“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” (John 6:66)
“After this” means because of this or the reason for this. Jesus’ teachings in general, and His Bread of Life Discourse in particular, offended people. They did not like what He had to share. However, Jesus did not equivocate the truth. He did not become shallow in His teaching in order that people would not be offended. He spoke the truth.
The phrase “Many of His disciples” does not refer to the twelve as we will see when we study John 6:67. It refers to the many who followed the right person, Jesus, for the wrong reasons. The phrase refers in the immediate context to the crowd who followed Jesus for what He would do for them physically. They wanted a free meal, a new political structure with Jesus serving as king, and a problem free life with no sickness, pain or death.
When Jesus did not offer this, but rather told the crowd that the only way to truly be part of His kingdom was for the Father to give them as a gift to the Son, they rebelled and rejected the truth. They “turned back.” To turn back is a decisive departure to no longer be a disciple of Jesus. The language indicates that this abandonment was final.
I Peter 2:6-8 says, “For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
Dr. John MacArthur explains, “The messianic credentials of Jesus were examined by the false religious leaders of Israel and contemptuously rejected (vv. 6–8; cf. Matt. 12:22–24; John 1:10–11). But Jesus Christ was God’s precious and elect Son, ultimately authenticated through his resurrection from the dead (cf. Ps. 2:10–11; Matt. 3:17; Acts 2:23–24, 32; 4:11–12; 5:30–31; 10:39–41).”
I John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
Dr. MacArthur continues by explaining, “The first characteristic mentioned of antichrists, i.e., false teachers and deceivers (I John 2:22–26), is that they depart from the faithful (see vv. 22–23 for the second characteristic and v. 26 for the third). They arise from within the church and depart from true fellowship and lead people out with them. The verse also places emphasis on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Those genuinely born again endure in faith and fellowship and the truth (1 Cor. 11:19; 2 Tim. 2:12).”
The many from the crowd who turned back from following Jesus evidenced that they were not truly born again (John 3:1-8), neither had they partook of the living water (John 4) nor the bread of life which Jesus alone provides because He is the living water and the bread of life.
I’m sure you can think of someone you know, or used to know, who once followed Christ and then turned their backs on Him, so to speak. It is a painful thing to watch, but a testimony that once again Scripture is true and that commitment to Christ comes on God’s terms and not our own.
Renew your commitment to follow Christ today and to never compromise the truth of Scripture.
Soli deo Gloria!