The Hard Saying of Jesus Pt. 2

John 6:59-71
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on February 11th, 2007

“I believe in order to know”

Last week we saw Jesus delivering one of His hardest messages in the synagogue. It was a message that confused the people, and enraged the religious leaders. Why? What kind of message frustrates so many people? As humans, we are most often frustrated by a message that cuts against the grain of our primary assumptions. As humans, that foundation is autonomy and the desire to create our own paths to spiritual enlightenment. As Christians that come out through our belief system that believes that we are in control, and it is purely our own choices that brings forth salvation. Jesus cuts against that grain and declares that salvation is of the Lord only, and that joy in this world comes from His people feeding off of Him alone. When we are struggling as a mom, dad, teacher, lawyer, doctor, religious leader, homeless, we struggle because we are setting our sights on the problems before us, instead of the God of our problems. Our biggest need is not to become better people, but our greatest need is to see Christ as the “Bread of life!” When He says He is the bread of life, He is making the statement that He alone is our sustenance, and source of joy and abundant life. To feed off Him, is to listen to and obey His words through bible intake and prayer and fasting.

Today’s passage finishes up this important discourse by turning His attention to those who are following Him. The same people who wanted to make Him king in verse 15 are now questioning whether they want to follow Him at all. But, there are some who realize Him for who He is, the only true God who has the only keys to eternal, abundant, joyful life.

From the Head…
Verse 59 reminds us that this took place in Capernaum in the synagogue (cf. v. 24). This tells us that the dialogue most likely was in response to the scripture reading (see Exodus 16 and Isaiah 54) and was a form of Midrash (A style of dialogue and debate that could get heated, and was intended to work out the truth of the text). Jesus then turn to His followers (The term “Disciples” Mathaton, can mean “Follower” and not necessarily the twelve that Christ chose)

General Followers
His disciples were grumbling, and complaining that the words are too “Hard” (“Sklaros” Hard, offensive, harsh) Christ asks them “Does this offend you?” The word He used for offend is “Skandalizo” (We get our word “Scandalous” from this Greek root) and means stumbling block. Jesus first of all isn’t afraid to offend humanity. Many people have a South Park image of Jesus being a weak guy getting His rear kicked by Satan. The reality is that Christ is not a weak push over even in His incarnational form as a man. He is also God, with eyes that blaze with fire, a robe dipped in blood, a sword which will “Strike down the nations,” and a leg with tattoos declaring Him to be “King of Kings and Lord of Lords (see Revelation 19:11-16).” Jesus’ words are given in love for these people, but sometimes the words we need to speak appear harsh, but are done with the motivation of love (See Proverbs 27:6; Ephesians 4:15).

Jesus’ next question in verse 62 is puzzling and begs the question as to whether He is expecting a negative or positive response. First it helps to understand what He most likely means. John 6:38 and 17:5 (see too Isaiah 52:13) can help us understand that He is talking about the reason He came; to die on the cross to display God’s glory through the scandal of the cross. Subsequently the answer to His question depends on our perspective. Verses 63 and 64 reveal the conditions to responding to this realty in the positive. First, it’s an act of the Spirit, and second that act results in our will to be shaped by belief (Faith) in Christ. When this isn’t true, a correct understanding of Jesus’ teaching results in the same way we see people here responding, in disdain. It’s a stumbling block and utter foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23). How you respond matters! But it is the Spirit that regenerates your heart before you respond. Verse 65 reminds us what He has been saying. We can only make this “Decision” if the Father has “Enabled (“dido”, literally “Given” written in the perfect passive, which tells us it is something being done to us, and the results are ongoing) us to do it. There are many following Jesus because they are looking to get something from Him, or they believe that they can add Him to their lives without submitting to Him as our cherished spouse. Jesus is demanding that we come to Him as our cherished end, and not use Him as a means to that end. As a result, the followers “Turned back and no longer followed Him.”

Then the Twelve
Jesus turns to His 12 and asks, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Peter acts as the spokesmen for his guys and says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” This had to have been a hard time for Peter and the fellas, especially Judas, who was the money keeper. He was the admin guy looking to Christ to be his political deliverer. He was one who didn’t believe that Jesus was the messiah for anything else that meeting his immediate needs. He had to have been frustrated as the entire congregation of followers left. They had been having an incredible run of church growth, and in one sermon the crowds disappeared. In the end, Jesus had a church after 3 years of about 120 people. In short, He was a poor church planter. What’s important here is Peter’s answer to Christ in verse 69. “We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Note the progression, “Believe and know.” Augustine once said that he “Believed and then he knew.” This is foreign to a western rational mind that is taught to believe only what we see, taste, touch, hear or smell. In the west it is “I know” then I believe. Jesus says it is not your reason that brings you to this reality; It is faith that will lead you to knowledge. The problem is that we have used our reason to build a God that looks more like western theologians and ourselves than it does the God of the bible. This is true of stay at home moms, those that leave the home to work, philosophers and pragmatists alike. We are all victims of our idolatrous minds, and we are all in need of repentance and belief.

…to the Heart
Someone once asked a group of men at a men’s retreat if their marriages were truly affair proof. He said, “Is your marriage immune to an extra-marital affair because your marriage is rock solid, or because you haven’t had an opportunity to sin?” (This retreat took place before the regular use of the internet)? That often struck me as a reality. Too often we think that we are immune to sins because they haven’t reared their ugly heads lately. The question I have in light of our passage is, “Is your ‘Marriage’ to Christ immune to an idolatrous affair because your relationship with Him is rock solid, or because you haven’t had any reason to question your faith lately?” Basically is your “Faith” in Jesus as the “Bread of Life,” or is it in another version of a Jesus that you are hoping for? Is our faith ready for a barrage of life and its many forms of fiery darts? The horror of a tragedy? The slow death of the mundane? The slick arguments of a skeptic? Are we still trying to please our God with daily offerings, or are we coming to Him in a daily gratitude for the love and acceptance by which He saved us? I pray that we like Paul, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you unless, of course, you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5)?


6 comments so far

  1. Aaron Youngren on


    Great stuff.

  2. Wendy on

    I haven’t listen to this sermon yet (still catching up with the last few), but I agree with Aaron regarding that statement.

    I have come across those in the church who are so focused on becoming better people, that I wonder if need Christ at all.

  3. ericm on

    there seems to be so much pain in our lives that it is hard to focus sometimes on matters that are not immediate and pressing. i suppose when weighed against eternity our pain and suffering is just not all that important in the grand scheme of things…kind of like that time when you were five and skinned your knee.

    i cannot deny what Jesus did for me, for all of us. God going to the cross for his people is quite remarkable. his people rejecting him quite believable, in any era. but Jesus knew where he was headed after the cross, not by faith, but for real. God and Jesus fully comprehend enternity. for us it is just a number to big to count.

    and so we must stand solely on faith. sometimes (no, make that most times for most of us, at least for me) it is hard to dial into the faith number. it is easier to live in the world no matter how much it seems to suck.

    but most of all it is easier to want to be in control ourselves. discernment is hard when you are flesh. knowing when it is time to back off, to draw your sword, to turn the other cheek is not so easy. Jesus seemed to have an uncanny knack for doing it, but then again, he is God.

    i think the statement “Jesus says it is not your reason that brings you to this reality; It is faith that will lead you to knowledge.” is the key. it is just so hard, more often than not, to find the lock that it fits into 🙂

    By the way…nice message this morning.

  4. Sandy on

    I have enjoyed these messages on the Hard Sayings of Jesus very much. They have been inspiring and convicting.

    There are a couple of points that I’m interested in discussing from Part 2.

    In John 6:62, I heard you say that the ascension referred to his being raised up on the cross. The text reads “What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” Since he wasn’t on the cross before it seems to me that this is referring to his return to heaven. You referenced John 17:5 which refers to Jesus having been in God’s presence before the world began.

    Along this same thought, can you provide examples of the “death on the cross” being connected with Glory? I didn’t do an exhaustive study but most of the references I found pertaining to Jesus’ Glory were about being in heaven with the Father.

    I really liked the question asking how we can be so sure that our relationship with God is strong enough to keep us from idolatrous affairs. I think you said, do we love Jesus more than anyone?

    Along those lines, I see value in singing songs of love to God. If he is our most cherished and most loved – shouldn’t we profess our love for him when we worship him with singing?

  5. sermonrant on

    Great questions Sandy, thanks. I think the reference in John 17:5 speaks volumes, and is highlighting the point that God’s glory is co-existent with His work on the cross. Jesus is praying that it is time to glorify Him with the glory which He had before, and He is definitely speaking about the cross that He would endure the next day. This highlights God’s plan seen in Isaiah 53 when we see that God took pleasure to crush His Son, because it would bring forth His glory by defeating death and creating a path to save sinners from sin which mitigates His glory. Also Acts 2:23; 4:28 indicates that God prepared beforehand the death of Christ. Sin is a huge attack on His glory, and the cross was able to defend His glory and save sinners (See Romans 3:23-25). God’s righteousness is His “Unswerving commitment to uphold the worth of HIs glory and promote its fame in the world.” John 12:27-28 confirms that idea again, “Father save me from this hour? But for this purpose I came this hour. Father glorify Thy name.” When Christ became a curse for us, His love demonstrated the glory of His Father in an incredible way!

    I hope this helps. There’s a lot more, but that will suffice for now. Thanks much for the question, and I too believe that singing about God’s love and our love for Him is important too!

  6. sermonrant on


    Good point! It is hard to release control in faith, which I actually think is impossible except by the grace of God on our lives.


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