Hard Sayings

SPEAKING IN THE SYNAGOGUE at Capernaum, Jesus declared that the only ones who could have eternal life were those who ‘ate his flesh and drank his blood.’ He explained that “this is that bread which came down from heaven.” The account adds, “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:53-60) In the same lesson Jesus said, “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”—vs. 55

Now that we understand the Divine plan of redemption as it is centered in Christ Jesus, these expressions by the Master are easily understood. It was simply his way of saying that his humanity was to be sacrificed for the sin of the world, and that it is necessary for believers to accept this great fact and humbly yield themselves in obedience to the Divine will as revealed through him, in order to have life.

But for those who heard it for the first time, and with no background knowledge of the Divine plan to help them understand what the Master meant, the idea of eating his flesh and drinking his blood was ‘hard.’ Jews were forbidden to drink blood, and certainly the suggestion that they would need to drink human blood in order to live was just too much for them to understand, and many became offended and walked no more with Jesus.


The disciples asked Jesus why he always spoke to the public in parables and dark sayings. In reply he said to them, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 13:11) A mystery is only such as long as it is not understood, and Jesus’ promise was that his followers would have the mysteries of the kingdom made clear to them. We believe that Jesus has fulfilled his promise on behalf of all his people as the due time has arrived for each of those mysteries to be revealed. He promised that when he returned at the end of the age he would gird himself and would serve his household with “meat in due season.” (Luke 12:37; Matt. 24:45) Many and rich are the truths which have been thus placed upon the Lord’s table in fulfillment of this promise. They are mysteries only to those to whom it has not been given to understand.

At the beginning of the age it was the due time to make known the “riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) First, it was a mystery to Jewish believers that Jesus alone was not the complete Christ, but rather the Head over a ‘body’ of many members. But, as Paul stated it in his letter to the Ephesian brethren, a manifestation of Divine love surpassing human knowledge was seen in the acceptance of Gentile ‘dogs’ to be fellow heirs with Jewish believers in this ‘hope of glory.’


Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (I Cor. 2:9,10) In this well-known passage, Paul quotes from Isaiah 64:4, explaining that the deep thoughts of God pertaining to his plan for the blessing of mankind— which had been hidden from the foundation of the world—were now revealed to the followers of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

While previously it had been true that ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard’ the wonderful truths concerning the Divine plan of redemption and salvation through Christ—a plan embracing the use of both Jews and Gentiles as associates with him in the work of deliverance—now it was different. Jesus indicated this when he said prospectively to his disciples, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Matt. 13:16) David wrote, “O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.” (Ps. 92:5) How we rejoice today that these ‘deep’ thoughts of God have been revealed to his people, and that we can now understand the ‘works’ of his plan, and—by his grace—participate therein.


To those who had purified their souls by obeying the truth “unto unfeigned love of the brethren” the Apostle Peter wrote, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (I Pet. 1:22; 2:1-3) The Apostle Paul wrote, “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children.” (I Cor. 14:20) Seemingly it is this thought that Peter is expressing when, following his admonition to lay ‘aside all malice,’ he adds, ‘As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word.’

There is much in the First Epistle of Peter to indicate that those to whom he wrote were not mere ‘babes in Christ’ within the meaning usually attached to this expression. Perhaps he had Jesus’ illustration in mind, when speaking of little children he said, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19:14) Every disciple of Christ should endeavor to be childlike in simplicity and sincerity. And all such will surely desire to feed upon the rich spiritual food of the Bible, which, in keeping with the ‘newborn babe’ illustration, Peter describes as the ‘sincere milk of the word.’

In the Greek language, the word which is translated ‘sincere’ is one which means ‘unmixed, unadulterated.’ Childlike humility of heart will manifest itself in a desire to feed only upon the unadulterated truth, and to avoid the vain imaginations of human reasonings. It seems to us that in this particular text Peter may well be referring to all the precious doctrines of the Divine plan as milk, not with the thought of minimizing the depth of the knowledge of God which they reveal, but to show that those who in childlike simplicity feed upon the truth are able properly to assimilate it, and thereby to grow strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.

We are glad that all the Lord’s people, to whom he has given hearing ‘ears’ and seeing ‘eyes,’ have the ability to grasp the glorious truths of the Word. Through these truths our Heavenly Father is revealing himself to his people. There are varying degrees of understanding and appreciation of the truth among his people, but this indicates largely a natural growth from the standpoint of time. There are none of us who will ever, this side the veil, acquire a full degree of knowledge; but we can all, through study, show ourselves approved unto God, workmen who need not be ashamed, “rightly dividing the word of truth.”—II Tim. 2:15

Hebrews 5:13,14 is one of the frequently quoted texts used to give the thought that some of the precious truths of the Bible are simple—the ABC’s of the plan—while certain other truths are deeper and more spiritual. In this text Paul speaks of the “milk” and of “strong meat,” and tells the Hebrew brethren that they were not prepared for strong meat, that they even had need that the ‘milk’ doctrines be taught them again.


What deep truth does Paul refer to here as ‘strong meat?’ This is indicated in verses 10 and 11, where he speaks of the Melchisedec priesthood—that Jesus, as both king and priest, was typified by Melchisedec. “Of whom we have many things to say,” Paul writes, “and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.” He then explains to the Hebrew brethren that they were not ready for what he wanted to say to them about the Melchisedec type, that they even needed to have the first principles of the oracles of God and “doctrine of Christ” taught to them again.

The fact that Melchisedec was both a priest and a king, and was a type of this combined office as it is filled in the antitype by Christ, is to us a wonderfully simple truth. There is nothing complex or mysterious about it. To the minds of the Jewish Christians in the Early Church, however, it presented a difficulty—not because the idea was complex or hard to grasp, but because they had been so thoroughly imbued with the thought that everything pertaining to a priesthood began with Aaron. In their religious education Melchisedec had never been mentioned or considered. It was this that made it ‘strong meat,’ or as the Greek text states, “tough” meat for them to “digest.”

Paul, by contrast, mentions what he describes as the “principles of the doctrine of Christ.” (Heb. 6:1) According to the Greek text, it is really the primary, or fundamental doctrines of Christ that Paul refers to. These, he explains, are repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection, and eternal judgment. All of these, while basically important in the Christian life, presented no difficulty of acceptance by the Jewish mind, because they were not outside of, or beyond, his usual trend of thinking. Actually, the doctrine of baptism is no simpler, or more easily understood than the Melchisedec type of Christ, as both king and priest; but to the minds of those to whom Paul was writing, it was much easier to assimilate, even as milk is to the child.

What a privilege it is to share the joys of this wonderful knowledge with others of like precious faith! We can all help one another in our study of the Word. Regardless of how long we have been ‘in the truth,’ there are points that we can learn even from beginners, if we maintain a childlike simplicity and humility before the Lord and among our brethren. Above all, let us always look to the Lord for his help and guidance, that we may continue to grow in grace and in an ever-increasing knowledge of him.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |