I don’t know what Jesus was expecting from his primary audience – “The Jews” but his words were touching a nerve in his closest followers and some of them were getting a little uncomfortable.
“This is hard to hear” some of the disciples were saying. What is? Probably the part about “whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” I can imagine their thoughts: “Whoa buddy! A little simile about being like manna or think of me as bread – couldn’t he have made the point with that? Is the guy talking cannibalism? I liked he was pretty radical…but this is a bit whack-o smack-o!”
So Jesus knows they are grumbling and asks “Is this offensive to you?” Now I’m really going out on a limb to try and understand this next part.
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? Could you take it to see me, the SOM, for who I really am… all my power and glory? Would that convince you?
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. But there are some of you who do not believe. These words are “spirit and life” not flesh. Yes, it is a hard thought, but nothing of the flesh (human design or power) will do what needs doing. You do not get it because you have not been granted access by the Father. (What’s that verse? Here it is: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14.) So of course they were offended because they did not have the Spirit to open their eyes.
I don’t want to be foolish and think I can make a hard thing Jesus said simple. For me the point is embracing Jesus can be a hard thing, a challenging thing, and a foreign thing. It means giving up relying on the way I am accustomed to feeding my body and choose to gain sustenance from Him. It says the ways of my flesh “are no help at all” in the Spirit life. It means I cannot fake it with Him. He knows I need Him and His Spirit to keep me following after Him. I need His faithfulness when my so called faithfulness is —well, let’s just say, pitiful!
“After this many….turned back.” All I’ve got to say is Jesus has a way of thinning the crowd. And I wonder if that wasn’t part of the plan. And when Jesus turns to the twelve and says, “Do you want to go away as well?” He is speaking right to me. True confession: There have been countless times I’ve thought wouldn’t life be easier without the constraints of Jesus? Every time I have come to that cliff a voice deep within me says, “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life, and I have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Can we talk about Judas? Chosen but known to be the betrayer. Choices, choices, choices. I believe Judas had a choice all along the way to allow himself to be drawn to Jesus. Just like I believe those disciples who turned back still had an open door before them. (All I’ve got for backup on this is 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”)
His plan is a paradigm shift in how to do life. But His idea of life is by far superior to my measly idea.
Following Jesus can sound hard – best to listen for the Spirit and rest in His directions.
About the World?
Even if one has turned back – maybe because it all seems too nuts or too hard – the Father is not yet done drawing people to Jesus.