John 6.56-69 Is Jesus’ teaching hard to take? 23rd August 2015
I wonder what you are like at accepting advice? We tend to like getting advice that we agree with and are not so keen on getting advice that we don’t like. One of the areas that we all get lots of advice about is what is healthy for us to eat and what is distinctly unhealthy. Somebody that I was speaking to at Cameo this week said that they had just heard how healthy it was to have toast and marmalade for breakfast. As that’s what he liked to eat anyway, he was very happy. We’re not so keen when we hear how unhealthy it is to eat lots of sugar, if we have a sweet tooth. I love cream and butter and I’m waiting for new research to tell me it’s healthy after all!
In our bible passage this morning the disciples are grumbling. They don’t like what they have heard Jesus saying and they don’t like the way it impacts on their lives. They say in verse 60, ‘This is hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ Jesus doesn’t retract what he has said to make it more palatable. Jesus goes on to explain more fully what he has been saying. The disciples were faced with a choice. Either they could
- accept what Jesus said and continue to follow him
- or they could place their own opinions over Jesus’ words to them.
We read in verse 60 that many of the disciples made the decision to turn back and no longer follow Jesus. We have that same choice.
This morning I would like us to look at:
What is this teaching that the disciples found so hard to take?
What is our reaction to this teaching of Jesus?
Do we find it hard and offensive and want to turn back? Or are we like Peter and choose to persevere in following Jesus?
Firstly, what is this teaching that the disciples found so hard to take?
Jesus was very clear that he had come from God. His words were God’s words. Jesus knew that he had come from heaven and when he had done all that God had sent him to do, he would once again return to heaven. So in verse 38 Jesus says, ‘I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
Jesus is not just a good person with a good character who has lots of good ideas about how we should live our lives. Jesus has come from God. Jesus is God. This means Jesus words to us have authority. They are truth. They are not just human opinions.
Jesus says in verse 63, ‘The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life.’
The disciples had a choice.
- They could accept Jesus’ words as the words of God, which bring life. They could choose to not only believe them but also put them into practice in their lives.
- Or they could choose to set up their own opinions over what Jesus said.
We have that same choice today. Jesus encourages us to come to him with a humble heart. A teachable heart. A heart that is ready and willing to accept Jesus’ words. The Holy Spirit will help us to do this.
What was so offensive and hard about Jesus teaching that morning in the synagogue in Capernaum which the disciples found so difficult to accept?
We saw last week that Jesus said that he is the bread of life. He says in verse 35, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Jesus had looked back to the days of the Israelites wandering in the desert on their way to the Promised Land. At that time, God had fed them with manna-a food that God had miraculously provided. But Jesus said, the Israelites had eaten that food, that manna, but eventually they had died. Jesus had said that he could give the disciples a better food. Jesus said, ‘Come to me. Feed on me as the bread of life.’ This was a picture-a metaphor of coming to Jesus and believing and trusting in him. Everybody who did this would be given eternal life. A life in relationship with God that would last for all eternity.
This offer of eternal life-a relationship with God for all eternity sounds like the most wonderful gift.
Why was this teaching of Jesus so difficult for the disciples to accept?
Jesus says in verse 63, The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. When Jesus speaks of the flesh in this verse he means that nothing that we do in our lives can mean that we deserve a relationship with God. It’s not about
- how good we are
- how nice we are
- how helpful we are
- how intelligent or well educated we are
Nothing in our fleshly lives means we deserve eternal life in relationship with God. Eternal life is a gift for God to give. He lovingly and freely gives it to everyone who comes to Jesus with a humble heart and puts their trust in him as their Lord and Saviour. It is God the Father himself who draws us to Jesus.
This teaching is offensive. Most of us like to think that we are good enough for a relationship with God. We know we are not perfect, but we think we are good enough. I can remember thinking very much like that before I became a Christian. Most of us like to think that the church is very lucky if we are a member. Jesus teaching offends our pride.
At this point, the gospel writer John tells us that many of the disciples turned back and no longer followed Jesus.
Jesus is left with only twelve disciples. He turns to them in verse 67 and says, ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’
Peter and the other disciples made a choice to persevere in following Jesus. They had come to recognise that Jesus really was from God. That he was the one through whom they could receive the offer of eternal life. That choice changed their whole lives.
The question for us is: What is our reaction to this teaching of Jesus?
Do we believe that Jesus comes from God? That he is God. He’s not just a man with a good character. A man with opinions that we can choose to accept or reject as we please.
If we do believe Jesus is God: Have we come to him as the bread of life and accepted him as our Lord and Saviour. Have we accepted the offer of eternal life? A close and personal relationship with God that will last for all eternity.
As we read through John’s gospel, we see how the disciples grew in relationship with Jesus.
- They spent time with Jesus.
- They listened to him.
- They told him what was on their hearts.
- The way they lived their lives was radically affected.
In the autumn, we are going to be investing in our relationship with Jesus through looking at some of the spiritual disciplines. We are going to be exploring how
- We can grow in listening to Jesus through he spiritual discipline of regularly reading our bibles.
- We can grow in speaking to Jesus and sharing what is on our hearts though the spiritual discipline of regular prayer
Jesus is inviting all of us into a closer relationship with him.
- God the Father’s arms are open wide. It is he who draws us to Jesus.
- It is he Holy Spirit who breathes life into Jesus’ words.
- Jesus says, ‘Come, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’