“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (John 6:60-62)
As the Bread of Life Discourse comes to a conclusion, the people react to what Jesus has taught them in Capernaum. Those who earnestly sought Him for physical nourishment now begin rejecting Him because of what He taught regarding spiritual nourishment. They did not like what they heard.
The phrase “when many of His disciples” refers not to the twelve but to the many followers who comprised the crowd. They followed Jesus for their own self-interests and physical gratification. Their response to Jesus’ teaching was “this is a hard saying, who can listen to it?”
The phrase “hard saying” means that what Jesus taught was demanding, strong and harsh message. It was not that they did not understand or comprehend it. They didn’t like it. What Jesus taught was not what the crowed wanted to hear. It was a similar reaction as those in Jerusalem (John 5).
As before (John 6:52), the Jews showed their discontentment to Jesus’ words by grumbling about what they heard. Jesus said to them, ““Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”
The word “offense” is from the Greek word σκανδαλίζω; (skandalizei) from which we derive our English word scandal. What Jesus taught was scandalous or offensive to the Jews. Jesus responded that what would be even more scandalous to them would be His ascension following His death, burial and resurrection.
One commentator writes, “Reminiscent of Jesus’ words in 2:23–25, Jesus knew the hearts of men, including those disciples who followed him. He supernaturally knew that many did not believe in him as Messiah and Son of God so he did not entrust himself to them. These false disciples were simply attracted to the physical phenomena (e.g., miracles and food), and failed to understand the true significance of Jesus’ teaching (6:61).”
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “If there is anything that we learn from Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse recorded in John 6:22–59, it is that there can be no half-hearted commitment to Christ. Because He is the bread of life, we must rely totally on Him and on nothing else for eternal life just as we rely fully on physical food to sustain our bodies. We must believe that only those who look on Jesus in faith will live forever. We must realize and confess that we have no power to believe in ourselves but rely on the electing grace of God for redemption. We must embrace Jesus alone as the way of salvation.”
What Jesus taught in John 6 was scandalous or offensive to the Jews who listened to Him. What Jesus taught in John remains scandalous and offensive to many today, even to those who profess to be believers in Christ.
Dr. Sproul concludes, “Many people want to be saved through a half-hearted commitment to Jesus as Savior but not as Lord, so they find repugnant the idea that there is only one way of salvation, and they think they are inherently good and able to make the right decisions for redemption. Today’s passage shows us that Jesus’ words on these matters were not any more popular with people two thousand years ago. Many of Jesus’ disciples, John 6:60 indicates, grumbled that His words were “hard.” This does not mean that they found Christ hard to understand. They understood what He was claiming. What they meant was that Jesus’ words were hard to receive.”
Do you find Jesus’ words hard to receive? If so, then repent of your self-exaltation and misunderstanding regarding who Jesus is and what He came to earth to accomplish. Reject today any notion that salvation can be found in any other work or person than Jesus Christ alone.
Soli deo Gloria!