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John 6:60-65, NIV
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 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 are spirit and they are 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 him."May 7, 2011When Jesus finished his "bread of life" discourse, many of his loyal followers complained that it was a hard teaching which they were not able to accept. They were displeased, miffed, maybe even painfully angry. What was it exactly that caused this negative reaction? The response from Jesus may give us a clue--What if you saw me ascend . . . . Was it the part about Jesus having come down from heaven, which provoked them?
We, too, live in a physical world. We know where babies come from; they do not drop from the sky. Not even Abraham, Moses or Elijah had "come down from heaven." None of the ancient scriptures indicated their Messiah would arrive in a heavenly chariot.
So Jesus tried to make them see and distinguish between flesh and spirit. Flesh is bound by the laws of nature. Spirit has no boundaries, no limitations. "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing." That is a very hard teaching for us humans to grab hold of. For one thing, it seems foreign and we don't like the sound of it. We do live in a physical world. Everything we know, believe and trust has a physical dimension to it. We even ascribe human characteristics to God in order to discuss and understand our religious faith.
Jesus tried to teach humans to think differently. He said spirit is real and counts for everything, the physical is temporary and has no lasting value. And yes, he did come down from heaven. He was sent to earth by his Father with a singular mission, that of drawing as many people as possible to his loving heavenly Father.
What if you saw with your physical eyes, or in future generations with your spirit eyes, the Son of Man ascend through the clouds and into the heavens? The Twelve plus some others who remained throughout his dark final days did in fact witness this. For the rest of us, we see it in faith.
Jesus ascending to where he had come from is a sign, given to those disciples who persevered to the end. That event, along with instructions for what to do next after he departed are recorded in Acts 1:6-11.
More journal entries
June 13, 1983
Many disciples heard what Jesus said about his being the bread of life for the world and they commented on their lack of understanding. Who among them could follow his argument and believe it? Was it not possible to say these things more simply? Oh the mysteries of God!
John places this discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum where the crowds from across the lake had found Jesus. But this time their experience with Jesus didn't satisfy them as it had on the hillside. It wasn't what they wanted or expected. It didn't justify their quest or make their search for him pay off. They had rowed across a lake which was subject to sudden changes in wind patterns and given up a day's time, and all they got in return was a strange-sounding discourse. Not at all what they hoped for. What a disappointment. Had they known they would have stayed home.
All that they heard Jesus say did not persuade them. The experience lacked the signs and miracles they had come to expect?
Teaching may sometimes convince people on an intellectual level. Actions persuade at a deeper level. Jesus' compassion for the hungry people and his subsequent feeding of them was a lesson they could observe in their hearts. After that meal they thought they wanted Jesus to be their Messiah, their deliverer. But in the eyes of the people in the synagogue at Capernaum that day, these words of Jesus didn't change a thing.
June 14, 1983Jesus required love and faith, not comprehension. The disciples trusted Jesus even though they couldn't grasp everything he said. They believed first in order to understand later!
We recognize Jesus by being drawn to him in love by the Father. We follow Jesus by trusting that even though we don't fully comprehend what he said, we know it is true!
What were the disciples to do? Was this a time to re-evaluate theircalling and re-commit themselves to a man they were learning to know and love but whom they did not understand? A crisis of faith--not a disaster but a catalyst for renewal to greater commitment.
January 20, 2002Many disciples/followers/serious believers reacted negatively to the teaching in this chapter. What exactly the problem was, I don't know. However, they were deeply offended by something. Did his words sound like he was demanding more from them than they wanted to give?
Jesus' response - if you saw me ascend to Heaven?! Were they having difficulty believing that Jesus came down from heaven, from God? Were they wanting to follow a "prophet" more like John the Baptist, and found themselves with the Son of God instead? Interesting that Jesus calls himself the Son of Man; his believers called him the Son of God.
Also Jesus distinguishes between spiritual and physical matters. The words of Jesus are spirit and life. You must first have the desire and it is God who gives the desire.
It is the spirit that makes you alive, not the physical! It is bread from heaven that gives you life, not your daily physical bread. The words of Jesus are spirit and life.
January 21, 2002Life is costly, grace is not cheap, a cross lay ahead. If these disciples were like us they wanted the benefits, yes; the sacrifice, no. We want some of Jesus, along with everything else in life. When Jesus said, " I am the bread of life", we should know that when he fills us with his Spirit, there's no room for everything else. Choosing Jesus, excludes all others. Following Jesus means forsaking all else.
There's no butter offered with this bread, no peanut butter or jelly either. Just the bread of joyful surprises because it's the bread of fellowship with the Father. Not only joy but everything else good in life that is characteristic of God--peace, faithfulness, etc. Those who have experienced the mercy and loving-kindness of God, know all this.
But the bread of life is no piece of cake. Doing service to God means faithfulness to his command to love. It's not done to bring me joy. The cross of Christ is not fun.
The bread of life is no piece of cake because it requires that we look at things differently, because with the bread also comes the cross. With the cup of suffering, goes the bread of life. Those who have experienced God know both the bread of life and the cup of suffering. Yet the bread from heaven is the bread of joy because it's shared in living communion with our Teacher.