Most of the people in the multitude could not move their minds from the literal to the metaphorical.
When Jesus attempted to explain how believers would appropriate the truths of the Kingdom of God with a common illustration—eating and drinking—they forgot his stated context—
believing in Him. They called it a “hard saying.” Even His own disciples failed to see this and complained among themselves—a useless thing to do! Jesus knew their thoughts!
More than Twelve
There were concentric circles around Jesus. The Twelve whom Jesus called were the closest and even within them there was the inner circle. Rotating in their own orbit at a greater distance were “disciples” who had called themselves to follow Jesus. This circle was filled with all manner of hearts and motivations. Their number seemed to grow and shrink as circumstances changed around Jesus. Surrounding this nebulous group, the rest of the multitude flooded the remaining space in a random flow of faith and folly, boredom and belligerence. Yet on this they all seemed to agree: eating His flesh and drinking his blood was a “hard saying.”
We can identify with the humanity of Jesus: He tried something and it seemed not to work—right away. Of course, John recorded His words for the ages and now we can understand how functional faith in Christ really is. Believing in Jesus really is like eating and drinking His substance and life. At that moment, trouble was brewing in the concentric circles. Jesus turned to the twelve,
“Does this offend you?
These were the basics. What if Jesus told them about the Throne Room of God, that glorious center of worship seen by Moses in the mountain and reflected in the Tabernacle and Temple? Would they believe that?
His Words were Spirit.
They needed to discipline their literal minds and peer into a broader, more beautiful world, that of the Spirit. They had more than just a brain; they each possessed a spirit made in the image of God. It was here they could understand the unfathomable and see the invisible.
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.
The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”
In the silence that followed, feet shuffled, heads lowered to study the shuffling feet, itching scalps were scratched, and sideways glances were exchanged. They needed a helper they did not have. From the fringes on the side and the ranks in the rear, the crowd began to shrink.
Seeing the slow, systematic departures, Jesus understood it immediately.
“Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
When the circles were mostly gone, Jesus turned to the Twelve,
“Do you also want to go away?”
It is amazing how silent a wilderness can be. Of course, they would not, could not, leave Him. Finally, Peter said what they were all thinking,
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
The silence deepened. There was more that must be said. Finally Peter confessed,
“Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus smiled to Himself and looked into the faces of each of His men. His examination ended with the face of Judas.
“Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
Just what they needed at that moment, another hard saying.
Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.
Lord Jesus, thank for the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete—the Helper, who quickens our mortal minds, opening the things of the Spirit to our spirit. It is by this grace that we feed on You, believing Your substance and receiving Your life. Thank You for the Cross, for by it You removed our sins far from us and qualified us to receive the abiding ministry of the Holy Spirit. Give me patience with the “hard sayings” in the Bible. Help me believe them before I understand them, trusting to the eventual enlightenment of the Spirit. One day I will know even as I am known! Until then, I will believe. Amen.
Faith Is the Victory
Words: John Henry Yates; Music: Ira D. Sankey
1. Encamped along the hills of light, Ye Christian soldiers, rise
And press the battle ere the night Shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below Let all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know, That overcomes the world.
Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
Oh, glorious victory
That overcomes the world.
2. His banner over us is love, Our sword the Word of God;
We tread the road the saints above With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith they, like a whirlwind’s breath, Swept on o’er every field;
The faith by which they conquered death Is still our shining shield.
3. To him who overcomes the foe White raiment shall be giv’n;
Before the angels he shall know His name confessed in heav’n
Then onward from the hills of light, Our hearts with love aflame;
We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night In Jesus’ conquering name.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved