Preacher: Chibuzo Petty
Scripture: John 6:60-71
Date: July 24, 2022
Well, hello Church! It is certainly good to be with you today to share God’s Word with you all. Before I begin to teach, let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
Abba You are a God who speaks. As you spoke to your servant, John, Speak to us afresh this morning by the power of the Holy Spirit. That your Word would be alive and active to us this and each day. In our hearts and in our actions. We ask this and all things in the name of Jesus, the Christ. In whose cross we boast and behind which I hide. To you be the glory. And the people did say – Amen.
Today we are going to be exploring John 6:60-71. I’d like to read the text for us but first we need a little bit of context because this passage refers to those that precede it. The day before, Jesus feeds the five thousand. A multitude had gathered because of the Passover and the disciples were concerned about how everyone would be fed. The disciples had nothing to offer but a boy had five loaves and two fish. Jesus took the bread and gave thanks – Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, hamotzi lehem min ha’aretz; “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.” He did likewise with the fish and had the disciples distribute it to all who were there, being careful to gather up the leftovers so that there would be no waste. The people were amazed by the sign.
The next day the crowd remained and began looking for Jesus, who was now on the other side of the lake with his disciples. Knowing that they came only because they got their fill of the food that perishes, Jesus proclaimed that he was the Bread of Life – food that would never perish. This caused a great deal of grumbling among the crowd of those who had gathered. To this, Christ said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” This brings us to John 6:60-71 where folks are still grumbling and Christ’s response is certainly no more “user-friendly” than in the previous passage.
Hear now the Word of the Lord:
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.
The Word of the Lord; Thanks be to God!
Let’s study the passage verse by verse.
Those who had gathered appear to be taking Christ’s words in verse 53 literally when they say this is a hard saying. Since these words are never acted upon literally, Christ appears to be using tangible items to teach about spiritual realities. Here eating Christ’s flesh and blood seem to mean trusting in him, his teachings, and his atoning death and shedding of blood on the cross. Given the parallel themes, one could easily interpret this as connected to the Lord’s Supper. In addition to calling the saying hard, they ask “who can listen to it?” This seemingly simple question has profound consequences. By asking “who can listen to it” they are saying that it is too much for anyone, putting the blame on Christ who says these “far too difficult” things. This shows a lack of humility as they – are self-condemned – already admitting to their unwillingness to listen to Christ’s teaching. Our desire to learn from Christ is crucial in connecting our identity to him.
In response to their grumbling, Jesus continues headstrong and confronts them with the question – Do you take offense at this? Christ’s light reveals the darkness among and within those gathered. These same questions can be asked of us. Do we really have faith? Do we really trust? Do we trust Jesus even when what he says doesn’t make sense to us? The night between the miracle of the fishes and loaves and where we are in the text, Jesus walks on water. When Christ commands Peter to come to him, Peter, too, is able to walk on the water until he looks down, realizes the improbability and absurdity of what he was doing, and lost faith. When Christ’s commands ceased to make sense, Peter ceased to trust. Do we trust Jesus even when we just simply don’t like what he says? It is easy for most of us to agree with Scripture when it says that the murderers, idolaters, and prostitutes won’t inherit the kingdom of God but, it is a lot more difficult for us to believe and live into the belief that – as Scripture says – gossipers won’t inherit the kingdom either. We must trust God’s Word and Jesus’ teachings no matter how puzzling, countercultural, or convicting they may be.
Christ continues to puzzle them by referencing his pre-existence when mentioning the Son of Man ascending to where he was before. In these verses, Jesus declares the importance of the Spirit, faith, and the Father’s initiating action.
Here Jesus explains that the flesh – referring here to human nature – is completely inept, incapable of giving or leading to true life. He affirms the necessity of the Spirit in these matters. This builds upon Christ’s claims in John 3 that we must be born again of the Spirit. It is also a great progression of the creation story in Genesis where God must breathe the spirit of life into Adam in order for him to become a living being.
Christ also speaks of his omniscience – he already knows who will not believe and who will betray him. This verse is often interpreted as a claim to divinity or godhood by Christ. We see, also, that faith is a gift given by the Father which enables the individual to come to Jesus.
After being continuously challenged by Jesus, a number of his “disciples” fall back. They no longer follow him. For some, they were not able to understand Christ’s teachings, for others, when things got difficult, they lost their faith. This is a great “real life” example of the parable of the sower. Because they were sowing the seeds along the path and in rocky ground they were not truly receptive to Christ and his message.
Upon seeing many of his disciples leave, Christ asks the twelve if they, too, wish to go. Peter, though, knows that there is no other teacher who can lead them to eternal life. Speaking on behalf of the twelve, Peter professes faith in Christ – the Holy One of God.
What happens next in the passage is very interesting and can be quite puzzling at first glance. The IVP New Testament Commentary writes: “Jesus does not address Peter’s confession. They might have expected a pat on the back or some confirmation, but instead Jesus says it is he who has chosen them, not the other way around. The divine initiative has been discussed throughout this chapter, and it is now coordinated with Jesus’ choice. But disturbing questions are raised, for Jesus goes on immediately and adds, yet one of you is a devil! Not only were his disciples a mixed lot, so were the twelve he himself had chosen! One of them would betray him to his death, thus acting in accordance with [the enemy]… The presence of Judas among the twelve shows us that no group is entirely pure, just as Nicodemus’s presence among the Pharisees – in chapter 3 – indicates that no group is entirely alienated from God. John’s dualistic language is very stark, but he realizes the ambiguities of life.”
This passage also speaks of human responsibility. The commentator continues: “In a chapter that so strongly affirms the necessity of divine initiative, here we have another note regarding the importance of faith. Even [Christ’s] own choice for someone to be a member of his inner circle of disciples is not going to save that person unless one has faith. Some argue we are not saved by faith alone, but neither are we saved without it. Judas had the most intimate access to Jesus; he had one of the best seats in the house for seeing God revealed in the flesh. But he lacked humble trust and love for Jesus as Jesus actually was. This thought is very sobering in light of much false optimism among Christians today. The human heart is capable of seeing God in his great beauty and of rejecting him. Indeed, all of us are capable of such betrayal, as our sin testifies. What is our inner disposition? Have we found in Jesus the Holy One of God who has the words of eternal life? Do we actually live our lives as those who believe this truth? Have we met God in such a way that we can trust his character even when we do not understand his words and deeds?”
Like many members of my generation, I’m a huge nerd for Harry Potter. In the Goblet of Fire, Albus Dumbledore explains that “we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” We see this same dilemma illustrated in countless mediums – men and women having to decide if they were willing to die for their beliefs, die for what was right. Doing the right thing is hard. We see this in so many facets of our lives. It’s easier to walk by a homeless person than to give them a helping hand. It’s easier to blow off things with school and work – even at the risk of failure or termination – than it is to give it our all and live into our full potential. As a church, it is easier to continue with the status quo – doing things the way they have always been done – rather than truly examine our beliefs and practices. And yes, it is much easier for us to keep our focus inward than to step out of our comfort zone and actually witness to others through proclamation and presence.
Right now this church is in a time of transition, of listening for God, and visioning for the future. Many great things could come about as a result of this season. In spite of the many ways this group could and needs to change and grow, there is so much potential. This congregation could grow into a new era of spiritual maturity, into a new dedication to the call to be witnesses. In addition to spiritual growth, this church could experience numerical growth. We all know ways that this can happen. We know that if we teach that by coming to church and professing faith in Jesus, God will give you wealth, health, and happiness, people will come to church. They will certainly come to church. I’m convinced, though, that if we actually teach what Jesus taught people will turn back, so called disciples will leave. It is likely that before this congregation grows numerically, we will actually shrink. And that’s ok! We don’t need to be a megachurch. Jesus didn’t have one. The size of the “congregation” that gathered in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost was 120 followers.
As the text we looked at today points out, even amongst the twelve there was a betrayer. The musical [Title of Show] has a great line that goes: “I’d rather be 9 people’s favorite thing than a 100 people’s ninth favorite thing. 9 people’s favorite thing than 100 people’s ninth favorite thing.” How true is this? I’d rather have a church of 9 genuine followers of Jesus than of 100 clueless souls who have no idea the hellish condemnation that awaits them on the Day of Judgment. What will be said of us, church? Do Christ’s teachings offend us? And if so, what is our response? Is it to grumble amongst ourselves? Or is it to humbly repent, trust, and follow.
We serve a great and mighty God. A God who sees our total depravity and loves us anyway. In fact, he came and sought us. And he extends the gift of grace freely to us. I don’t know about you but, I am amazed. The feeling reminds me of another song – it goes “Maybe I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time. Maybe I’m amazed at the way I need you.” Sure the song was penned with secular romance in mind. But, how true are these words of God? Recently I was having a bad day – yes, pastors get those too. It was a bad day, and I was finding it hard to be positive. When evening came I spent time in prayer. In spite of the many difficulties I was facing, in spite of my poor attitude in response to those difficulties, God’s Spirit poured out, and I cried out to him! I do not know why we go through the difficult things we go through. Sometimes it might even feel like the flesh is, indeed, useless. I’m uncertain about a lot of things in this life. I’m even uncertain about a lot of things in this faith. But the one thing I know for sure is that his blood is sufficient! Amen? When Christ says that we must eat his flesh and blood – as puzzling, peculiar, off-putting, or even scary as that sounds – I trust him, and praise his holy name. Because I know, like Peter, that Christ speaks the words of life. I know that I cannot reconcile myself to
God. I need thee, oh I need thee. Every hour I need thee. O bless me now my Savior, I come to thee. I need thee, O I need thee. Every hour I need thee. My one defense: Christ’s righteousness. O God, how I need thee.