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Christian Biblical Studies
All Scriptures are from the King James (Authorised) Version
‘This is an hard saying; who hear it? . . . From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.’
John 6: 60, 66
Q. What were these ‘hard sayings’?
A. Jesus’ teachings affected his hearers in different ways, according to their attitude towards him. Many felt offended at his words, especially when they felt the sting of rebuke against their sins or, like the Scribes and Pharisees, when they detected a challenge to their authority. But in this quotation from the Gospel of John it is his disciples who baulk. What had he said to affect his supporters so?
His offending remarks appear in verses John 6:51-58. Likening himself to the manna which descended from heaven, Jesus says
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . . Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. . . As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
Some stumbled at these sayings, which they (correctly) perceived as ‘hard’ (Gk., skleros; tough, harsh). Perhaps they thought Jesus mad, and so they deserted him.
Why would Jesus say things which he knew in advance would alienate large segments of his audience? There are several reasons, but we will focus on one.
As Psa. 119:130 puts it, ‘the entrance of thy words giveth light.’ Illumination of the mind by the Word of God uncovers the knowledge of salvation and challenges the conscience, as we read in John 15:22:
If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.
Some are not able to bear such knowledge or to act upon it. And so God has constructed this world in such a way as to spare those without faith from the dire responsibilities of knowing – to give them an excuse for disbelieving. An example of this principle is found in Rom. 11:32. Writing of the unbelief of Israel, and their rejection of their Messiah, Paul proclaims:
For God hath concluded [shut up] them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. [emphasis added]
Jesus often couched his own teachings in parables and obscure terminology, intended to keep away all but the perseveringly faithful. Consequently, many simply lost interest (‘walked no more with him’). In other words Jesus intentionally made it too difficult for them to be his followers.
The principle is an important one, and pervades all of God’s dealings with mankind since the fall in Eden. So we find that the Word of God, the Bible, is often couched in vague and impenetrable terms, designed to hide its meaning from the unworthy (Isa. 28:9-13).
As for Jesus’ closest disciples, although they found his words sometimes difficult to swallow, they recognised that through him alone came salvation. When Jesus asked them, ‘Will ye also go away?’, Peter responded for the twelve, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life’ (John 6:67, 68).
As for the unbelieving Jews, represented in the nation of Israel, they would be ‘blinded’ – locked in ignorance of the true salvation in Christ – that they might not be condemned. ‘For’, says Paul, ‘God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all’ (Rom. 11:32). This extraordinary statement reveals the depth of the compassion of God, whose ultimate purpose is to bring all recalcitrant mankind to the full light and knowledge of truth and, thus, eternal salvation, through the instrumentality of restored and converted Israel (Isa. 2:1-5). This work will be accomplished in Christ’s earthly kingdom, yet future.
Copyright March 2016 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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