This Week's Focus Passage

John 6:66 ‘Upon this many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.’

‘Upon this,’ or, ‘after this’? We may understand that the rendering, ‘upon,’ is intended to signify ‘built on,’ or, ‘coming on,’ that is, ‘with connection to,’ but the rendering ‘after,’ almost certainly must suggest a time frame. We are happy to acquiesce to the NASB—the New American Standard Bible—in this case, as they have opted for the rendering, ‘as a result of this,’ for, surely, these disciples going  back is a resultant response to something; whatever ‘this’ is determined to be. Then, what indeed was the ‘this’ that caused these ‘disciples’ to go back, and walk no more with the Christ? And, in point of fact, just who are these that are here called disciples? We witness in this account; perhaps in the larger pericope, at least three distinct groups of persons. Beginning at 6:22, there is mention of the multitude, and again in verse 24, this same multitude. The next paragraph—paragraphic divisions were added and are not inspired—brings before the reader those who are termed ‘the Jews.’ These Jews (one writer has characterized them as ‘hostile leaders and their followers’) of whom we first encounter in verse 41 where John notes how that they ‘murmured concerning him,’ demonstrating that hostility mentioned above. The third group are denominated by John simply as ‘the twelve.’ It appears that it is the multitude that is referred to as ‘disciples.’  The Jews are certainly not His disciples; they are ruled out by their very hostility. Recall how that when officers whom they had sent ‘to take him,’ John 7:32, returned to tell these Pharisees ‘never man so spake,’ they received the retort, Are ye also led astray? Hath any of the rulers believed on him, or of the Pharisees?

In the sequel, we learn that after many of his disciples went back the twelve remained, for Jesus had occasion to inquire of them Would ye also go away? Because of this, we conclude that it was the ‘disciples’ that had formed the ‘multitude’ that went back ‘as a result of this.’ What was the ‘this’ that caused them to go back and to walk no more with Jesus? The immediate antecedent to this announced departure was Jesus’ repetition of the statement that He made in 6:44, where He had said very plainly to them, No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day. His repetition is only slightly different in vs. 65, For this cause have I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of the Father. These statements are essentially the very same. That which is identical is the phrase no man can come to me. The sons of Adam do not like to be told that they cannot. Tell a little child that he cannot do something, and you can bet that the first chance he gets, he will attempt to do it. The last thing that mankind wants to be told is that they are not sovereign. John 6:44 is one of the most pointed statements in the Holy Scriptures avowing the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners, and mankind does not like to be told anything of the sort. We may then safely say that ‘As a result of this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.’ It appears that all of them went back, except the twelve, for then Jesus turned to the twelve asking Would ye also go away? As though they were the only ones remaining.

Only one with a heart that has been softened by regenerating grace will be able to humble himself and cry with the publican, God be merciful to me, the sinner! These are those whom the psalmist tells us have been made willing in the day of his power, in the day of the power of God upon them. Jesus told Nicodemus, ye must be born anew, and when this Pharisee asked how this could ever be, our Lord responded

The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knoweth not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Another way of saying, ‘you cannot do it.’ Listen carefully, or read carefully, Peter’s response to Christ’s question, Would ye also go away? Hear the old fisherman from Galilee when he speaks the truth for each and every believing soul;

Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God.

This is, of course, the response of every regenerate heart. When we reflect on our individual histories with our particular experiences; our ups and downs; our trials and tribulations; our lapses and failures, if we examine these things through the eye of faith; with the Word of God before our minds; and the essential help of God the Holy Spirit given us at the behest of Christ, we learn over and again that it is none other than a loving and sovereign God who has kept us in His hands from whence none is able to pluck us out; not even our own selves. And we discover again the verity of the Word of God for ourselves when it is said of our Lord Jesus Christ by the writer/preacher of the book of Hebrews, in 7:25,

Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

We praise our God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

But what may be said of those that went back and walked with Christ no more? And are there any such in our day? Jesus’ parable of the sower suggest so. Are there not; have there not always been, those spoken of as stony ground hearers?

This is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; yet he hath not root in himself, but endureth for a while.

Individuals make professions of faith in Christ as a result of various external means. It may be they heard the word at a special gathering; it may be they heard it through some television or radio program, or it may well be that they attended a church service and heard the preaching of the word. They were affected by that word, they receive it with joy. They profess faith in the gospel. They begin attending church and may even be baptized and join a particular assembly of believers. Yet, after a while, they cease their attendance, going back to where they were. There is no root in them.

We know not another’s heart. Yet these ‘disciples’ walk no more with him.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church.


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