60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 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. 64 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.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:60-71)


Music

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The Scene:

Jesus was in the synagogue teaching and had just finished saying things like, “...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” and “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:53, 55)

Difficult words to accept

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60)

By way of observation, Jesus isn’t talking to people who we would necessarily define as unbelievers. He is in a synagogue speaking to “church folk”. In fact, John refers to them as disciples. These were people who thought they were following Jesus. Here’s the reality, there remains the possibility to think your are a follower of Jesus, but buy into a “gospel” based on human effort and not discover the gospel of grace.

Earlier in this setting, John 6:27, Jesus had instructed the people to not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. That was the beginning of the very conversation we find ourselves in the middle of. Naturally, the people asked, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6: 28) Jesus responded this way, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6: 29)

This, in essence, is the hard saying. We read words like ‘eat my flesh’ and ‘drink my blood’ thinking these are the hard sayings. But in stating these words Jesus is implying that all we need for salvation, for eternal life is found in him. That’s why he said, “…whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.” All we need is him. That’s the concept that people truly reject. They reject the idea that they cannot contribute to their salvation that it rests entirely in Jesus. People think things like: Who can listen to this? What do you mean by saying the work of God is to believe in Jesus? I believe in Jesus, but I’m also a good person and do a lot of good things, shouldn’t that count toward my eternal life?

The Spirit gives life; the flesh is no help

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?  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. (John 6:61-63)

First of all, Jesus knows our thoughts. He knows all things. He understands the roadblocks that detour our faith. These people believed in him to a point, but they questioned his authority. That’s why he said, “what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” In other words, what if you saw me return to God the Father, would you believe then? He knows our hearts and understands what’s standing in the way of a saving belief in him.

The greatest and most common obstacle in the way of authentic faith in Christ is ourselves. We want to be able to earn our salvation, but we can’t. Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us of this: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Our salvation is by God’s grace and not the result of anything we do. We can’t take any credit for our salvation; the flesh is no help at all.

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 6:34-65)

You cannot pave your own path to God. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Now, contrast that with the word we Just read from John 6:65: “…no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” It’s a paradox; we can’t come to God or be saved from His wrath except through Jesus. On the other hand, we cannot come to Jesus unless it has been granted us by the Father to do so. The Father grants us access to Jesus on the basis of real belief in Jesus, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit that illuminates our minds to believe in Jesus. It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is no help at all.

Some walk away

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

Many people cannot accept something they don’t deserve and can’t earn. Jesus is asking us if we’re willing to trust him entirely; not believe about him, but to believe in him. At some point in your life you will hear the voice of Jesus asking, “Will you believe in me; do you trust me alone for your salvation?” See, it’s not a matter of believing about Jesus. It’s not even a matter of believing that he can save you. It’s a matter of trusting him and him alone for your salvation.

There’s the story of Charles Blondin, a daredevil that would cross the Niagara Falls on a tightrope in the middle of the 17th century. He wouldn’t just cross the falls, but would do other amazing feats while crossing. One time he carried a stove out to the middle of the rope, made a fire and cooked an omelet. It was estimated that Blondin had crossed Niagara Falls 300 times.

On one occasion, he walked across pushing a wheelbarrow full of weight. He was greeted by cheering and excited a crowd that was amazed with his stunt. He asked the crowd if they thought he could carry someone across in the wheelbarrow. The crowd cheered with approval. They really believed he could carry anyone across the rope in his wheelbarrow. He found a you man in the crowd and asked him, “Sir, do you believe I could carry you across the fall in my wheelbarrow?” “Yes, of coarse could.” “Get in”, Blondin replied. The man refused to get in.

It’s one thing to believe a man can cross the fall on a tight rope or even carry someone across safely in a wheelbarrow. It’s another thing entirely to get in the wheelbarrow.

At this point in Jesus’ ministry he was asking them to get in; to trust him, but many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. It’s one thing to believe about Jesus and another to believe in Jesus.

To whom shall we go?

So, here’s Jesus with a hand full of his disciples. The rest of them are walking away. They’ve thrown in the towel, saying, “We can’t trust him at that level.” It’s really a make-it or break-it moment for these guys that remained. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67) Jesus is asking them, “Are you all in; will you trust me completely?” 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 6:68-70)

My prayer is that today you can echo the word of Peter, “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.”  Peter is saying, “We used to believe, but now we know.” There’s a difference between knowing Jesus can save you and knowing he has.

Maybe this is the day that Jesus is asking you, “Will you believe in me completely; will you trust me alone for your salvation”? Or like the prodigal son, maybe you have turned away and stopped pursuing Jesus. He is standing and looking for you, waiting to run to you and take you in. Will you trust him today?