Summary: Jesus, Himself, did not shy away from teaching hard truths. He was never worried that the crowds would quit coming if He preached truths that were hard to accept. Rather He used those teachings to qualify those who called themselves His disciples.
“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 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. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Jesus had just finished teaching the people that unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood; you have no life in you. For Jesus said, “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” It is evident from the disciples’ reactions that they had never heard anything like this from Jesus before. Although, they had been radically touched by Jesus Christ, had watched him perform miracles, witnessed him heal the sick and listened as he confound the religious leaders with His wisdom, this teaching, like no other teaching, challenged the disciples to personally evaluate their commitment to follow Christ!
With one teaching, Jesus separated the faithful from the mere followers. Those who believed and readily received Christ’s message remained, while those who would not receive the message turned back and no longer followed. Hard teachings have a way of doing that! They cause those who are meandering around the perimeters of living committed lives for Jesus Christ to decide whether to pursue Him or walk away. The purpose of these hard teachings is not to drive people away from God, but to reveal the genuineness of our faith! Too many, Christians, because they are never challenged by the Word of God, live within a Christian façade. They follow because the message and expectations have never challenged their comfort. Once the message becomes too hard or the expectations to live righteously become too demanding, many will walk away.
Where did the people that walked away from Jesus go? Did they just go home and drift back in to wickedness? Some perhaps did, however in 2 Timothy 4:3, the Apostle Paul tells us:
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
This “itchy” ear syndrome is plaguing the body of Christ, because too many ministers are perfectly content with bringing benign messages that will not ruffle the feathers of their congregants and certainly not cause anyone to walk away. Certainly no church could survive on a diet of hard teachings alone, but the absence of them has caused many churches to become havens for the comfortable and contented. Without hard teachings we will have many people who will be standing before the Lord one day saying:
“Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”