FacebookTwitterRSS FeedPinterest

By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8 am service, 2005-08-14

Text: John 6:53-69

There is just so much for us to learn about our Lord Jesus Christ. We can keep on knowing Him, knowing Him and knowing Him without ever getting tired of Him. His whole nature, character, life, ministry and teachings are so richly captivating and so enriching, that there is nothing more satisfying to the soul than to know the Lord Jesus! 

This was the testimony of all who knew Him when He lived on earth among men 2000 years ago. When Jesus came to Bethany, to the house of two sisters, Mary and Martha, Mary could spend hours just sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him. And when Martha got a little irritated that her sister was not helping her to serve Him, Jesus told her that Mary had 'chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.' (Luke 10:38) The good part that she had chosen was to spend time knowing Jesus and learning from Him. Dearly beloved, whenever we choose to sit at the feet of our Lord Jesus to know Him and learn from Him, we are also choosing that 'good part' - the choicest part of all experiences in life!

It is no wonder then that those who have known Jesus would want others to know Him too. When Andrew was introduced to Jesus by John the Baptist, and spent just one day with him, he immediately went to look for his brother Simon Peter to bring him to meet Jesus (John 1:39-42). Shortly after that, Philip did the same thing for Nathanael (John 1:45,46). The woman at the well of Samaria only had a brief unplanned encounter with Jesus under the hot noonday sun, and that was enough to stir her up to action: She immediately went to tell all the people in the city to come and see Him (John 4:28-30). And when they came, and talked with Jesus they confirmed that what she had said about Him was true. They told the woman, 'Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.' (John 4:42) And they probably spent more time with Jesus after that.

Even the officers who were sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to arrest Jesus, were so captivated when they heard Him teaching that they all returned to their masters empty-handed. When asked why they had failed to carry out such a simple order, they answered, 'Never man spake like this man.' (Mark 11:2) There was clearly something wonderful in the character and teaching of Jesus that reached out to the hearts and minds of men. Those who met Him and heard Him could not help but to be amazed at his teachings. Jesus was the Teacher of Life. There is no doubt at all that He is the Teacher above all Teachers! 

Although this world has seen many great human teachers, none of them were like the Lord Jesus Christ. This can be seen in the extent of His teaching ministry. A great part of His public ministry was spent in teaching. As Matthew 9:35 says, 'Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom' He was ready to teach at a moment's notice, not only to crowds of 5,000 people, but also to individuals like Nicodemus, who came to consult Him at night. Jesus could teach people anywhere: At the Temple, in synagogues, in their homes, along the roads as He traveled, at the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and also on a mount - from which we have His famous 'Sermon on the Mount'. The whole world was His classroom!

In our passage of scripture from John 6, we will see one important feature of Christ as the Teacher of Life: That He was not afraid to teach truths that are offensive to man, and that would even cause people to turn away. There are many teachers who crave for publicity and popularity. They will only teach whatever people want to hear and love to hear, so that they will be invited again and again to give lectures to huge crowds of people. This is true of the many popular self-help gurus in the world today, whose public lectures and seminars are often advertised widely and given much publicity. And many are prepared to pay hundreds of dollars to attend these seminars to learn how to be successful in life or in business. Why? Because the self-help teachers promise them the world, inspire them, motivate them and make them feel very positive and good about themselves! They would never teach offensive truths like the consequences of sin, or the depravity of man, or the cross that one must bear to obey God. Doing this would instantly diminish their popularity before the world!

In contrast to such teachers, our Lord Jesus stands as the true Teacher of Life, who dared to teach truths that are offensive to the ears of sinners, but are nevertheless the most important and crucial truths for them to hear. Let us go back now to our text of Scripture now to find out the answers to 3 questions:

1. What Did Jesus Teach about Life? 2. Why Could Many Not Accept His Teaching? and 3. How Can We Persevere in Following Him?

I. What Jesus Taught about Life (vv.53-59)

The background of this passage is that on the day before, Jesus had performed a great miracle of feeding 5,000 men with just 5 loaves and 2 fishes. (You may remember Pr Calvin Loh preaching on this miracle of Christ 3 weeks ago in his sermon 'Jesus, the Bread of Life') That miracle was of such great magnitude that it created a powerful sense of euphoria and excitement in those who were present. Some of those who had witnessed this miracle even desired to take Jesus by force and make Him their king (v.15). Their euphoria also caused them to make every effort just to look for Jesus the next day, and after they crossed the Sea of Galilee in some ships, they finally found Him at the synagogue in Capernaum (v.59). 

Now Jesus knew the hearts of these people very well, because He is the omniscient God. He know that these crowds of people were seeking Him with ulterior motives - they wanted to satisfy all their selfish desires (vv.26,27). They did not come because they sincerely wanted to believe in Him, or to know Him personally. They even doubted what He said when He told them that He is the Bread of Life (v.41). To them, Jesus was just a means to an end. To them, He was only a wise Teacher of Religion from Nazareth (v.42) who had great miraculous power that they could now use and exploit to meet all their physical needs. It was to such people that Jesus now gave some teaching which brought their real motives to light.

Let us see what He taught them in v.53 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.'

What Jesus said here may sound utterly repulsive to anyone on first reading. How can anyone tell others to eat his flesh and drink his blood? It sounds quite gross and even cannibalistic doesn't it? But it would only be so to those who were undiscerning. You see, the words 'eat' and 'drink' here are not meant to be understood in a literal sense, but in a spiritual sense. 

And the Jews who heard these words should have understood that well, because of what Jesus had already said to them earlier in vv.28-29 'Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.'

It should not be too difficult for them to realize that what Jesus meant when He said that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood is that they must fully believe in Him. It is a spiritual eating and drinking of Him that Jesus was talking about, not a physical eating or drinking of Him. And the terms 'eating and drinking' are deliberately used to convey the idea of a very close and intimate spiritual relationship, where the Lord Jesus Christ is received or appropriated by the soul. When a sinner truly repents of his sins and believes in Jesus, his soul appropriates Christ as his life. When a soul appropriates Christ, the life that is in Christ becomes his forever. This truth is also expressed clearly in 1 John 5:11-12 'And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.'

Dear friends, the life that you need to have is not merely that of being physically alive, and just existing here on earth. It consists of close, eternal relationship with God who is the Giver and the Source of all Life! And the only way that you can appropriate that life is through Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life! Perhaps there may be someone in our midst this morning who has not appropriated that life yet. Have you eaten the flesh of Jesus Christ, in a spiritual sense? Have you spiritually drunk His blood? In other words, do you have Christ in you right now? If you do not have Christ in you, then you simply do not have life. You may be alive physically, but you do not have the true and everlasting life, because your soul has not appropriated it yet.

Now, this spiritual appropriation by the soul of the life that is in Christ is quite similar to what happens when we who are baptized Christians partake of the Lord's Supper. When Jesus instituted this some time after the events of John 6, He gave His disciples the bread to represent His body, and the cup to represent His blood. But why did they have to actually eat of that bread, and drink from that cup? It was clearly not to feed their stomachs, but rather to feed their souls. The bread which is broken would speak to them of Christ's subsitutionary death on the cross for their sins. The cup would speak to them of Christ's precious blood that was shed on the cross, and that alone can wash them and make them whiter as snow. 

Your outward act of eating the bread, and drinking from the cup will not have the slightest benefit for you, if it is not accompanied by the inward spiritual act of your soul to meditate and appropriate what Christ has done for you on the cross. 

So coming back to John 6, we now understand that Jesus was teaching them exactly what it means to believe in Him. The crowds had, as a result of the miracle which they experienced, come to believe in His power, but not in His person. They had come to Him not to seek Him, but to seek for more of the good food that He had miraculously multiplied, and for many other benefits from Him. But the words that Jesus spoke to them in vv.53-58 were designed to make them understand that He is all the food that they need to have!

What was their response to this? According to the next part of the passage, they refused to accept what He said! 

II. Why Many Could Not Accept His Teaching (vv.60-66)

Let us look at verse 60 'Many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?' The first thing you would notice here is that it not just the Jews among the 5000 who had been fed, who could not accept what Jesus had just said. Here we are told that many of Christ's own disciples also could not accept it. Now the word 'disciples' here refers to those in a larger group than just the 12 disciples that Jesus had personally chosen. In Luke 10:1,17 mention is made of a group of seventy whom Jesus sent out 2 by 2 to preach in the cities and villages that He Himself would visit after that. Perhaps the disciples who left Jesus were from this group.

The second thing we want to observe is what these disciples said - This is an hard saying; who can hear it? Some may take this to mean that they had a problem understanding what Jesus meant. If that is the case, then a simple explanation from Jesus is all that they needed - that the eating and drinking are not to be taken literally. They could simply request for clarification and they would have received it. But we are told in the verses that come after this that there was a worse problem in these disciples. It was not that they could not understand, but that they could not accept what Jesus had said. 

We see this in v.61, where Jesus said to them, 'Doth this offend you?' Jesus knew very well what was going on in their hearts. He could see that these disciples were greatly stumbled or offended by what He just said. Why were they unable to accept it? It was because they had been following Him for the wrong reasons. They were willing to continue following Christ as long as He kept on teaching them things that were right in their own eyes, things that did not offend them. But now that Christ taught them things that to their own minds were out of order and not to their liking, their attitude toward Him changed completely.

Now by having this response, these disciples really revealed their inward unbelief. Despite Jesus telling them that the words He had taught them are spirit and are life they rejected His words, and they left Him. Verse 66 tells us that 'From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.'

A true follower of Christ would never reject anything that He says, even though he may not be able to fully understand it. There may be certain teachings of the Scriptures that we find hard to understand. Try as we might, we cannot explain them or rationalize them, and so they remain a mystery to us on this side of glory. But we still accept them and receive them, on the simple basis that they come from God who is trustworthy. The true believer says, 'God says it. That settles it. I fully believe it!' If we were to question God on anything that He says, then we doubt His intregrity, and we show that we do not trust Him anymore to be the authority of all truth. This is what happened to the disciples who walked no more with Jesus. They rejected not only His words which offended them, but His authority as well.

III. How We Can Persevere in Following Christ (vv.67-69)

But if we do not doubt whatever God has given in His Word, and simply accept them on the basis of His authority, then we would be like the 12 disciples who continued to walk with Jesus after this episode. Let us read verses 67-69 to see what what Jesus asked them 'Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?'

We observe that the question that Jesus asked the 12 disciples here was prompted by the going away of the other disciples. We are not told how many of them had left and walked no more with Jesus, but perhaps the number of them was large enough to affect the remaining 12 disciples adversely, and challenge their commitment to follow Christ. It must have been quite discouraging for them to see so many who had once followed Christ together with them, and who had laboured together with them for a time, now leaving the group, and especially when their Master seemed to do nothing to stop them from leaving. If there was ever a time in the history of their walk with Christ when the twelve disciples may have felt most accutely the temptation or the pressure to leave Him, I believe that this was it!

Dearly beloved, perhaps some of you may sometimes have wondered why you still keep on following Christ now, when so many of your contemporaries who used to follow Him before, have ceased from following Him and have gone back to the world. And you find that you alone are left plodding onward. Have you at times ever felt discouraged by this, and wondered whether it is really worthwhile to carry on with your pursuit of Christ? How should you handle thoughts like these? How can you persevere in following Christ? Well, you can learn from the twelve who stayed on with Christ. The apostle Peter who was their spokesman when he said: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.'

This answer of Peter teaches us that there are at least two ways that we can persevere in following Christ. Firstly, by considering the great value of the Words of Life that Jesus has taught us. There is no one else that we can go to, because no one else has such wonderful words of eternal life to teach us. Every other teacher who has claimed to have the words of eternal life, only prove to be disappointments. Their words are based only their own faulty speculations and their own limited understanding. 

But Jesus is Himself the living Word and the Wisdom of God. What He teaches satisfies us deeply and satisfies our soul! Who but Jesus, the author of life is qualified to teach us all that we need to know about life in this world and the next? Dearly beloved, I would like all of us to be thoroughly convinced this morning that there is no better Teacher of Life and no surer foundation for our faith than the Lord Jesus Christ! 

When you treasure His Word well, you will then want to devote much time and effort to learning it well, and applying it well. It will be the very first thing that you will want to read at the beginning of each day, so that your soul will be equipped with the words of eternal life to meet each day's challenges! And when the words of Christ prove to be very difficult for you to accept you will not say, 'This is a hard saying, who can hear it?' Instead you will say, 'Lord, I fully accept Thy Word and will obey it?'

The other way that we can persevere in following Jesus is to consider the supreme worth of Jesus Himself. With Peter, we ought to confess will full conviction that He is that Christ, the Son of the Living God. We ought to adore Him who is the long awaited Messiah, whom the prophets had foretold. Our souls should cherish Him in all His glory, as the divinely appointed heir of all things, the One by whom the worlds were made, the brightness of God's glory and the express image of His person, and the One who now upholds all things by the Word of His power. 

Dearly beloved, the best way for us to persevere in following Christ when others are not, is to renew our love for Him. Contemplate on all that makes Jesus precious to you - His great love for you, the agony of His suffering and death on the cross for you, His power to deliver you, His faithfulness to you, and His promise to return from heaven for you. And may your resolve to persevere with Him who is your Teacher of Life be firmly strengthened.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11