St. John’s Gospel (19) - Bread of Life (5) - Responses (John 6:60-71)
St John’s Gospel (19): Bread of Life (part 5) (John 6:60-71)
John 6:60–71: Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” 66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.
The Response of the Crowd - In this final section of John 6, we see the result of the events (the multiplication of bread and the crossing of the sea) combined with Jesus’s teaching in the synagogue. Jesus repeatedly offered Himself as the bread of life and that He would give Himself (flesh and blood) for the life of the world. Despite this free offer of Himself in the grace of the gospel, the crowd began rejecting Him when He called for total faith in Him. They were happy to follow for the benefits of healing, bread, and wonders, but they turned away from an exclusive Messiah. They were following because of the benefits of the flesh.
The Response of Many “Disciples” - Even His “disciples” (not actually “learners” mathetes) perhaps some of the “seventy” (Luke 10:1), began to question His teaching rather than become more loyal. This led them to grumble (6:61), just as the crowds before (6:41). They stumbled at His exclusive claims which included His promise that His flesh would be given for the life of the world. This refers ultimately to His cross-work. He challenges them that if these claims cause them to stumble, how much more would they stumble if they were exposed to the true glory of the Son of Man (v62). At this point He makes clear the central spiritual meaning of all that He had said: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (v63). The flesh of the hearers is motivated by self-interest. Only the work of the Spirit gives life through the Father’s drawing to Jesus. Jesus knew they would turn away but He kept speaking.
The Response of the Twelve - In the face of the departure of the crowds and of many “disciples” (66), Jesus explained the sovereign working of the Father as the cause behind their unbelief (65). He addressed the Twelve on their commitment. Will you also leave? Peter’s answer stands as a righteous word in the midst of unbelieving disloyalty: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (69-70). Jesus’s answer expresses the awful reality of apostasy: “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?”
>The grace of coming to Christ is irresistible. This is the reason ultimately for our faith.
>The motivations of the flesh always draw people away from Christ. The pattern is questioning the Word, grumbling, and then disloyal departure.
>The Spirit is the life-giver and this happens in conjunction with the Word. Those who follow Jesus have life from the Spirit and abide in His Word.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more