John 6:59–71 Who has the Words of Eternal Life?

The fallout from Jesus’ radical statement didn’t end with the Jewish leaders. Even some of His disciples had difficulty with Jesus’ misunderstood statement of partaking in His flesh and blood. If you missed it, we covered the controversy in a previous article ( In the next section of John’s Gospel, the disciple’s struggle with Jesus’ proclamation.

From John, “These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. “But there are some of you who do not believe.” And, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”

One of the things we see is that Jesus had more disciples than the 12 named. This count grew and fell over time. Interestingly, Jesus wasn’t driven to attract a crowd. His value and success were not predicated on the size of His following. Neither did He people-please them to “keep them in the fold” or find acceptance and value.

Jesus then addressed His closest disciples, the twelve.  “So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” They had to make a decision. One based on knowledge and relationship instead of on want and expectation. They recognized that Jesus was speaking life and that He is of God. He spoke words of eternal life.

Also, in the section John 6:59-71, John looks back with understanding. He reports Jesus’ words and understands that they refer to Judas. John states, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” (John 6:59–71, NASB95)

John provides three contrasting responses to Jesus from His followers. Some heard Jesus’ misunderstood words about eating flesh and His identity and turned away. It was too hard for them to swallow (no pun intended). People follow Jesus for a variety of reasons. Still, sooner or later, they must confront the truth about Jesus’ identity as God the Son. That is the dividing line between simply following His teaching and being a child of God.

Jesus and John hint that this was the beginning of Judas’ betrayal. Perhaps the seed of doubt was planted that day. We really don’t know Judas’ motivation. Did He really believe and try to force Jesus’ hand? Was he motivated by the money? Was he a purist that sought to contain Jesus and keep Him from going too far?  We simply do not know. What we do know is that he experienced and heard the same things as Peter, James, and John, but came to a different conclusion. Perhaps his own desires and expectations got in the way of what Jesus was genuinely offering him.

The final contrast of Christ’s followers is found in Peter’s statement, ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” The Bible challenges us. If it doesn’t, something is wrong. We have to choose between paths. Do we follow Jesus’ words of eternal life, or do we seek another path? There are many voices proclaiming ways to go, but there is only one that offers “abundant life.” Google doesn’t have the answer. Science only sees what it sees. Friends, family, and others all have their own agendas. To whom shall we go? To whom shall we turn? That decision makes all the difference in the world and in eternity.

Dale Heinold
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