John 6:60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 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. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
The stated aim of John’s gospel is to illicit a decision: “These things are written so that you may believe…” (see John 20:28-30). In his ministry it is clear that Jesus often brings his followers and disciples to decision points where they are called to commit themselves to either follow Jesus unreservedly or abandon him. The end of John 6 is one of those turning points.
The dialogue and controversy in John 6 has risen to a crescendo over Jesus’ claim to be the ‘bread of life’. As the bread of life; he his greater than Moses, he has come from God the Father in heaven on a mission, he is the Son of Man figure referred to in Dan 7:11-14, he offers eternal life, and belief in him is essential to that life. When unpacked, these are huge claims.
For some in the crowd, this is all too much. They begin to grumble and leave. They abandon Jesus and the pursuit of the kingdom he proclaimed (v66). So Jesus turns the spotlight onto the Twelve. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” It is decision time.
Peter answers on behalf of the Twelve, saying that they have no other options since Jesus has the words of eternal life. Through the process of observation, listening, interacting and living with Jesus, they have come to the settled conclusion that he is ‘the Holy One of God’ (v69). Their commitment is firm.
Jesus’ response is initially very heartening. He replies, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve?…” There is a sense in which Jesus chose them first, before they came to their conclusions about him as the Holy One of God. This prior election brings great comfort to the disciples. Their place with Jesus was already sealed before they knew it. And yet, there is also a problem. Though Jesus has chosen each of them, one of them ‘is a devil’! Though chosen, he is not for Jesus but against him. He is a traitor, biding his time. Already Jesus’ betrayal seems inevitable.
Lord Jesus, even when my doubts rise, there are no other real alternatives to you. You alone have the words of eternal life. You alone demonstrate authority over life and death. You alone are worth my abandoned life. Give me grace to follow you, all the days of my life, even to the very end. Amen.