John 6:60-70


Note how often life is mentioned in this chapter, spiritual and everlasting life, verses 27, 33, 35, 40, 47, 48, 51, 54, 57, 58. And Jesus mentions the resurrection four times: 39, 40, 44, 54. He is yearning to give them life and, eventually, the resurrection of the body to everlasting life. But, they reject His Person, true God and true man, and His message.

Kretzmann: These people had just heard a wonderful sermon out of the mouth of the Master. They had learned that faith is a work which God desires of men, that Jesus is the life-giver, that the grace of God in Jesus is universal, and that none is refused, that there is an election of grace by which those whom God has given to the Son become partakers of grace, that faith is the work of God, Who draws to Christ, that the believers are sure of everlasting life, that there is a communication of attributes in the Godhead, between the divine and the human nature of Christ, that there is a mystical union between God the Father and the Son and the believers. And yet some of these disciples were offended; they found it a hard saying that the flesh of this Man should give eternal life.

The 5,000 people who were fed the day before near Bethsaida Julias are called "a large crowd," in John 6:5. On this day when Jesus preached this sermon we are told that another "large crowd" came from Bethsaida Julias to Capernaum, verses 24 and 59, to find Jesus. Very likely this crowd was not as great as it had been the day before when Jesus fed them. Those who left Jesus after He had concluded His sermon are called "many" in verses 60 and 66. Though the text does not say so in so many words, it would seem that Jesus' entire audience, except for the disciples, left Him. But we cannot prove that with finality.

John 6:60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (Buls: Then many of His disciples, after they had heard this, said: "This is intolerable language. Who can keep on listening to it?")

Of our versions only KJV and NKJV translate "Therefore." Likely the word means this is a narrative. It is not an easy word to translate. Very often translators leave the little words untranslated, sometimes with, sometimes without, justification.

They say: "Why waste time listening to Him." Compare John 10:20: "He has a devil and is mad." The Gospel is foolishness to the unbeliever.

NEB has an attractive rendering: "This is more than we can stomach! Why listen to such talk?"

"Hearing" is used in two senses in this verse. They heard Him and yet they could not hear Him.

John 6:61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? (Buls: When Jesus knew, without anyone telling Him, that His disciples were grumbling about this He said to them: "Does this ensnare you?)

The Greek implies that no one needed to inform Jesus as to their reaction. All of John 6 is replete with evidence of Jesus' divinity and humanity, and furthermore, by virtue of the incarnation divine powers and attributes were communicated to the man, Jesus Christ.

The emphasis is on a "snare" rather than on a "stumbling block." The Truth ensnares the unbeliever, not because it is Truth, but because of the unbelief of the individual. Jesus is not asking for information. He is reminding them of the consequences of unbelief.

John 6:62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! (Buls: What then if you see the Son of Man going up where He was before?)

The conditional sentence is an example of what is called "aposiopesis."

Robertson: "It is a conscious suppression of part of a sentence under the influence of a strong emotion like anger, fear, pity."

Jesus is disappointed in them.

We supply "what then?" AAT: "What if you see the Son of Man go up where He was before?"

They "saw." Look at verses 2, 14, 26, 36. A similar thought occurs in 3:12. Also 8:28 and Matt. 26:64. There are far greater things which would yet follow: His crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension. These great saving acts of Jesus Christ would stagger people's imagination. He is saying: "You will need faith to accept these great truths."

John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (Buls: The Spirit is the One Who gives life, the flesh helps not one bit; the Words which I have spoken to you are spirit and life.")

Note that this verse begins with a compound sentence the parts of which are divided only by a comma. In the first member of this compound sentence both subjects and predicate have articles. They are interchangeable.

No law can "make alive" in the sense of "justify." People are made alive, are justified, only through Christ and His Gospel. No one or nothing else can do that.

The words "Spirit and flesh" in this verse have evoked much discussion and many books. The Calvinists explain "flesh" as "MY flesh" (Jesus' flesh). But if that is what Jesus meant He contradicted what He had said in verses 51, 53-56. In fact, He would be denying the whole discourse.

Lutherans have interpreted this word in two ways:

  1. Kretzmann and Luther: "The contrast between flesh and spirit in 63 has nothing whatever to do with the Eucharist, since it opposed the work of the Spirit of God and the unprofitable working of the nature condition of man."

  2. Ylvisaker and Bengel: "If Jesus were merely 'flesh,' a human being only, then the eating and drinking of Him would not avail unto eternal life, it would have no beneficial effect whatsoever."

Furthermore, Lutherans have interpreted "Spirit" in two ways:

  1. Luther and Kretzmann: "The Holy Spirit."

  2. Ylvisaker and Bengel: "But He is also 'spirit,' that is, God in essence and in truth, and it is this 'spirit' which permeates and animates His true humanity, and make Him the true Bread from heaven which mediates eternal life for everyone who eats and drinks of Him. He is God and man in one person."

Compare what Jesus says about "His Words" in verse 63 with what Peter says in verse 68. The Lutheran teaching about the means of grace is very important. We find the Lord only in His Word, especially His Gospel.

John 6:64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. (Buls: However, there are some of your number who do not believe." You see, right from the beginning Jesus knew who those were who did not believe and who the one was who would betray Him.)

Note what we have said under #3 above. Does the first sentence of this verse mean that some of the crowd did believe? The commentaries hesitate to answer this question. Does the word "crowd" in verse 66 denote a group different from the "crowd" in verse 60? The fact that John narrows it down to Judas in verses 70-71 perhaps indicates that all of the hearers who had been with Him at Bethsaida and came to Capernaum left Him. But we cannot be dogmatic. The text does not inform us on this point.

"From the beginning" -- how far back does this phrase take us? In any case the phrase plainly indicates Jesus' divinity and that Jesus knew before this day in Capernaum who would not believe and also that Judas was going to betray Him. We stand in awe of the love of Jesus. Though He knew that some would not believe and that Judas was going to betray Him, Jesus made every attempt to bring these people to Christian faith.

Lenski: As regards Judas: Jesus chose him 'not for the purpose' of betrayal but only 'with the knowledge' of that betrayal . . . . This foreknowledge rested on the act of Judas, not the act of Judas on the foreknowledge.

That's about as far as anyone dare go in explaining this verse.

Bengel: John has diligently marked the successive steps in the deadly wickedness of Judas and entertained an especial antipathy towards him.

Judas and those who arrested Jesus did not catch Jesus off guard. Long before they laid their plans Jesus knew what they were going to do.

John 6:65 He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." (Buls: And so He went on to say: "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to Him by the Father.")

Faith and its object are a gift of the Father. Trace this thought through the whole discourse. In verse 65 we have a present general, axiomatic conditional sentence to which there are no exceptions. Ponder the "it has been granted" phrase. God has granted this gift before the believer is even aware of it. Forms of this verb are found in verses 37, 39, 51, 52, and 65. A sermon could be preached on this verb in these five verses. Christianity is monergistic throughout. Confessional Lutheranism is very sensitive concerning this matter.

John 6:66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (Buls: As a result of this many of His disciples went back to their former way of life and so no longer were walking with Him.)

As a result of what? They rejected the offer and gift of faith from the Father. Look at verses 37, 44 and 65. Man has no ability to bring himself to God. His rejection of God's gift of faith is fatal. As a result "they no longer associated" with Him. "Walk" is used metaphorically in the Scriptures to denote a style of living.

John 6:67 "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. (Buls: Then Jesus said to the twelve: "You, too, do not wish to go away, do you?")

Jesus anticipates a negative answer.

John 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (Buls: Simon Peter answered Him: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words which give eternal life.)

The materialistic Jews, verse 34, and Peter use the same term, but how differently! "Words" are those which contain and which give eternal life. Compare what Jesus says about "His Words" in verse 63 with what Peter says in verse 68. The Lutheran teaching about the means of grace is very important. We find the Lord only in His Word, especially His Gospel.

John 6:69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (Buls: And so we have believed and realized that You are the Holy One of God.")

The conviction of faith precedes the acknowledgment. Furthermore, Peter uses the Greek word "know," to know with approval, as opposed to know without approval.

There are variant readings for "Holy One of God." Some have "the Christ," "the holy one of God," "the Son of God," "The Christ," "The Son of the Living God." In all simplicity Peter is saying that they believe that Christ is truly what He says of Himself in this discourse and, though they had said nothing, as far as we know, they were deeply impressed. Furthermore, they did not follow Judas, a devil, who rejected Jesus and His Word.

John 6:70 Then Jesus replied, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!" (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)(Buls: Jesus answer them: "Have not I Myself chosen you the twelve? And yet, one of you is a devil. He was speaking of Judas, the son of Simon of Iscariot. You see, this one was going to betray Him [though] one of the twelve.)."

Here the question expects an affirmative answer.

The fact that Judas is called a devil a year before he betrayed Jesus is a chilling thought.

Bengel: Here was the point at which Judas ought to have repented . . . he was a devil, not merely evil to himself, but even dangerous to others.
Lenski: 'Devil' designates the real moral nature of Judas and the mind that had finally developed in him. Those other disciples who did not believe in Jesus left, and nowhere are such men called devils; but Judas remains, remains even as one of the Twelve, remains and consents to Peter's confession, not with ordinary hypocrisy, but with lying deceit such as Jesus predicates of the very devil himself in 8:44.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B Mark-John, Sundays after Pentecost, Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 45-47

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