honestly wondered if
he had ever really believed. Following close is not always easy, but the one
who completely knows us urges us, gently, not to leave. Jesus longs for us to stay.
Reflect quietly on whether Jesus is asking any of us: “You do not want to leave, too, do you?” How can we apply this positively?
Lord, sometimes Your words are hard sayings (60). But like Peter says, where else can I turn? Grant me a better understanding.