“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. 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.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:63–66)
When Jesus talked in metaphor and other figures of speech, those who literally interpreted Him were upset, and it is no wonder. Just before those words above, He said,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:53–56)
I understand what it means to draw my very life from Jesus. However on that day many did not get it because they did not believe in Him. They might have been “disciples” in the sense of followers who hung around Jesus to listen to Him and hopefully get fed or healed — the world today has many of those — but they did not have the life of Christ in them; they were not born anew or filled with faith from God, nor did they have the Holy Spirit in their hearts.
Jesus knew who fit into what category. His twelve disciples had trouble with what He said too, but when He asked if they were going away too, Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68–69)
This exchange tells me that faith is not about understanding everything God says, but about understanding who Jesus is and that He gives eternal life to those who come to Him because the Father has granted them to do so. Because of this, everyone from a child to a PhD can believe in Jesus Christ.
It also tells me that people will follow Jesus, listen to Him, even appear to be genuine disciples, but when confronted with what Jesus actually teaches, or what He doesn’t give them what they expected, they will run the other direction.
Someone put a poster on Facebook this week of a supposed comparison of world religions. Christianity was first with the Golden Rule of “Do unto others what you would have them do to you.” Then the writings of eight others followed with variations of the same idea. Those who posted and responded remarked that they did not understand why people of various ‘faiths’ could not get along because they essentially believe the same thing.
This shows a misunderstanding of the basics of Jesus’ teaching. He did teach that ‘rule’ but not as a foundation for faith. Instead, it is a result of faith. Believing in Him is about drawing our very life from Him, about eating and drinking Jesus — and I cannot do that unless the Father draws me to Him. Being nice to people is not offensive, but people are offended when told they cannot be nice (as God measures it) unless they trust the Son of God with all their hearts.
I know that any clarification of that poster would be offensive to those who promoted it. They have already expressed that they are not interested in becoming a new creation or having Jesus living and ruling in their hearts. They just want everyone to agree and get along and be nice to each other, even if that means avoiding the rest of what Jesus teaches.