The Parting of the Ways - John 6 : 60-end
Richard A Burridge, in his commentary on the Gospel according to John, heads this section of chapter 6 as ‘The Parting of the Ways.’ An overview of the chapter takes the reader from the feeding of the five thousand on the mountain slopes, down to and across what was to become the storm-tossed Sea of Tiberias, to a crowd in Capernaum, and finally, still with the crowd but perhaps in smaller numbers, to the synagogue. Jesus had given them a challenge. He said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. On hearing it, many of his followers said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Mark Twain is reputed to have said, “It is not the parts of the gospel which I do not understand which cause me most difficulty, it's the demand of that which I do understand.
There would have been many in the crowd who would have witnessed the healings and the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, but this teaching was too hard for them….they could not grasp its meaning. It is almost certain that most of the twelve would also have found their Lord's words difficult to understand. Jesus was aware of this and so asked them directly - “Does this offend you?” In the absence of a reply he continues “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” Still no reply is recorded and so he continues to address his for the moment, tongue tied disciples…(because Peter is not known to be normally tongue tied! ) . “It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless….and he concludes, (because he recognizes that Judas will betray him), “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” In some translations ‘ascending’ is replaced by ‘lifted up’. In the original spoken word, some commentators consider that this could have been interpreted by the disciples as simply going up to Jerusalem, but our Lord of course meant the cross which the disciples would soon understand as a reality, initially for Jesus and not long after for some, for themselves.
And so, many of his followers depart, but Jesus, not deterred, asks the twelve…”Do you wish also to go away?”....and at last Simon Peter speaks out “Lord to whom can 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.” It would be Peter again, much closer on our Lord's journey to the cross, who will respond to Jesus’s question “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?... “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”.
Richard A Burridge’s commentary ends with a reflection and prayer. Where do we stand in the crowd who seek Jesus? Lord, where else can we go? You have the Words of Eternal Life.
Revd John Hillier