Many Disciples Desert Jesus


‘When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this?’ Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?’ John 6:60-62

In these verses, we see the followers who sought Jesus after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand are being discussed. These people seem confused by what Jesus has said and they now count the cost of following Jesus and find they aren’t willing to pay the price.

The Jews with the preconceived ideas of what the Messiah would be like and what His plan would be weren’t pleased with this revelation of the Messiah which asked for commitment, Jesus doesn’t fit their bill, and so, once again they grumble.

Jesus asked, ‘Do you take offense at this?’ in other words, what if you see Me ascend into heaven, would that make any difference? Those who had put a crudely literal interpretation on His words were disgusted. The law forbids the drinking of blood, meat had to be specially prepared to meet the law’s requirements. John 6:48-58.

The blood of an animal must be drained before the flesh may be eaten, Leviticus 3:17 / Leviticus 7:26 / Leviticus 17:10–14 / Deuteronomy 12:15-16 / Deuteronomy 12:20- 24. Yet if they had bothered to think back to the reason for this rule they might have understood, Leviticus 17:11.

Jesus is saying, ‘I am atoning for your sins’.

The centrality of the crucifixion of Jesus as the only protection for sinners and the only way for salvation was to prove an offence not only for these here but also for many more in the future, 1 Corinthians 1:18 / 1 Corinthians 1:23.

This is what we see happening here in our text, they couldn’t or wouldn’t accept that their Messiah would have to die on a cross.

‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’ John 6:63-65

These verses bring out the thought or question regarding faith. Does man’s faith come from within himself? Or are we led to faith by the Spirit of God?

John 6:65 may be read to suggest that God gives faith which leads to eternal life, but this leads to the question of predestination. John 6:45 tells us that all who listen and learn come to Jesus.

Jesus can’t be telling us to literally eat His flesh and blood for He now says in order to clarify the point that the flesh is no help at all, we cannot, by eating the flesh of Jesus, gain anything. But the sacrifice spiritually accepted by God can give us eternal life, this tells us that the Spirit gives life, the Spirit is active in the heart before and after a person commits themselves to God, Ephesians 2:1-3.

The true understanding is, that the Spirit is waiting to help the willing heart examine the evidence, but if a person is dead set against the Gospel, even the Spirit of God can only stand by helpless. The Spirit has been involved in ensuring we have the message of the Gospel to read and understand and listen to, He will help us if we strive to understand the message and will help us if we’re willing to apply the message. The teacher teaches all who accept will be saved, and all who reject will be lost. Mark 16:6 / Thessalonians 1.

‘After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.’ John 6:66

Notice the text says, ‘after this,’ which literally means as a consequence of Jesus’ teaching, many of His disciples left. I imagine that this would have been heartbreaking for Jesus, they have just walked away from the very man who offers eternal life. He obviously taught what He taught in order to filter out those who were genuine followers from those who were following for the physical benefits.

The Messiah they wanted was a Messiah who would make things easy for them, who would be a powerful earthly ruler, who would miraculously feed and clothe them, a nice easy road to follow. They were looking to Jesus as some kind of ‘social benefits office’.

In our Christian lives, there’s a good chance that we will see many people come to Christ but after a time they just get up and leave, because the commitment needed to live the Christian life becomes too much for them. Luke 14:25-33.

The road Jesus offers won’t be an easy road to some earthly Utopia but a road that may demand suffering and self-denial, or self-sacrifice just as Jesus gave Himself. Matthew 7:13-14 / 2 Timothy 3:12. His teaching tested their faith, with Him there was no compromise, notice this in John 6:41. In the context here we see the crowd turned away because they didn’t want this kind of Messiah.

‘So, Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’ John 6:67-69

Jesus has just witnessed many of His regular followers giving up and turning around and He now gives His innermost circle the opportunity to examine themselves and ensure they’re willing to continue on the road. It’s also an opportunity for them to be tested, they had an opportunity to make a conscious decision at this point.

Peter answers on behalf of them all, and shows an understanding of His Master’s teaching, although not, perhaps, on behalf of Judas. People go everywhere to find answers to life’s big questions, where did we come from? What’s the point of us being here? What happens when we die? I’m not suggesting that Peter went everywhere to find these answers, but he certainly knew that Jesus Himself was the answer.

How do we move from believing to knowing?

Notice how their belief has grown into knowing, it’s one thing believing that Jesus existed, died, was buried and rose again, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 but it’s another thing knowing. We know because there were reliable witnesses, 1 Corinthians 15:5-8. See also Luke 1:1-4.

We grow from believing to knowing by simply investigating, we look for evidence inside and outside of the Scriptures. And when we have investigated everything thoroughly, we come to know with certainty that everything we’ve ever been taught is accurate, it becomes certain, 1 John 5:13-15.

Peter states the common belief of the twelve, that He is ‘the Holy One of God’. They all, by not objecting to Peter’s answer, commit themselves to follow Christ. This phrase ‘Holy One of God’ is only used one other time when Jesus healed the demoniac by casting the demons into the swine. Mark 12:34 / Luke 4:34.

‘Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.’ John 6:70-71

This reveals a deep dark secret, Jesus knows which one of the disciples is a betrayer. The full impact can only be seen and understood as we see Judas, staying in apparent full agreement with Peter while the rest of the crowd of followers left. John explains what is meant, the betrayer was a chosen apostle, and like the rest, he was given miraculous powers, Luke 6:13, yet Jesus calls him ‘devil’ ‘diabolos’, accuser, slanderer. This was one of the names of Satan himself.

Jesus doesn’t say that Judas was this when he first became an apostle but rather we see that he was a covetous man, ‘pleonexia’. John 12:4-6 / John 13:20-27. John is writing in retrospect; He and the others didn’t know this at the time.

We don’t know the hearts of people, but God does, we don’t know what’s really going on in each other’s hearts, but God does, Jeremiah 17:10. People will become lifelong followers of Christ and others will fall away or sell Jesus out, but we don’t know who will last and who won’t, but God does.

We shouldn’t be in the business of prejudging people’s eternal destination, but we should love them anyway, just like Jesus did with all those who left Him and just as He did with Judas who was going to later betray Him.