Tuesday, April 24, 2012
How Did His Disciples Take It?
John Chapter Six is known as the “Bread of Life Discourse.” It caused a lot of commotion at the time Jesus gave it, and is still causing a bunch of ruckus today. Protestants and Catholics seem to always be at war with one another over it, the former claiming that Jesus meant His words figuratively, and the latter claiming that He meant them literally. The question to ask is, “How did Jesus’ disciples take it?”
There is no hesitation over this one. The people listening to Jesus when He gave the Bread of Life Discourse took him very literally. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they ask confusedly. Jesus responds to their confusion by repeating the same words over, in verse 54: “Amen, I say to you, except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you shall not have life within you.” Jesus did not explain that He was speaking figuratively, as He did when saying we must be born again of the Spirit. In John 6, He does not change His teaching or expound upon it. Why? Because there was nothing to explain; everyone had understood him correctly. They must actually eat Jesus! “This is a hard teaching to accept,” they say. “Does this scandalize you?” Our Lord replies. “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” In other words, they would need a sign to believe His words. They would have to behold a visible manifestation of His power before they would give His words credence. Knowing this, Jesus rebukes them. He tells them that the evidence of their flesh is to no avail, and that they must simply believe. They receive the same message as Doubting Thomas is to receive later. Yet, they still do not accept Christ’s words. “Because of this, many of His disciples turned back and no longer went about with Him.” They took Him literally and could not handle the implications, so they left.
Was this all a misunderstanding? It could not have been, because Jesus does not call them back. Everywhere else in the Bible, when someone misunderstood Him, Jesus explained. Yet here He does not explain. Instead, He lets them walk as He turns to His Apostles and asks them if they, too, are going to abandon Him. To which Peter responds, “Oh, no, Lord; we know you’re only speaking figuratively…”