Today I continue my reading if John’s Gospel, with my translation and commentary.
JOHN 6:59 -end
Jesus said these things as he taught in the synagogue at Capernaum. Many of his disciples heard it and said, “This is a hard teaching; who can accept it?”
But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were muttering about this, said to them, “Is this a stumbling block to you? Then what if you see the Humane Ruler going up to where he was before? The Spirit is the maker of life;the flesh is good for nothing.The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life, but there are some of you who do not trust me. (For Jesus knew from the beginning who had no trust in him and who would betray him.) And he said,”That’s why I told you that no one can come to me unless the opportunity is given by the father.”
For this reason many of his disciples turned back and walked with him no more. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you not want to go away too?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of the life of the Age to Come.”
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose the twelve of you? Yet one of you is a devil.”
He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he would betray him although he was one of the twelve.
Jesus’ teaching that the “life” offered by Jesus would come at the cost of Jesus’ life (his flesh and blood) was recognised as a hard teaching by some ofhis followers, according to this gospel. Indeed the teaching is a parallel to Jesus’ predictions of his rejection and death in the other gospels. The doubtful disciples recognised that the Jesus movement was not headed towards worldly success; that’s why they found this teaching a scandal – the word skandalon in Greek is a translation of a Hebrew word for a device to trip up enemies -a stumbling block. It is part of the core of the Jesus tradition as represented in all the gospels that Jesus’ acceptance of his rejection as messiah, was “scandalous” especially to those who were his early supporters.
Jesus’ reply is ambiguous: in his role as Humane Ruler he is not going to win by force but will “go back to where he was before”, that is, he will go through death to God. Worldly means (“flesh”) are of no use; only God’s spirit creates life and is doing so in the disciples through Jesus’ scandalous teachings, but only in those who truly put their trust in him. Even this trust is not solely a human action but is inspired by God.
This teaching is similar to St Paul’s in emphasising the centrality of trust in Jesus, while attributing the trust itself to the action of God, “so that no flesh can boast in God’s presence.”
The author of this gospel is at all times keen to note the foreknowledge of Jesus which is due to his identity as the creative wisdom (logos) of God made flesh. Readers may find this way of characterising the nature of Jesus unconvincing, as it suggests that Jesus always knew he was acting out a part in a script written by God.
The reply given by the author to Simon Peter is one of his triumphs, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of the life of the Age to Come.” Even disciples like Peter may often find Jesus incomprehensible and his demands unacceptable, but in the moment that we might turn away from him, we know that there is no one else who engages us as he does, because his words give us God’s future now. Through them we can “live tonorrow’s life today.”
I fear that if I were there I would have joined the disciples who walked away. The skandalon here is not his rejection and death as you assert; the skandalon is the flesh and blood talk. The Gospel of John was clearly written, at least in my opinion, to maximise the anti-Jewish sentiments that were already entrenched in the early Christian communities. “John” wrote a Gospel that totally alienated the Christ movement from its Jewish origins and foundations. I cannot relate to the Jesus of John’s Gospel.
As you can see from my translation, there is some doubt as to the meaning of John’s Greek word, iudaioi. Does it mean a race of people (Jews) or a Jewish religious sect ( Judeans), who had expelled Christians from tehir synagogues? Is John trying to separate Christians frrom Jews or is he trying to encourage Christians to accept a separation which they had not instigated? I have not made up my mind on these matters as yet. I have acknowledged that the influence of John’s Gospel on Christian treatment of Jews has been wholly bad.