Trust and Dependence
By Jason Scherzer
The Word: John 6:60-70
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.
For context today, it may be helpful to read John 6:53-59 again, leading up to 6:60-70. In John 6, a huge crowd of people has been following Jesus simply because they were attracted by the miracles that Jesus had been performing among the sick. When Jesus saw that the crowd would be hungry, He tested his disciples by asking them where they could get enough bread to feed all of them. The disciples did not truly perceive Jesus’ intent, while Jesus proceeded to feed the entire crowd from just 5 small loaves of bread and 2 fish. John shows Jesus purposefully revealing a sign that He is the Bread of Heaven.
Jesus then withdraws, because the crowd wanted to grab Him and prematurely make Him king. Curiously, Jesus’ disciples get into boats without Jesus and head for Capernaum. A powerful storm comes on the Sea (Lake) of Galilee, and Jesus comes walking on the water to them. Later on, the crowd realizes where Jesus is and pursues Him again to Capernaum. Jesus begins the teaching that He is the Bread that came down from heaven.
Jesus teaches that His flesh and blood is for the life of the world. For example, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…” It is a difficult teaching which the people in the crowd only attempt to understand in the physical sense, without spiritual understanding. It was against the Jewish law to eat the flesh of any living being, much less the flesh of any human, and this was the sense in which most of the people standing before Jesus struggled to grasp His words. It sounded absolutely absurd to them.
Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man in this discourse. “Son of Man” was a Messianic title in the Hebrew scriptures. It emphasizes the humanity of Jesus, who is one-hundred percent human, and one-hundred percent Divine.
The meaning of “Son of Man” in the Jewish mind can be seen in Daniel 7:13-14: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
The prophet Daniel speaks forth a great mystery in chapter 7, that a human person called “Son of Man” would enter the presence of Almighty God (Ancient of Days) and would be granted complete and everlasting authority over the Kingdom of heaven. A ruler with a definite human aspect is being described.
Going back to John chapter 6, after the crowd expresses their difficulty understanding Jesus’ words, His disciples chime in to say what the crowd has been feeling, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it”. Who is speaking these words? It is not necessarily coming from the 12 disciples, as John writes, “many of His disciples” were speaking; Jesus had many disciples besides the core 12 disciples. It is a difficult thing, a thing to be objected to, they reply.
We can easily identify with the Jewish mindset on this point; nearly every culture on earth requires that an animal must be killed before it could be eaten; while cannibalism is universally against the law. But Jesus is using a radical analogy to speak of heavenly things that we can scarcely grasp. Jesus has just shown He is the Bread of Heaven – spiritual nourishment for the world. This is evidenced by His command of provision for physical food when He took the 5 small loaves and 2 fish – something that was not difficult for Him. Does Jesus intend for the spiritual truth to be scarcely grasped? It must be spiritually discerned: Jesus is the only spiritual nourishment to sustain and give life to all people.
As Jesus says, “…what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” He emphasizes the truth that He was together with the Father in the glory of heaven before His incarnation. It is a great mystery that He came down from heaven to be incarnated, born as a human baby. Since He was incarnated and took on human flesh, He must also ascend back to heaven after completing His mission on earth. The disciples must grasp the spiritual truth of Jesus’ heavenly origin so they might also grasp that His flesh and blood is their source of spiritual life. Jesus requires it to be comprehended; a person cannot otherwise be His disciple but not accept His words.
In verse 63, “It is the Spirit who gives life…” the Spirit of God is meant. In the Creation, the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7). We forget easily that life is not of physical origin; life comes from the Spirit of God. So only the Spirit can give understanding of Jesus’ words.
In verse 64, Jesus reveals that “…there are some of you who do not believe,” by which is meant Judas, but also many in the crowd and even “disciples” who still lacked understanding. No one could come to Jesus in a state of real faith unless granted that faith by the Father.
Many disciples turned back and no longer walked with Jesus (6:66). If the devil was ever at work, certainly so in this verse; preventing belief in Jesus. We cannot help but note the number of the verse, though it matters for nothing. The devil is real and was working against Jesus but is no match for Him. So many in the crowd and even “disciples” were following Jesus just because they were fed bread (they were physically hungry) and because of the miracles. But it was not a real faith, and Jesus must drive them away if there is persistently no aspect of faith. Following Jesus without faith is worthless.
Jesus turns to the twelve, who ought to have genuine faith, and asks if they want to go away as well. “You really don’t have to stay if you don’t want to; you’re free to go,” it seems Jesus implies. Peter has a beautiful answer which shows that his eyes were opened miraculously, and God powerfully at work: “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.” (verses 68-69).
Rather than praise Peter’s excellent response, Jesus seems to hold that it is the minimum satisfactory response. Jesus knew that Peter’s faith was not yet tested. Instead, Jesus says, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil,” referring to Judas who would betray Jesus. Zechariah 11:13 says, “And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! SoI took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.” This scripture prophesies that the betrayer Judas would “sell” Messiah Jesus, betraying Him to the Jewish leaders.
Jesus really does not want any mediocre, half-hearted belief, or any faith that is merely of human origin, without the life-giving Spirit empowering faith. But He does give eternal life to those who come in faith.
When Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28) it is typically not necessarily a difficult teaching, unless we are inclined to be a workaholic. We understand it and don’t strongly object that Jesus wants to give us rest. But when Jesus says, “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,” – we find it offensive, too closely aligned with the Cross, and it reveals our helpless state. We are shown to be completely dependent on the Son of Man for our very existence and life.
We would much rather be self-sufficient than dependent. We must break ourselves and bend our will into alignment with Christ’s will. Have you really made Him Lord of your life? Is your life hidden in Christ? Do you no longer live, but Christ lives in you? Is He everything to you, today and forever?