Summary: During the 1st part of Jesus’ ministry people were attracted by His teaching. Many attached themselves to Him, some of them wholeheartedly, some loosely. Then came a time when their allegiance was tested-as it comes to test every disciple.
JOHN 6: 59-71
WHO CAN ACCEPT WORDS OF SPIRIT AND LIFE?
During the first part of Jesus’ ministry people were attracted by His teaching and flocked round Him. Many attached themselves to Him, some of them wholeheartedly, some loosely. Then came a time when their allegiance was tested. The real nature of the claims of Jesus became apparent. The true disciples were sifted from the false, and the deep from the shallow. Jesus’ claims for Himself and His claims on His followers are such that it is no longer possible to follow Him unreflectively, and without fully committing oneself. [Morris, NIC Com., 382]
Jesus revelation that He Himself was bread made the crowds grumble (6:41), the revelation that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood even offends Jesus’ own disciples. For them this is not simply a difficult teaching but is something unacceptable, a disclosure beyond their comprehension. These are the deeper things of Jesus, and only with divine help can anyone comprehend them. [Jesus points to yet another aspect that is difficult to comprehend, His ascension.] So John now tells what is happening, not among the crowd, but among Jesus’ professed adherents.
I. WORDS OF OFFENCE, 59-61.
II. WORDS OF SPIRIT, 62-65.
III. WORDS OF CONFESSION, 66-69.
IV. WORDS OF SOVEREIGNTY, 70-71.
[59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum] Verse 60 contains the reaction of many of Jesus’ disciples to His challenging declarations. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?”
“His disciples”(2: 2) indicates a much larger group than the twelve. The reference is to those who had attached themselves loosely to Jesus, but without giving much consideration to the implications. "Hard" means not so much that the saying is difficult to understand as that it is hard to accept. [Calvin comments, "the hardness was in their hearts and not in the saying."] "Hear" means "hear with appreciation, take in" (5:25). The disciples no doubt found the teaching mysterious, but it was the part they could understand rather than what they could not that bothered them.
Being fed by God is beyond our natural comprehension. It is utterly mysterious and will evoke feelings of fear and confusion and in some cases anger. These are divine things, heavenly realities that lie beyond our abilities. We should not complain or grumble about them. It is God alone who can supply divine insight. Our task is to receive them and to be open to the work of the Spirit even as He permits us glimpses into realities too deep for us.
In verse 61 we again see Jesus’ knowledge of people’s inward attitudes. But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble?
We find another demonstration of Jesus’ unusual powers of knowledge (see 2:24f; 4:18). Jesus knew what was going on with His disciples. His own disciples do not like the sound of what He is saying. So He asks “does this cause you to stumble?" "Do you take offense at this?" He knew exactly what was going on with them.