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.)
(John 6:60-71 NIV)
In our last session, John revealed that Jesus was teaching and interacting with the crowd in the Capernaum synagogue. The group had tracked Jesus down after He fed the masses on the other side of the lake. They were after free bread; Jesus offered them eternal life via Himself, the Bread of Life.
Jesus told the crowd that eternal life comes by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Jesus said this not once, but four times. Jesus was talking about the spiritual; they heard the literal. Jesus’ words were not exactly a pleasant Sabbath sermon.
Today we see the reaction from the crowd. Verse 60 captures their response – a statement followed by a question that demands a negative reply. Jesus knows what is in the hearts of these so-called “followers”, and He asks them directly, “Does this offend you?”. The Greek word for “offend” is “skandalizō”, from which we get the English word “scandalize”. Jesus was not worried that He had hurt the crowd’s feelings, or that some might leave. Instead, He was asking if they were shocked and scandalized by what He said.
Jesus does not stop there. He continues on: “Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!”. Jesus is again claiming that He came from heaven, and is the Messiah. But the crowd knew Jesus since He was born – they knew His dad and mom and their families. How could this be? More crazy talk!
Verse 63 is the key to understanding what Jesus was saying. He was talking about spiritual things, about eternal life, not about cannibalism or manna or anything else. Jesus was reiterating Moses’ words from Deuteronomy 8:3, that life is not eating and drinking for the body, but for the soul. True life, eternal life, is about being in community with God.
In verse 66, John captures the reaction of the crowd – they voted with their feet and left.
Jesus then turned to His chosen disciples, the Twelve, and asked them if they wanted to leave also. Jesus’ question implies their answer would be the same as the others – that they would leave as well.
Peter speaks up on behalf of the Twelve with his timeless quote: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (verse 68)
Peter’s words were not victorious, hands-in-the-air, celebrations. Instead, they were more words of quiet desperation, with no options left. The Twelve knew that Jesus was Messiah. They had to stay, even with Jesus saying things they could not understand.
John ends this chapter by recording that Jesus affirmed that He chose them, even though one would turn on Him. John hints that Jesus is speaking of Judas Iscariot (though John has not gotten to that point in the story yet).
Jesus offers Himself as the Bread of Life. May we take in His words as food for our souls. May we let His Spirit permeate our being like blood through our body, bringing life to every part, from the largest issues to the smallest needs.