Jesus gains a few thousand followers and John is quick to emphasize that they are following him because of the miraculous signs that he did. This will be key throughout this chapter. I have often wondered how frustrating following Jesus could have been when Jesus says some of the things he says to the apostles. Jesus looks at Philip and asks where they are going to buy food for everyone. He gives the logical response but Jesus wants to make sure they understand that their logic isn’t going to do much for them.
Andrew walks up with a kid and some food and says, “Look what I found!” and the kid gets to go home and say to his parents, “You’ll never guess what happened today!” After everyone has had their fill, Jesus cleans up after himself and has the Apostles pick up the leftovers. This sets the stage for the Twelve Tribes wandering through the wilderness, grumbling the entire way.
They want to make him king by force because someone who can heal the sick and feed everyone would be a great person to have as King when you have an overwhelming desire to overthrow Rome. They like the benefits of Jesus but they don’t really know yet what kind of king he really is. Jesus slips away and they find him again later after he’s walked on water. They are a bit confused as to how he got there but it doesn’t seem to come up. These events continue to shape the Apostles’ view of him.
The dialogue in v25 picks up their following him because of his miraculous signs and in v26 I saw something in the text today that I’m not sure I’ve connected before. They have seen the signs and miracles of Jesus (v2 and 14) but they have missed who Jesus is. The connection to today that I saw this morning that I hadn’t really picked up on before is that they wanted Jesus for the benefits that he would give them. They wanted to use Jesus for what would benefit them. We sometimes become so consumed with our desire to “go to heaven” that we bypass relationship with Jesus (and his church) because we only want the benefits of the two. We “go to church” rather than being the church. We desire the benefits of being associated with the church but without giving of ourselves. We want the benefits of Jesus, of being forgiven, of going to heaven, but we don’t want to take his call seriously when he calls us to change.
Using God to “get to heaven” is to fail to realize that being in God is the reality of heaven. If God is not there then it is not heaven. You cannot have heaven without being one with God. We need to make sure we are desiring the right things. Keep your motivations in check. We can’t follow God in order to get heaven or we have missed what heaven really is. Jesus’ promise is that those who know him will be raised up at the last day. Knowing Jesus brings about a transformation that is recognizable.
They reject Jesus because they “know where he is from” though they see these miracles that he does. In case there was any confusion about the ambiguity of Jesus’ comments he then makes it more clear for them…”Eat my flesh and drink my blood and you will live forever.” This seems pretty clear to us since we gather every week to join in the two thousand year practice of eating and drinking Christ together. This is a hard teaching and many walk away.
The imagery John is pointing to with all of this is Israel being lost in the wilderness. While in the wilderness God provided manna, bread from heaven, for them to eat. John continually points out their grumbling showing that they are the people lost in the wilderness in need of God but this bread that they now have is greater than ever. This bread gives eternal life!
The people in the wilderness grumbled and wanted to turn back to slavery. Jesus gives these grumblers that option. When they choose to walk away, Jesus turned to the 12 and asked if they would walk away as well. Peter then answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
There are a lot of things that Jesus taught that are easily considered hard teachings. Our response too often is to explain away why he didn’t mean what he said or we justify our actions and how it is impossible to live up to Christ’s call. When Christ calls us to these hard teachings, come and die; turn the other cheek; bless those who curse; etc., our response should be the same as the apostles, “You have the words of eternal life. To whom shall we go?”