Will you go too?

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” -- John 6:66-69

This passage in John 6 is a defining point in Jesus’s ministry. Thousands upon thousands were flocking to the controversial Rabi. The ever-massing crowds that thronged about his feet were enamored with His miracles: water into wine, the healing of a lame man, and most recently feeding the 5,000. The people had been enjoying the ride, relishing the show, and even getting some free bread along the way.

It was all going great, until Jesus started talking about feeding on human flesh. It is true. Claiming to be the "Bread of Life," Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." Unsurprisingly, the people were disturbed by Jesus' "Hard sayings." "Who can accept it?" they asked themselves.

Verse 66 says, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." In all likelihood the people had labeled Jesus as crazy and cannibalistic. What originally began full of excitement and popularity had now ended with disappointment and nonsense. The ride was over. Jesus had lost it.

It is interesting that Jesus does not seem too worried about the immense exodus of His followers. We do not see Him begging the crowds to stay with Him. We do not see Him bribing them to come back with the prospect of more free food. Nor do we see Jesus clarify His prior statement by saying that He was using an exaggerated metaphor to prove a point. All we see is Jesus temptingly push the question to the twelve disciples: "are you going to leave too?"

This is telling of the kind of follower Jesus is looking for. In this instance at least, Jesus is less concerned about the numbers of followers flocking about, and far more concerned about the commitment of those followers--The quality of the follower that He attracts. Jesus is not seeking someone who comes to Him in a spontaneous peak of emotional undulation; but rather someone who has been formed by the hard sayings, the trials, and the sufferings. One who has been tried and tested, and has come out strong and devout on the other side.

I love Peter’s response to Jesus confrontational question. "Where else shall we go?" Do you have any alternatives, Jesus? Speaking for the disciples Peter unequivocally declares, "You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of Israel." 

I am certain Peter did not know the answers to every question. He was likely internally wrestling with what Jesus just said; but He was convinced of one thing: the identity of Jesus Christ as the Holy One of Israel. Once He came to terms with that, leaving was no longer an option.

There will be moments in our respective Christian walks when we will each have to answer these words of Jesus. Hard sayings will come. Troubles and cares of this life will look to overwhelm. Friends of ours who once walked beside us will leave. There will come a time when what began full of joy and blessing will feel like a curse. Then you too will have to answer: "are you going to leave too?"

When those storms come, may we remember Peter's response: "You have the words of eternal life. Where else will we go?" 


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