From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.…
I. THAT JESUS CHRIST AND HIS DOCTRINES ARE NECESSARILY OFFENSIVE TO UNREGENERATED HUMANITY. But let us inquire what were the hard sayings, the unpalatable truths, that offended the crowd.
1. That Christ was greater than Moses. This was a mortal offence to the Jews. While Moses was yet alive the treatment he received was anything but respectful, but after his death their veneration for the great lawgiver knew no bounds. Again, they spoke of the manna in the wilderness very highly indeed, but their fathers had a very different opinion of it.
2. That God is the God of the Gentile as well as the Jew (ver. 37). Another hard saying —
3. That the atonement (the bread from heaven) is the life of the world. Millions wilfully reject this heavenly food, to pine away and die on the unwholesome, adulterated fare dearly supplied by pleasure, ambition, and philosophy, falsely so called. Such were the hard sayings that made many of the disciples turn back and walk no more with Jesus. But what offended the Jews is no longer offensive to us. Yet many forsake Him in our days.
(1). Because they do not know Him. One may be acquainted with all the facts of His life, from the manger to the cross, and yet be totally ignorant of .the principles that animated that life.
(2) Because they cannot have Christ and their sins at the same time. The people of Rome demanded of Brutus why he had stabbed Caesar, by his own admission "the foremost man of all the world"; and he answered to this effect, "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more." The surgeon of intemperate habits kills himself by degrees, and knows it; does he hate life? No, he loves drink more, and is content to fall into a premature grave. Men are loth to admit this, and many try hard to deceive themselves and others that they are kept away by doubt, as though intellectual pride was pardonable and praiseworthy. Samson perished under the ruins of his prison — why? Was it for the want of evidences? I trow not. His burning lust for Delilah brought him to that vulgar, shameful end. Demas turned His back upon the Redeemer, and forsook Paul and the churches when they greatly needed his sympathy and help. Was it "doubts" that caused his apostasy? No; he "loved the present world." "Your iniquities have separated between you and God."
II. JESUS CHRIST HAS NO DESIRE TO SEE PEOPLE FOLLOWING HIM AGAINST THEIR INCLINATION. "Will ye also go away?" The question suggests two things —
1. That the gospel is a moral influence, and not a coercive agency. In making a personal appeal to the undecided, once and again have I been told, by way of self-justification, that they expect some irresistible power, some messenger from the dead, to compel them to believe the gospel. Oh, false and foolish expectation! In a speech of the Earl of Chatham the following passage occurs, which, with a little modification, will help to illustrate this point: —George the Third endeavoured to give undue influence to the prerogative of the Crown; but the great orator strenuously opposed him, and stood up for the constitution, saying, "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail — its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it, the storm may enter — but the King of England cannot enter. All his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement." You are at perfect liberty to stay with Him or go away with the multitude that do evil — choose ye.
2. That religion without love is no religion at all. In this commercial age people are apt to introduce a mercenary spirit even into spiritual things, and ask with the apostate Jews, "What profit shall we have if we pray to Him?" Many of us, in our visits to rural districts, where the inhabitants cling tenaciously to primitive customs, have been made sad and solemn by meeting a funeral procession bearing a dead one to his burial; and although strangers to us, no one need tell us who the relatives of the departed one are — they are easily distinguished from all others both by their nearness to the coffin and their willingness to endure any inconvenience in order to follow him they loved to his long, long home. Others may, and will, turn back half-way, if the distance be far and the weather foul, but such is their grief after the departed that, however rough the way and stormy the weather, they will walk to the brink of the grave, and shed the tears of affection on his coffin-lid as they look down and bid their last farewell. The relatives of the Saviour likewise are easily recognized by their nearness to Him in thought and duty, and also by their fidelity to their beloved Redeemer, through honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report, even unto death.
III. THERE ARE A FAITHFUL FEW IN EVERY AGE AMONGST THE FAITHLESS MANY. "To whom shall we go?" Go to the service of mammon with boats and fishing-tackles, and leave others to become fishers of men. Go to swine-land, the far country of self-indulgence and carnal pleasures, and spend your substance with the prodigal in riotous living. Go to Vanity Fair and the City of Destruction: follow the crowd! No; we have already been to all those places, and failed to find a resting-place for a weary, heavy-laden soul. You had better stay, then. Peter's reasons for staying were —
1. Because no one else could give such a clear account of the future. "Thou hast the words of eternal life."
2. Because He was the Divine Redeemer. "And we believe, and are sure, that Thou art Christ, the son of the living God."
(W. A. Griffiths.)
Parallel VersesKJV: From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
WEB: At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.