“Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?”

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As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life’” (John 6:66-68).

Public opinion can quickly change. This chapter in John’s gospel began with Jesus miraculously feeding five thousand people – and this number only included the men (John 6:1-13). As a result, the people concluded, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14). Believing this, they were ready “to come and take Him by force [and] make Him king” (John 6:15), even though this would require them to do battle against the powerful Roman army. But by the end of the chapter, all of them had left except for His twelve disciples (John 6:66-68).

Why did the crowd leave Jesus? There are at least two reasons for this:

  • His words were difficult – Jesus said to them, “‘I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.’ Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ 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 yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’” (John 6:51-54). Jesus was not saying they were to eat and drink His actual flesh and blood, but they stumbled over this (John 6:61). They said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60). While the Bible is understandable (Ephesians 3:4), some teachings are more difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16) and require additional thought and examination. We must be “diligent” to learn how to “accurately [handle] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). But some do not want to be diligent in learning what the word of God means. So when they encounter a teaching they consider “a difficult statement” – as the crowd did – they leave.
  • His words were demanding – If Jesus’ “difficult statement” (John 6:60) was not enough for the crowd to decide to leave, His explanation of the statement was. Jesus explained that He was not teaching them to literally eat and drink His actual flesh and blood. He explained: “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see that Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:61-63). Jesus did not want them to eat His flesh, but His words. They needed to take His word as their sustenance (Matthew 4:4) and strength (Acts 20:32), as we must as well. John the Baptist said, “He who does not obey the Son will not see life” (John 3:36). Jesus demands obedience which means that one must “deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow [Him]” (Luke 9:23). Though “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3), many do not want to make the wholehearted commitment that is necessary to follow Him.

Interestingly, when the crowd left, Jesus did not panic (as we might have done) and try to appeal for them to stay. He let them go. In fact, He almost seemed to offer His twelve disciples that remained an opportunity to leave as well: “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:67). If any of the disciples wanted to leave, they had the opportunity to speak up then and say so.

If they left Jesus, where would they go? More importantly for us, if we leave Jesus – either because His words are too difficult or too demanding – “to whom shall we go?

  • Will we go to those who will tickle our ears (2 Timothy 4:3), speaking only those things that we want to hear?
  • Will we go to those who will use “smooth and flattering speech” (Romans 16:18), whose words sound good and make us feel good?
  • Will we go to those who “pervert the grace of our God” and offer us “a license for immorality” (Jude 4), so that we can live as we please?

If we go to any of the teachers described in the verses above, we will “turn away…from the truth” (2 Timothy 4:4), follow that which is “contrary to the teaching which [we have] learned” (Romans 6:17), and depart from “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).

The problem with following these other teachers is that none of them have the “words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Only Jesus possesses these words. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Speaking of Christ, Peter said, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

If we are not interested in eternal life, we are free to turn away from Christ as the crowd did. However, if we want eternal life, we have no other option but to follow Him and do what He teaches us to do (Hebrews 5:9).


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Comments

  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Thanks, Andy, for such good thoughts. Reminds me of the song, “Where Could I Go.” Anyone interested in eternal life would realize there is no place else to go but to the Lord. He is the only refuge for my soul!

  2. Larry DeVore says

    Another excellent teaching article, Andy

  3. Thank you, gentlemen.