“Do you want to go away as well?”
Series: The Gospel of John
This week, Pastor Matt tackles the difficult question most of us face at least one time (and asked by Jesus Himself, to His disciples): “Do you want to go away as well?” Choosing to follow Jesus can be hard sometimes; in this sermon, we look to what Jesus says on the matter:
- Only those who believe in Him have eternal life
- We have to eat his flesh and drink his blood
- You can’t come to Him on your own
– ESV Study Bible – Study notes on the Gospel According to John
– Pillar New Testament Commentary Series – The Gospel According to John – DA Carson
Do you want to go away as well? Do you want to go away as well? It’s the question that the Lord Jesus Christ, the kindest and most honest person to ever live, asks his disciples at the end of our passage. And it’s a question that the Holy Spirit has preserved in Scripture for each of us to consider. Do you want to go away as well? You see, Jesus said some hard things during his life on earth. Jesus said some of those hard things in our passage this morning. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60). “Hard” doesn’t mean difficult to understand. It means “harsh” or “offensive.” The so-called disciples mentioned in this verse quit following Jesus, because they won’t tolerate the hard, harsh, and offensive things that Jesus says. And this leads Jesus to ask the twelve disciples, and all of us a critical question, a question that is the big idea of our passage this morning: “Do you want to go away as well?” What an important question. Are you sure you want to follow Jesus? Are you going to follow Him even when His word offends your sensibilities, contradicts your assumptions, runs rough over your worldview, puts you on the wrong side of history, or calls you to the uncomfortable? Do you want to go away as well? In our passage Jesus says at least three statements that might make you want to go away as well. Jesus says…
Only those who believe in Him have eternal life
We have to eat his flesh and drink his blood
You can’t come to Him on your own
ONLY THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN HIM HAVE ETERNAL LIFE (6:41-51)
The first reason you might want to go away is because Jesus says that only those who believe in him have eternal life. Let’s set the scene. Earlier in John 6, Jesus fed 5,000+ with a child’s lunch. It’s an amazing miracle, but it’s more than a miracle. John calls it a sign. A sign is a miracle that points to something about Jesus that’s even more amazing than the miracle. And Jesus spells out what that something is in John 6:33-35 – For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life…” This is hard, harsh and offensive to the crowd that Jesus is speaking to. “Who does Jesus think He is? Why does he think he’s better than us? We know his parents and the scandal of his illegitimate birth. Who is he to say that he came down from heaven?” Interestingly, Jesus responds to their grumbling by hitting the gas and drawing out the hard, harsh, and offensive implication of his claim to be the Bread of Life who came down from heaven. John 6:47-51 – Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus is saying that when his Jewish forefathers journeyed for forty years from their slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, God fed them with bread from heaven called manna. The manna was wonderful. The manna sustained them. But manna couldn’t give them eternal life. Those who ate manna still died. But Jesus is the true and greater manna, the true and greater bread from heaven. Whoever believes in Him, whoever eats of that bread, whoever receives and rests in Him alone for salvation, will be sustained for eternal life. If you live by any other bread, any other religion, any other philosophy, any of your own good works, you will die forever. Only those who believe in Jesus have eternal life. That’s narrow, exclusive, offensive, harsh, will put you on the wrong side of history, get you labeled a bigot, zealot, or fundamentalist, and it’s straight from the mouth of the lowliest, gentlest man who ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ. And it’s part of what led these so-called disciples to walk away from Jesus. And this brings us back to our big idea…
Do you want to go away as well? Are you sure that you want to follow the real Jesus? Do you want to go away as well? You might want to. Openly and publicly following the real Jesus who says that only those who believe in him have eternal life may cost you friends, family, promotions, reputation, wealth, and will lead you to want to tell everyone about him. Are you sure you can live with the cost of following the real Jesus? You may want to go away as well. On the other hand, you may not. After all, other religions and philosophies, your friends, family, good works, promotion, reputation, and wealth are just like manna in the wilderness. You can eat them, you can trust and build your life on them, but they can’t give you eternal life. You’ll still die in your sins. But Jesus is the living bread that came down from heaven and if you believe in him, if you receive and rest in him alone for salvation and keep believing until your last breath, you will live forever. Do you want to go away as well or do you want the real, and at times lovingly offensive, Jesus who alone gives eternal life? If you don’t want to go away as well because Jesus says that only those who believe in him have eternal life, you may still want to go away as well because…
WE HAVE TO EAT HIS FLESH AND DRINK HIS BLOOD (6:52-59)
After clearly saying that only those who believe in him have eternal life, Jesus doubles down on the bread metaphor. John 6:51-54 – I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “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. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Can you imagine being part of the crowd that day? Imagine if someone said to you, unless you eat my body and drink my blood, there is no eternal life for you! It comes off shocking and disgusting. If you have a church background, you might think that Jesus is talking about what is commonly called communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist. You might think that Jesus is talking about church family practice of eating bread and drinking grape juice in remembrance of Jesus’ broken body and shed blood when we gather. And if that is what comes to mind for you when you read these verses, then you might be wondering at this point, “Is Jesus saying that if we don’t participate in the Lord’s Supper then we cannot inherit eternal life? Are we saved by believing in Jesus and taking the Lord’s Supper?” The answer to that question is “no” for two reasons. First, Jesus isn’t talking about the Lord’s Supper, he’s talking about the cross. The bread that Jesus will give for the life of the world is his flesh, which was crucified on the cross. He’s not talking communion, he’s talking cross. Secondly, it’s clear from our passage that “eating and drinking” is simply a more vivid way of saying “believing.” Compare these two statements by Jesus and you’ll see that. John 6:47 – Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. Compare that to John 6:54 – Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life… What is Jesus saying? Well, think about eating and drinking. Our entire lives, our very existence depends on the food we eat and the water we drink. We’re completely dependent on what we eat and drink. That’s a perfect picture of believing in Jesus. We are completely dependent on the death of Christ in our place for our sins on the cross for eternal life. We quite literally cannot have true, eternal life without feasting on the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus is saying that depending on his broken body and shed blood on the cross is our only hope in life and in death.
Now, why were Jesus’ words about his flesh and blood so hard, harsh, and offensive that his so-called disciples quit following him? Why might you want to go away as well? New Testament scholar D.A. Carson points out that the crowds wanted Jesus to be their earthly king, not a suffering servant. They wanted Jesus to get rid of their enemies and give them a trouble-free, peaceful, victorious life. They wanted Jesus to conquer all their worldly problems and reign forever so that they could have all the benefits. So, when Jesus started signaling that he’s not that kind of king. When Jesus started saying that he’s a king who is going to wear a cross, not a crown, so that they could have not an easy life, but eternal life, they were disillusioned and disappointed. So, they went away.
Do you want to go away as well? You may want to. After all, Jesus promised that he would suffer on a cross before rising to a throne. If we follow him, we too will have trials in this life before rising with him to glory. If you go away as well you can give your life to being healthy, wealthy, successful, accomplished, respected, or comfortable. If you follow the suffering servant, then suffering and trials is what you can expect before glory. The crowds in John 6 understood that, so they left. Do you want to go away as well? You may want to because following Jesus doesn’t guarantee “the good life.” You may want to go away as well. On the other hand, you may not. As my friend Steve Tornetta says, “Jesus is not the guarantor of the good life, he is the good life.” If you don’t leave, you get to feast on Him. If you don’t leave, you’ll suffer following the Suffering Servant, yes. But better than the good life, you’ll have him. And because of his death on the cross, you’ll have true life with Him now and you’ll reign with him in glory forever. If you cling to Jesus, if you receive and rest in his work on the cross every day, you’ll have freedom from the burden of sin because he took it and you’ll have true life now and forever because he lives. You’ll have him in your suffering, which is better than no suffering. As Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Maybe you do want to follow the real Jesus. Still, you may want to go away as well because, third and finally…
YOU CAN’T COME TO HIM ON YOUR OWN (John 6:43-45, 60-65)
I’ve heard people say, and I’ve probably said it myself, that if I saw Jesus feed 5,000 people with a poor boy’s lunch, I’d come and follow him. But apparently that’s not true because Jesus fed this very crowd, but they wouldn’t come to him. Why not? Jesus says that it’s because you can’t come to him on your own.
John 6:43-44 – Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:64-65 – “But there are some of you who do not believe…” 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.”
Now that is hard, harsh and offensive. Jesus is saying that sin is like a slave master. Sin controls us, blinds us, and keeps us from being free to even come and believe in Jesus. Another way that the Bible speaks of sin is that sin brings death. We are born dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead people can’t come to anyone and believe because they’re dead. We in way worse shape than we think. We are what theologians call “totally depraved.” Sin has so infected every part of who we are that we are both unable and unwilling to even believe in Jesus on our own. Jesus says that no one can come to Him and believe unless the Father sovereignly, graciously, and specifically draws them. And that is hard, harsh, and offensive. As D.A. Carson writes in his commentary on this passage, “They were unprepared to relinquish their own sovereign authority even in matters religious, and therefore were incapable of taking the first steps.” How harsh to be told that you’re so enslaved by sin and so dead in sin that you can’t even come to Jesus and believe on your own! But that is what Jesus says and the so-called disciples are offended to the point of leaving.
Do you want to go away as well? You may want to because Jesus destroys any and all religious pride and self-sufficiency. He says we can’t even believe on our own. Even faith is a gift. Jesus leaves literally no room for human boasting or autonomy when it comes to believing in Him. That’s a hard word. You may want to go as well. On the other hand, you may not. Because if you’re believing in Jesus – this is so wonderful – it’s because God Almighty chose you before the foundation of the world to adopt you as his son or daughter. If you’re believing in Jesus, it’s because the Father plucked you out of the dung heap of this world, when you were sprinting as hard away from Him as you could, and he gave you to Jesus. And if you’re believing in Jesus, even with the weakest of faith, then He will never cast you out. The Father gave you to Him, how could he possibly cast you out? Of course he’ll raise you up on the last day, the Father chose you and gave you to Him. I think you may want to stay and follow the real Jesus.
What are some of the greatest temptations that you face? The greatest temptation you face isn’t lust, lying, materialism, fear of man, or pride. The greatest temptation that we all face is the temptation to go away as well. Whether in a blaze of deconstruction or a slow slide away because we are busy with other things, the greatest temptation we all face is to stop believing in and following Jesus. We make the Christian life so complicated. The grand goal of the Christian life is to stay a Christian to your dying day. And so I’m inviting each and every person in this room to decide. Now that you know just a few of the hard things that Jesus says – and there are many more – do you want to go away as well? At the close of our passage, the Apostle Peter provides one of the best reasons why you should come to Jesus for the first time today or why you should stay with him. John 6:67-69 – So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Friends, you don’t want to go away as well. Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Holy One who has come down from God. To whom would you go? Only he has the words of true life and eternal life. Don’t go away as well.