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.)
This is the conclusion of a lengthy lesson that Jesus taught on how his followers are to be committed to him and to his words. He had used some very memorable statements saying that he is the bread of life who came down from heaven and that unless people ate his flesh and drank his blood, they would not have eternal life. We understand that he was not talking about cannibalism but was using a figure of speech to emphasize that our connection to him was to be as vital as our own connection to food and drink. Just as food and drink sustain our lives, “eating and drinking” Jesus means that we are to be sustained and renewed by remaining in him through faith which is created and strengthened by the word of God. Here he emphasizes that the words he has spoken to us are full of the Spirit and life.
We cannot emphasize enough how this is true. Consider how important words are to us and how they impact our lives.
We may be able to indicate our basic needs as infants with cries and pouty faces, but it isn’t until we start to talk that our caregivers have a better understanding of what we want.
We can indicate whether we agree or disagree with someone by what we say or write.
It is through words that we reveal ourselves most clearly to others.
Today we communicate through the spoken word, the written word (hard copy or electronic). If it weren’t for the spoken word, my standing in front of you today would have little or no impact on you.
Words can be uttered in different tones, volumes, speed, and even sung.
By our words we can command others to action or soothe their souls.
The power of words has been described by the familiar adage: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
Certainly God’s Word hold much more power than our own utterances.
The power of the word is emphasized in the opening verses of the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” How? “God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.”
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.
This day at your creating word.
First o’er the earth the light was poured:
O Lord, this day upon us shine,
And fill our souls with light divine.
Our verse of the day last week emphasized the power of God’s word to impact our lives.
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Jesus impacted people in several ways. Certainly he did many miracles such as the feeding of the 5000 which took place before this conclusion to his teaching on the bread of life. He also demonstrated personally his compassion and his determination to others. But he also used his words.
His words were so powerful, that when he rebuked the wind and the waves, they obeyed him. They had no choice.
The same is not true when it comes to how people responded to what he said.
And it wasn’t because he was a lame speaker. “The people were amazed because he spoke as one who had authority.” He was indeed very influential. Sometimes I wish that we had audio or video recordings of his lessons.
Ideally, when we speak, those to whom we speak would always do exactly as we tell them or believe exactly what we say. How realistic is this?
Have you interacted with a three year old lately? It amazes me that even though I am the adult and I know better, how often my own grand children will respond to my words with a defiant “No!” It is no wonder then that adults also do not always believe what I tell them or act the way I encourage or command them. The most frustrating thing about being a man whose work involves words (preaching sermons, teaching classes, counseling people, writing articles) is that I never seem to get 100% cooperation. Never have and never will.
Perhaps you have experienced the same frustration when your words are powerless to influence others the way you desire.
It is frustrating. But not surprising. Jesus, the Son of God, experienced the same thing as the conclusion to this section emphasizes.
He had just taught a powerful lesson on how important it is to remain in his life giving words and had promised that those who do will live, God will remain with them, they would have eternal life, and that he would raise them up on the last day. He promises heaven to those who trust in him. But what kind of a response did he get?
These responses come from those who followed him. “Disciples” refers to a larger group than those known as the twelve disciples.
Verse 60: “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Verse 61: Jesus notes that they are offended. He predicts his ascension into heaven.
Jesus knew that some of them did not believe in him.
He repeats an earlier observation that those who do believe in him are drawn by God the Father.
Verse 66: Many (not just some) of his disciples left him and no longer followed him.
How disappointing this must have been. We get disappointed when little children say “No” or adults disagree with us. Those in leadership positions are dismayed when those they are called to lead are stiff necked and rebellious or just fade away. This happens when . . .
Students don’t listen to their teachers.
Employees don’t follow their bosses instruction.
Those in the military disobey orders.
Husbands don’t obey their wives (I mean the other way around).
This even happens in the church.
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
The refusal on the part of those who are led to listen to the words of their leaders is a major reason as to why leaders become discouraged and leave. In fact, when Jesus sent out his disciples later, he told them how to respond when people would not listen to the word of God.
1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
We can thank God that Jesus never quit. He was determined to carry out his mission even though he knew that often his words of spirit and life were needed and that sinful mankind needed to have him live and die for us.
At the end of this section Jesus lays it on the line and asks the Twelve a very pointed question. As they watched the majority of Jesus’ followers leave questioning his words, grumbling at his call to commitment, and showing a lack of faith; he asked them “You do not want to leave too, do you?”
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.”
Those who have been drawn by the Father to trust in Jesus will demonstrate an undying commitment to Jesus no matter what the circumstances. Nothing would deter them except for (in the case of Judas) their own lack of faith.
To what end? They would receive the blessings promised earlier in this chapter.
Perhaps this is best summarized with these words.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” 28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”