Jesus had many hard sayings and teachings throughout the Gospels. He spoke some difficult and downright harsh words to people He loved. He wanted more than anything else for people to receive His words which brought life, joy, peace and happiness. However when he did speak the words of truth the listeners were often offended or angered and either sought to harm him or abandoned Him altogether. Maybe you know how Jesus felt because you have had a time where you spoke a hard saying to someone and they responded in a way that was not positive and may have walked away from the relationship or maybe event sought to bring harm to you in one way or another.
In today’s passage we will look at one event where this is the case for Jesus. He continues to talk about being the bread of life/heaven (the truth) and in doing so a large group of what seemed to be supporters left him because they were offended. Jesus loved His followers so much that He often spoke about difficult things that were hard to digest but ultimately they were words that bring life and point people to the Father.
Read John 6:52 – 71
Verse 52: Unfortunately the Jews could not get their heads around the concept of Jesus being the Bread who came down from heaven (let’s face it it’s not a very easy concept to understand); and they couldn’t grasp that Jesus wasn’t promoting cannibalism either. They were taking him literally and refusing to see with spiritual eyes.
In verses 53 – 58 Jesus repeats five times about those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have eternal life. As we have seen the bread is symbolic of Jesus’ body, or his flesh that was broken or given on the cross of Calvary for the sins of the world. Jesus is showing that all He is doing on earth is leading up to the sacrifice on the cross. This is the Father’s will for the Son. Eating and drinking are ways of partaking or providing nourishment. When we eat and drink Jesus Christ we are getting spiritual nourishment or even the means to eternal life.
Verse 53: “I tell you the truth, unless you partake (eat and drink Jesus), you have no life.” Some believe this is a teaching of Jesus on the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist and I can see how one could come to that conclusion but I think He is talking about something else.
Verse 54: When you compare verse 54 with verse 40 you can see how we come to the conclusion that Jesus is talking about how eating and drinking his flesh and blood is synonymous to saving faith.
Verse 40 – “Those who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”
Verse 54 – “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
I can conclude by the similarities in statements (and that they are in reference to the same thing… eternal life) eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood is equivalent or symbolic of looking to the Son and believing in Him. As a Protestant I do not see any salvific occurrences in taking communion. When we take the Lord’s Supper we are commemorating or remembering the act that leads to salvation (Jesus on the cross of Calvary) and the new life it brings with His sacrifice and this is why I don’t think He is speaking of The Lord’s Supper.
Verses 55 - 56: Jesus once again clarifies what he is saying… His flesh/body/bread is the true food and his blood is the true drink. This basically means that all who believe in faith in Jesus Christ are truly getting to the source of life. If one eats and drinks of Jesus (figuratively speaking) then this person is in turn is abiding in Jesus and Jesus abides in the person. The one who believes now belongs to Jesus or more simply we are kept in his care. Nothing could be closer or more intimate than this. When we eat literal food, we take it into our very being; and it becomes a part of us. When we (believe in faith) in Jesus as our Redeemer, He comes into our lives to abide, and we, too, abide (continually dwell) in Him.
Verse 57: It is because of the will of the Father that Jesus came to earth and the Father is the true source of life. Since this is the case anyone who feeds or consumes like solid food Jesus will also have that source of life in them. If we are in Christ we now have life because He is one with the source of life; the Father.
Verse 58: Jesus is the bread of life. He is the source of true contentment, satisfaction and life. He is greater than the manna that the Israelites feasted on in the desert for 40 years. This special manna, which was given to the people by God, was only a temporary thing for the Jews. It satisfied their hunger for the moment but ultimately left them hungry again. Plus the manna was not life giving like the bread from heaven (Jesus). The Jews who feasted on manna and still died eventually, however anyone who eats of the bread of life will never die (spiritually speaking).
Verse 60, 61: This whole talk obviously offended many disciples. It is important to note here that the disciples spoken of are not the twelve chosen disciples who devoted their lives to following Christ. The word disciple simply means follower or learner. Apparently one can be called a disciple and still not be a true convert of Jesus Christ. These people loved following Jesus when he was performing miracles and feeding them but now that He is actually stating that just being a casual observer is not what Jesus requires from his followers. The listeners took great offense in this all of what Jesus is saying and said, “This is a hard saying…” They were saying essentially this is a very demanding thing Jesus is requiring of us and many were offended that He would even demand anything from them. So like most casual followers of Jesus found this too much and abandoned him.
This seems to be the case with many today. Much of what Jesus talks about in the Bible is either too demanding (i.e. one must take up his cross and follow me.) or offensive (i.e. No one comes to the Father except through me.) even after 2,000 years. In a nutshell Jesus is saying for one to have eternal life one must put their complete faith and trust in Him. This takes deep commitment on our part to continually abide in Him. We are not called to be spectators but are called to be part of the calling of God in our lives. This requires movement, it requires dedication and loyalty and this for many is too much of a demand.
This is a hard and demanding statement Jesus makes yet he loves us enough to tell us what we need to have eternal life and to abide in us. Jesus isn’t saying the hard saying to make it seem hopeless; he says the hard things to offer us hope.
· Jesus asks if what he says offends them.
· We see soon enough that for many it is was too demanding and they abandoned him and go back to the ordinary “regular” lives.
Verse 62 - 66: One of two possibilities could be the case about Jesus’ statement in verse 62. 1) Jesus’ (eventual) ascension will make the offense even greater; or 2) Jesus’ ascension will remove or reduce the offense.
In answer to Jesus’ question many answered Him by their actions and turning away from Him and abandoning Him.
Verse 67: Jesus turns to the twelve and asks if they plan on leaving as well and Peter answers beautifully, “Lord where can we go? We are devoted to you and we believe you are the chosen Messiah. We have left everything to follow you. We have come too far to merely leave you at this point. We are in this for the long haul.”
If only our response would be as Peter’s when faced with the hard sayings of Jesus? I admit there are many things in Jesus’ teaching that I don’t have a clear grasp on and others that are quite honestly very demanding. Yet I make no claim to know all there is to know about Jesus, theology, doctrine or the Bible. I simply know that even up to this chapter Jesus has made it crystal clear that faith, belief, trust and commitment to him are clearly the key to everlasting life. So we are faced with some questions today… Do the words of Jesus offend you? Is what he asks of you too demanding? Will you abandon Jesus as soon as your faith is tested or something happens that you don’t like? Or are you like the 12 who stayed with Jesus and acknowledges “Lord, where else can I go? Without you life is empty and meaningless. I have way too much invested in you and I believe the words you spoke are words of truth and life and not an offense. I am in this until the end.”
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Jn 6:56). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 300 – 301 Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.