Who Can Accept It?
“This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (John 6:60). Jesus’ teaching about eating his flesh and drinking his blood isn’t something we can figure out and accept on our own. In his explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther writes these often-quoted and memorized words: “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him.” The question of accepting Jesus’ difficult teachings gets turned on its head. No one can accept it. The good news of Jesus is too radical, unsettling, and illogical for us to accept. Through the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit we are able to echo Peter’s profession of faith: “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). Like Peter, we have come to believe—despite our doubts and weakness of faith—through the Spirit’s work in the word.
The “hard saying” that offends Jesus’ disciples is his claim that his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood. The followers who return to their old lives know something about how odd this sounds. Simon Peter, on the other hand, knows something about the scarcity of living, gracious words. He asks the most important question: “To whom shall we go?”
[Jesus said,] 56“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”
66Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”–John 6:56-69