The words of eternal life. 6:60-71


The bread of life discourse concludes with a large number of disciples walking away from Jesus. They were happy to follow a popular teacher, but they were now confronted with not just teaching about life, nor a Moses like figure who could lead to life, but the source of life itself. For many of the disciples, this was all a bit too much to swallow, but for the twelve apostles, where else might they find life eternal?

The passage

v60. Jesus' claim that he is the source of life, that his words give life, is offensive ("hard") to many of his disciples. In their view, no godly teacher should make such a claim and for this reason they reject it.

v61-62. As usual, Jesus reads his audience, notes their reaction and points out that if his claim to be the source of life offends them, what are they going to think when they see him lifted up to glory on the cross, crucified to facilitate the gift of this life to the world.

v63. None-the-less, Jesus does agree with some of the concerns of his wayward disciples. Of course mere "flesh" cannot give life; the Spirit of God enlivens. Yet Jesus, or more particularly his words, is the source of Spirit-empowered life.

v64. The sad reality is that there are many disciples who do not believe Jesus' life-giving words and therefore cannot possess life. From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus knew that some would not believe, he even knew that he would be given up (betrayed) by one of his own.

v65. Jesus has already explained why it is that only some believe and so he concludes by repeating the point. Only those who are reliant on the gift of the Father's grace are enabled to persist in faith. When we rely on Jesus' words we are enabled by them to stay the course. Those who refuse to rest on Jesus' words are lost, and the sad fact is, there will always be some who refuse to rest on God's grace in Jesus.

v66. At this point many disciples broke away from Jesus.

v67. Jesus then pointedly asks his disciples, "Do you also, as well as they, want to break away?" The question is probably a challenge, but Jesus must have been shaken by the walk out.

v68-69. Peter again takes up the role of spokesperson for the disciples. He makes two points: i] the disciples have certainly not discovered life, in the spiritual sense, apart from Jesus, so why abandon someone who claims to be the source of life, life eternal; ii] from the evidence before them, Jesus is actually the long-promised messiah - God's consecrated one. There is little point abandoning someone who is most probably the messiah.

v70-71. Peter's reply is a touch self-confident, so Jesus reminds the twelve that he has actually selected them as disciples, which may account, at least in part, for their loyalty and even then one of their number will desert him. John notes that Jesus was speaking of Judas, the son of Simon from the village of Kerioth.

The way of life

Go to the advertisements in the back section of any popular magazine and you will find where people today source information on their spiritual life. It's there we find the spiritual psychics, trance channellers, clairvoyants, angel messages, star signs..... The search for meaning, for the divine light, the divine life, is an ingrained element of human exploration. Some search for that divine spark in Jesus and find it in him. Most search for the divine spark beyond Jesus and never find it.

Those who journey with Jesus do so for many reasons. We might have joined the church youth fellowship to increase our dating opportunities, gone on to attend church, but then we find ourselves starting to drift. The disciples, who broke away from Jesus in John 6, were actually offended by the intolerable claim that Jesus is the source of life. For them, it was against all they believed. How dare a teacher of the Lord God make such a claim.

For the easy-going disciple today it's probably all too simple. Are we to believe that life is simply a gift for the asking? Surely there's more to it than that. Of course, Jesus added, "what happens when you see me crucified?" At this point simplicity moves stupidity. Are we to believe that the giver of life gets himself executed as a common criminal? It just doesn't compute.

Many who journey for a time with Jesus break away from him and Jesus says it will always be so. Although the kindness of God in Jesus has the power to enliven us, enliven us at this very moment and for every other moment into eternity, for some reason, kindness is just not enough. High theology, ecclesiastical rites, faithful obedience ...... through to a clairvoyant's charm, all these seem more effective than the kindness, the mercy, the grace of God.

And what of us? Can we say that the divine spark is more likely to exist in the Nazarene than in Madam Athena the Starwoman? Can we say that Jesus may well have came from God and now exists as the divine Lord? Then like Peter we will say, "Lord, to whom shall we go?"

Of course, we should not be too proud of our loyalty to Christ. It's easy to think that our standing in the church guarantees our standing in the sight of God, or that our goodness keeps us safe. We are safe, only in the mercy of God. If a first century disciple can turn his back on Jesus then so can we. Resting on the grace of God is our only hope.


Discuss examples of those who have abandoned their faith. Provide their reasoning, if possible.

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