Today: [John 6:35-71] Will You Also Go Away? I don’t think any other discourse in the gospels discloses to us the heart of Christ as much as today’s passage. In John 6 Part 2 Jesus confronts and angry, hungry crowd and declares Himself to be the Bread from Heaven. They murmur at Him and He presses His point, insisting unless they drink His blood and eat His flesh they will have no life in them. Their chagrin is instant and decisive. As one, the multitude walks away. Turning to His own 12 closest followers Jesus asks the question, will you also go away?
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[John 6:35-71] 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? 43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. 47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. 59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. 60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard [this], said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 [What] and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. 70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 He spake of Judas Iscariot [the son] of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
In verse 35 Jesus declares Himself to be the bread of life. When we come to Jesus we shall never hunger. When we believe on Him we shall never thirst. He isn’t talking about natural hunger or thirst, but spiritual hunger and spiritual thirst. Who Jesus is in your heart will pacify every sense of need for outward things. To the people that Jesus is speaking to, hunger and thirst were everyday realities. In addition to this, they were in a remote place where water and food were not available. They had experienced the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and were looking to Jesus to repeat the miracle. Jesus is saying “let Me talk to you about a deeper truth…” These are hungry, thirsty people. There were women and children in the crowd, tugging on mom’s sleeve saying “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty” and here is Jesus, giving a Sunday school lesson. What a compelling thing must have moved Him to do so!
In v. 36 Jesus says to them that they have seen Him and still did not believe. In other words, He had given testimony to His identity by signs, miracles and wonders but they still did not believe in Him. All that do come to Him, He will in no wise cast out. Now to the people in the crowd, coming to Jesus was simply a matter of making your way through the press and sitting as close to Jesus’ feet as possible, and deciding never to leave His side. How do we come to Him? By becoming Christians? By adopting Christian practices and a religious lifestyle? The word used here for “come” means to come from one place to another. To make an appearance. To follow after. It is important to understand this because coming to Jesus is the basis of not being cast out. Whatever the implications of being cast out, I simply know that I don’t ever want to experience it. Whatever coming to Jesus means to Him it must mean the same thing to us. I know this, it is more than a respectful nod to His person and His teachings while we go merrily on our way, living life and making our choices on our own initiatives.
How do we come from one place to another, as it apply to our coming to Jesus? To the crowd, He was just a few steps away. How do we come to Him, how do we put in our appearance before Him. The answer is we come to Him in prayer. This is a sobering truth, when you consider that prayerlessness is the bane of Christianity. Do I find you praying? Is prayer your breathing in and breathing out? Are you giving evidence in your life and lifestyle to the constant awareness and interaction with this disembodied presence, this invisible someone we can only subjectively experience in indefinable ways as Jesus the Christ, living in our hearts by faith? Are we following after Him, not just implementing our understanding of His teachings, but responding in a visceral way to His mind being communicated to us by the esoteric medium of that quality of presence we call the Holy Spirit but cannot prove other than by our testimony that He even exists? This is coming to Him.
The Jews murmur at Jesus because He says He is the bread from heaven. They actually called it manna, meaning “what is it?”. In identifying Himself as the Manna of God, He is saying that thing, that something, that indefinable longing on the inside of you that has been driving you all your life to find some sense of satisfaction and security, some sense of wholeness and meaning to life, Jesus is saying “I am that, and this is that, and that’s all there is!” The Jews rejected His sayings because they had wrapped up their lives and their existence in a religious system that defined them specifically in terms of contrasting how special they were in comparison to everybody else. The very heart of Judaism as it existed at that time was an “I’m right because I am better than you because I was born Jewish!” Jesus is dismissing the whole of their religious identity, saying that all of man is concluded in sin and rejected by God and could only find consolation and clemency at His feet. There is no other substitute, no other basis for finding one’s peace in life but at the feet of Jesus. This is so compelling that we can hear the soft refrain as the organist plays quietly “just as I am …”
The Jews angrily reject Jesus’ words and bring up His past, dismissing Him as a fraud, and impugning His mother Mary and Joseph as well in the process. Jesus raises His voice saying “Murmur not among yourselves!” He goes on to say “no man comes to the Father except the Spirit draw Him….” This one statement has challenged theologians for centuries. God is always first. No man seeks after God in his own right. The only reason we have any concern for our souls in any way is because God chose to compel us to seek Him, exercising what John Calvin called IRRESISTIBLE GRACE. One of my mentors describes this as the Holy Spirit acting as the “hound of heaven” dogging our steps until He captures us, puts His foot in our neck and says “do you give up!” And we have the audacity to walk away from that experience, claiming that we found the Lord. We didn’t find God. We weren’t looking for God. He was looking for us. He believed in us before we ever believed in Him. Only the hymnist can come close to extolling this mercy of God:
Such Love! Such boundless love. Such love! Such boundless love! That God would choose a sinner such as I how wonderful is love like this!
In the midst of the argument and the hungry disgruntled people Jesus stands in their midst, fending off their expectations, declaring plaintively “I am that bread of life! Verily, Verily I say unto you, he that believeth on Me has everlasting life!” This only inflames the crowd and Jesus presses His urgent spirit upon the people insisting:
Except you eat My flesh and drink My blood you have NO LIFE in you!
It is astounding to me that theologians and teachers for centuries have suggested that Jesus was painting a picture of cannibalism to those standing before Him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those people, those murmuring, hungry people would have instantly understood that Jesus is speaking to them in covenantal language that was as common to their everyday life as sidewalks and cellphones are to us today. He was saying to them “unless you come into blood covenant with Me, and all you are becomes Mine and all I am becomes yours – unless you abandon your life utterly and totally to Me – you have NO LIFE to look forward to…”
That was it for the crowd. They could believe for random miracles and loaves and fishes but there was no way they were going to uproot their lives and make themselves so utterly subject to and at the disposal of this itinerant teacher and miracle worker. What about you? Jesus turns to the 12 and says “the tour bus is loaded and leaving – will you too also go away?” He is at His limit. He will proceed no further with the questioning of man, the tepid overtures of unbelieving hearts. It’s all or nothing now, and what Jesus says to them He says to us – is this your point of departure? Up to this point they had followed Him, expecting an earthly kingdom to soon be established and He is asking them are you will to abandon not only your life but your expectations and your agenda and follow Him unconditionally wherever He leads into whatever circumstance questioning nothing?
Peter’s answer is surprisingly tepid. “Lord, to whom shall we go – for you have the words of life!” This is not a resounding endorsement or reaffirmation of their commitment. It was Peter saying, “Lord you are making us uncomfortable, and in reality if there was someone else bringing the words of life that you have given us we would leave you and follow him, but since you are the only one then we are stuck with you…” You would think Jesus would soften His tone but He does not. He simply turns His heel, shaking His head saying as much to Himself as to them “Have not I chosen you 12 and one of you has a devil?” I don’t know about you but were I standing in that small huddle of men as Jesus strides away, the stress of that moment would made me throw up. What must Judas have felt in that moment? He knew what was in his heart, do we know what is in ours? The Master is leaving, quickly now – we must make up our minds. Will we follow Him, or leave with the crowd?
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