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60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?
62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
For his disciples, who understood the implications of Jesus’ speech about his body and blood and realized the difficulty with his extremely problematic claim, he provided an important line of reasoning. In John 6.62 Jesus counters the difficulty with the following rhetorical question: “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?!” Jesus’ point is simple. “What I say about myself only makes sense if I am the Son of Man of Daniel’s vision. If you believe that vision, then what I am saying should also be believable.”
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
Jesus’ teachings are beginning to crystallize and his message is becoming increasingly clear within the context of his prophetic critique of the contemporary Jerusalem Temple leadership, their power structure and its massive following. It was also becoming abundantly clear that Jesus would not win the Judean popularity contest.
Notice that while Jesus is speaking of coming to him (John 6.65), the text also speaks of staying with Jesus to the very end (John 6.66). It is unlikely that Jesus is speaking to those who will come later. I think he is clear. Coming to him and staying with him are connected. One cannot truly come and then leave. The opposite is also true. If people were with Him and then left, that means they had not yet come to Him at all. In other words, they had not yet come to Him as the life-giver and life-sustainer. They had not tasted him and had not fed on him.
How can we understand this? How can those who saw God’s goodness and glory turn away from Him? The prophets of the Bible divided the world into three clear categories: 1) those outside of Covenant, 2) those inside of it and keeping it and 3) those inside of it and not keeping it. Those who remained with Jesus were the very ones whom the prophets called the faithful remnant of Israel. However, even those who stayed with Him would soon fail their covenant obligations. It was Peter who said “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…!” (vs.68) and it is the same Peter who would three times answer the question of his identity as Jesus’ follower with the clear – “I am not.” (John 18.13-27)
What, therefore, would happen on the cross is this: the faithful remnant of Israel would be reduced to only one person. Jesus would remain faithful to God’s Covenant until the end. He would remain alone, becoming a new foundation for the New Jerusalem – the eternal dwelling place of the redeemed. It is upon Him and Him alone that Israel’s God would begin the rebuilding and restoration of his people Israel, their reconciling, and the reconciling of all the nations of the world to Himself.
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