Jesus Offends People


Discourse on Food (John 6:22-7:1)

            While Jesus was at Gennesaret, the people he had left behind were looking for him. They knew the disciples had left in a boat without Jesus, so they assumed that Jesus would be on foot somewhere in the region. However, they were unable to find him. Since the disciples had not returned for Jesus, they assumed that he left.

            Meanwhile, boats from Tiberias landed nearby. Tiberias is the largest city on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. It is possible that they too were looking for Jesus, or they may have spotted the large crowd and saw an opportunity to make money by offering to ferry the people. Giving up on finding Jesus or his disciples at their current location, the people took the boats back to Capernaum.

            Eventually they found Jesus teaching in the synagogue, having come from the region of Gennesaret. There is no implication that this is the same day that they left the Bethsaida area. We don’t know exactly how much time had elapsed. Naturally, they asked Jesus how he came to be there. But Jesus ignored the question and addresses their motivation for looking for him instead.

            The people weren’t interested in finding Jesus because of what he taught them that day. They have been looking for him because they were given food. Oh, that people would learn this lesson today. How many try to attract people by offering food? What do they get? People who are interested in free food, but not in the gospel. Jesus points out that we should desire spiritual food, that is the words of God because those words will give eternal life (Isaiah 40:31).

            God had set His seal on the words that Jesus had taught. That is why they had witnessed the miracle of feeding of over 5,000. What was important was not the miracle, but the words that the miracle indicated were the true words of God (Acts 2:22). However, the people had put more effort into finding additional free food than in seeking out the words of God.

            Hearing of food that gives eternal life, the people continued to think in temporal terms and wanted to know what they needed to do to earn that food. Jesus answers the question they asked and not what they meant to ask. What works did God want them to perform? God wanted them to have faith in Jesus. This sounds strange to many religious people because they have been told repeatedly that faith is not a work. In fact, they are told that faith is the opposite of work. Yet, here we learn that faith is a work, one that originates from God and not man. Faith is something an individual must do. It comes by the choice of the individual. Faith is not a complete answer, but it is the beginning of the answer. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him ...” (Hebrews 11:6).

            Seeing an opportunity to steer the conversation back to food, they asked what sign would Jesus do so that they could believe. It is such a disappointing answer because great signs had already been done, but they discounted the past in hopes of more miracles. Their question again demonstrates that they are interested more in the signs than in the teachings that the signs confirmed (I Corinthians 1:22). They even go so far as to suggest the sign they would like to see. The early Israelites had received manna during the wanderings (Exodus 16:4, 15). They wanted the same. Perhaps they hope to have Jesus strive harder. After all, Moses feed millions of Israelites for forty years, Jesus only feed thousands for one meal.

            Jesus stated that they misrepresented the prior miracle. They attributed the miracle as something Moses had done, but the manna had come from God. Jesus was offering them bread from heaven that would continually feed their spirits. The bread from heaven was Jesus himself. He defines it as bread that comes from God, who comes from heaven, and which gives life to the entire world. In this sense, their thinking was too limited.

            Unfortunately, the people continued to think in temporal terms. Like the woman at the well hearing about waters of eternal life that would never leave a person thirsty, these people heard about bread from heaven that would give eternal life. Yes, this is exactly what they wanted, and it is what they demanded from Jesus. And they didn’t want it just for the moment, but they wanted a continuous supply. They never realized that what they needed was standing in front of them.

            Jesus finally tells them bluntly that he is the bread of life and water of life. By believing in him all their spiritual desires would be satisfied. But they don’t have the necessary belief.

            God will give to Jesus everything (I Corinthians 15:27-28; Matthew 28:18). Jesus will not reject anyone who comes to him. Some try to interpret this verse to say that the “all” are the people God predestined to be followers of Jesus. This, they claim, is why the people did not believe Jesus; they did not believe because they were not of the chosen. But notice that Jesus said that he would not reject the individual who came to him. The choice of following Jesus is a choice each individual makes. Jesus is not saying he wouldn’t refuse God’s gift, but that he would not turn away the individual who came to him.

            Jesus is not here to do as he pleases. He is here to accomplish the will of the Father. This is as he had taught earlier (John 4:34; 5:30). It is the Father’s will that Jesus would lose none of his followers, not even to death because he will raise his people up from the grave (John 3:15-16). But it requires belief on the individual’s part to be among that number.

            This declaration caused a stir in the crowd. They began discussing it among themselves. The irritating point is that Jesus claimed to have come down from heaven. How could this be when they knew who his father and mother were? What right did he have to give himself airs by claiming to be from heaven?

            Jesus told the crowd that there was no need for whispered conversations. If they were offended by his teachings, they could speak it openly. They are rejecting him because they are rejecting his teachings. But his teachings come from God. This is the method God chose to draw followers to Christ (I Corinthians 1:21-24). Those taught by God and who have learned God’s lessons will come to Jesus. The drawing is not food, it is not some mystical, irresistible force, but it is the message of God which will attract the right people to Christ. This is what the prophets had foretold (Isaiah 54:13; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Micah 4:2). The teaching is not directly from God because no one has seen the Father. But Jesus has been in the Father’s presence and can teach the message of God. When they believe in Jesus and his message they will have eternal life.

            Once again Jesus asserts that he is the bread of life. The manna that the crowd was so eager to have did not give eternal life to those who ate it. But Jesus, the bread of life, is able to give eternal life, if they will partake of the spiritual food that he is offering. He is able to give life to the world because he will give his body for the world (Hebrews 10:5, 10; I John 2:2).

            How sad that the Jews continued to think in temporal terms. Hearing “the bread that I shall give is my flesh” (John 6:51), they began to argue if he was talking about offering his own body for them to eat. Jesus did not make his point any easier for these people. He declared, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). What he speaks of is spiritual, not physical. He is alluding to the Lord’s Supper and what it represents (I Corinthians 11:23-29). Unless they are willing to share in the sacrifice of Jesus, they could not have eternal life (Romans 6:4-5).

            With this point Jesus concluded his remarks and left the synagogue.

            Jesus’ disciples complained among themselves that his teaching was too difficult to grasp. They found the concepts too harsh, too offensive, too disagreeable. No one, they thought, would listen to such teachings.

            Jesus knew what his disciples were thinking and brought their concern to the forefront. “Does this offend you?” (John 6:61). The concern is not how you think other people will receive the message. The point is, were you offended by the message. They could not accept that Jesus came down from heaven. What is going to happen if they should see Jesus ascend back into heaven?

            Jesus points out that the message he just delivered were spiritual in nature, not physical. The difficulty that they were having was because of their preconceived notions and not what was being said. His message was spiritual and life giving, but some among them would not believe what was taught. Jesus had known that they were there among his disciples, just as he knew that Judas would one day betray him. Some followed because they understood who Jesus was in truth. But some were only following their own belief of who the Messiah should be. Because the Father declared that it is by the message preached that people would be drawn to Jesus (John 6:44-45), people who will not accept his message, harsh as it might have sounded, would reject him.

            Because Jesus would not soften his words nor make his message more acceptable to his followers, many of his disciples left him. Jesus turned to the twelve whom he had selected and asked if they would also leave. But Peter said that there was no one else to follow because only Jesus had the words of eternal life. Unlike many others, Peter grasped at least part of what Jesus was teaching. Peter stated that they believed that Jesus was the son of the living God.

            Jesus congratulated Peter by stating that after all, he had pick them. Yet, Jesus also warned them that though Peter stated that “we” believe, the statement does not apply to all of the twelve. One of them is a devil, referring to Judas Iscariot.

            From here Jesus tours Galilee, but he did not go south into Judea because the Jews were so offended by him that they were seeking to kill him.


Discourse on Uncleanness (Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23)

            Though Jesus did not go to Judea, some of the scribes and Pharisees came up from Jerusalem to see him. By this we know that the Passover feast has past, but whether it was soon or several months past we do not know.

            Noticing that Jesus’ disciples did not ceremonially wash their hands before eating, they faulted Jesus for not properly instructing his followers in the traditions of the elders. Mark explains that it was the custom of the Jews to wash in a particular manner when they returned from the marketplace. They washed not just their hands, but also various vessels and seats were also washed. The source for this tradition is obviously the avoidance of uncleanness. Since touching something unclean would make a person unclean and you don’t know who touched what you have touched before you, the Jews would wash – just to be sure. The problem is that this is not what the Law stated. A person made unclean by being in contact with something unclean did need to wash, but they remained unclean for the remainder of the day. They had modified God’s law keeping parts and adding new facets to it as it suited them.

            Jesus pointed out that by elevating their traditions to the level of the law, they had discarded the law. They spoke of following God, but their actions show that they prefer to follow man. He illustrated this with another example. If a person gave money that could have gone to support his elderly parents and gave it to the Temple, the Jews, by their tradition, allowed him to dismiss his obligation because that money was given to God. Thus they gave men a way to avoid fulfilling the command to honor your mother and father. They created a tradition and told people that following that tradition, created by men, allowed people to ignore a law of God. This was just one example of many Jesus could have mentioned.

            Rather than limiting his words to just the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus calls to the people and gathers a crowd around him. He tells the people that true uncleanness does not come from external things, but from the thoughts with a man.

            The disciples came to Jesus and pointed out that his statements offended the Pharisees (Matthew 15:12). But Jesus pointed out that such must be the case. Their teachings were not from God, and thus they would reject God’s teaching. The disciples should not concern themselves that the Pharisees were offended by Jesus’ teaching. They were blind men leading blind men. They would not progress, but would stumble due to their own blindness.

            We need to heed this lesson. Truth will divide people (II Thessalonians 2:11-12; I Corinthians 11:19). The answer is not found in changing the truth to make it acceptable to people. It is an understanding that people who do not love the truth will of necessity reject it.

            Later, Jesus enters a home and his disciples asked him to explain his words, calling them a parable. Yet, Jesus was not speaking in a parable at this time. The disciples took it that way because they did not understand what he meant. It wasn’t that Jesus words weren’t clear, but the fact that they went so much against everything they had always known that they were certain they did not understand him.

            Jesus points out that whatever is eaten doesn’t remain in the body. Food doesn’t change the person. Mark points out that by this, Jesus declared that all food was clean (Mark 7:19) and was showing his disciples a change that would come to the covenants. Immorality comes from within a person, from his thoughts, and thus makes him unclean. This is because all sins originate from the thoughts of a person. People think about the sins they are about to do in advance of actually committing the sins. It is their consideration of sins that clears the pathway for the committing of sin.


Questions for this Lesson