There are numerous books written on the subject of “the hard sayings of Jesus.” If these concern you, you would be interested in checking them out. I will say this, however. When a scriptural question bugs you and nags at you, in most cases the Holy Spirit is at work in you, trying to bring your spiritual growth to the next level. And for that reason, the answers you find in the books will not suffice. You have a question, you read someone’s answer, something that works for them, and you come away frustrated, wondering why that doesn’t satisfy you. The reason is God wants to help you find the answer in His own way in order to do something special in your life.
So, stay with Him. Keep the question before the Lord and keep studying the Word. When the answer comes, you will think you have died and gone to Heaven, it’s that wonderful. (I speak from experience.)
What are we to make of all of these ‘hard sayings’ of our Lord? Here are my thoughts on the subject…
The Lord deliberately said some things hard to understand to weed out the softies from the sincere. The hangers-on from the devoted disciples. The shallow from the solid. The groupies from the team. The fans from the faithful.
That’s what He was doing here in John 6, the text which kicked off this discussion in the first place. Go back and look more closely at the entire chapter…
–John 6:1-14 Jesus feeds the five thousand with the loaves and fish. (They sure did like this! Wow. Let’s stay with Him. And don’t ever worry about bringing your lunch again!)
–John 6:15 Jesus sensed that the enthusiastic crowd—almost a mob!—was about to force the issue and crown Him as king. So, He and the disciples left the area in a hurry.
–John 6:16-25 We have the interlude with Jesus walking on the water. Was that ever a story to tell! The news about Jesus went viral.
–John 6:26 Jesus says, “You seek me, not because you saw the miraculous signs. You’re more interested in being fed.” John MacArthur commented, “The crowds which followed Him were motivated by superficial desires of food rather than any understanding of the true spiritual significance of Jesus’ person and mission.” Sound like God’s people today?
–John 6:27ff The discussion which follows shows how carnal the understanding of the crowds was. In 6:30, they’re asking for another sign. In 6:34, they say, “Give us this bread always” (No more hard work to earn a living!). In 6:41 the Jewish leaders stumble over His claim that “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” After all, didn’t they know His family? How could He be from Heaven?
–John 6:43-51, Jesus ups the ante, making it increasingly difficult for that crowd to get the meaning of His words. He said no one had seen the Father “except He who is from God; He has seen the Father” (v.46). He said, “I am the bread of life…which one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread…” (vv.48-51).
He was saying not just one or two things but a ton of things these people could not understand. “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he understand them; for they are spiritually appraised…” (I Corinthians 2:14).
–So, when Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you,” He was merely ratcheting up the mystery a notch to bring this to a conclusion. As though He were to say, “You think that’s a mystery! Try this!”
And the point of all this—I submit—is the Lord was weeding out those who were following from the wrong motive.