It is an amazing comment that the writer places in the chapter; “As a result of this many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with him anymore.” (John 6:66). It was early in the movement of the Gospel message to the world when the apostle John wrote these words. You would think a negative statement like that would be left out. After all, aren’t the followers of Jesus trying to attract others to the faith?
Only a few verses earlier some of his disciples had said, “This is a difficult statement, who can listen to it?” Jesus had himself supplied the answer to that question. “Only those illuminated in their understanding by the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.” (My paraphrase). But not until after Jesus had asked them, “Oh, do my words make you stumble?” It is interesting that Jesus does not break them down into small discussion groups. He doesn’t say, “OK, fellows, all of you divide into small discussion groups and talk about your feelings. Get back to me and let me know what adjustments I need to make to the message.”
I do not see Jesus seeking the crowds. I see him focused on character transformation in the lives of those who truly believe. Around the world it is often costly to follow Christ. Only a few weeks ago a leader among the believers in Timbuktu, Mali was beheaded. With that country in turmoil, it is becoming more and more costly to follow Christ. Believers face that in many parts of the world. A small dose of faith does not sustain someone in that environment.
Here is the question on my heart: Were Jesus’ words only for a simpler day and time, or are they timeless? Did Jesus speak and say what He did for all ages? And did He mean what He said, and say what He meant? I believe He did. His words are timeless and they are not bound to any one culture. And His Words are tough words. Will we deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him, no matter the cost?
After many had left, Jesus looked at the ones who remained and asked, “Will you leave also?” Praise the Lord for Peter’s response. “Where would we go, you have the words of eternal life?”