They were only words . . . but they had created a huge stumbling block. Ideas and concepts that were serving to cause some to say, “Whoa! Too weird! I’m outta’ here!” And at the heart of it, I think, was the fact that He was talking to them of things that were literally out of this world . . . things beyond physical realities . . . things concerning spiritual dynamics.
Many in this crowd had eaten the bread and the fish of His miraculous feeding of the 5,000. And so, they signed up . . . they’d follow Him . . . even crossing over the sea in pursuit of Him. But then Jesus started talking about another kind of food . . . food that endured to eternal life . . . a bread from heaven unlike anything ever mentioned by Moses. Jesus saying that He, Himself, was that bread from heaven, the Bread of Life. And, at that, some of the religious elite in the crowd could no longer contain themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52).
You think Jesus might have backed off a bit at that point . . . and if not, at least sought to qualify His statements in some manner . . . but nope!
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. – Jesus (John 6:53-56 ESV)
Only words . . . but words unlike anything they had heard any rabbi or teacher speak . . . words beyond their comprehension . . . words that caused many of those who followed Him to say, “This is a hard saying: who can listen to it?” (6:60) . . . meaning, “This is rough . . . this is offensive . . . this is intolerable . . . who can deal with it?” They couldn’t. And so, they didn’t . . . and “many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him” (6:66). But for the Twelve, though they too were stretched by this flesh eating, blood drinking teaching, they continued to affirm their belief in Him as “the Holy One of God”, the One who had “the words of eternal life” (6:68-69). So what made the difference between those who left and those who stayed? Glad you asked . . .
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
– Jesus (John 6:63 ESV)
The difference? The secret sauce? The X-Factor? The Holy Spirit of God . . . the flesh is no help at all.
Apart from an awakening work of the Spirit . . . without hearts softened and ears unstopped by the wind-like moving of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity . . . Jesus’ words concerning a dynamic, of which spiritually dead people have no means of connecting with, becomes just too hard to deal with. And the flesh . . . my intellect . . . my logical reasoning . . . my powers of assimilating facts and data . . . are of no help at all. Spiritual truths are imparted by spiritual means through the illuminating work of the Spirit Himself. The flesh is no help at all.
What begun through the Spirit will be completed through the Spirit. I was born again of the Spirit (John 3:5-8) . . . and it would be foolish to think that what was begun by the Spirit could, somehow, be perfected in the flesh (Gal. 3:3). It is the Spirit who gives life . . . the Spirit who is a deposit and guarantor sustaining life . . . the Spirit who intercedes with my spirit allowing me to continually feed on the Son . . . and to abide in Him and with Him. My discipline . . . my effort . . . my will . . . my flesh are no help at all. My pride, my self-sufficient nature, might not like that reality . . . O’ death be to my pride!
Some stumble at His words . . . others find in them the words of eternal life. The difference . . . the Spirit . . . and spirits that are yielded to Him through faith.
To God be the glory . . .