When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:60-63, 66-69 NRSV)
Just before this passage, Jesus had distressing words for his disciples as he taught them to remember him with bread and wine. Hearing Jesus say such phrases as, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood will have eternal life,” the disciples could not bear to hear more. This teaching is difficult; who can accept it? Several disciples even chose to leave the group. To the rest of them, Jesus then asks, “Do you also wish to go away?”
We cannot truly comprehend the turmoil that the disciples endured in their time with Jesus… the hostile Roman authority, the accusations of religious leaders, and their increasing sense of fear and danger. The tiring days with uncertain outcomes. The sometimes puzzling and seemingly disgusting words of Jesus. No wonder Jesus gave them an opportunity to change their minds and go home! He wanted to make sure they were fully committed- as the days ahead would only become harder.
We are SO very blessed and fortunate that we have the advantage of hindsight. We know how the story turned out. We know that Jesus was resurrected, we have received his Spirit, we experience his present salvation, and we share the hope of life eternal. Our faith blesses us, and yet we know that life with Jesus will not always be easy. In fact, life with Jesus will be very difficult at times. So Jesus’ question is for us, too.
Do you also wish to go away? Dear Peter has our answer- even before our time. “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life; we have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Are you talking to ME?
Today Jesus is asking, “Do you also wish to go away?”
Are you in this for the long haul, no matter what? Will you follow me to your own personal wildernesses- your own times of doubt, dryness and emptiness? Will you stay close to me, watching for opportunities to serve, teach, heal, share and love? Will you stay awake and pray with me at Gethsemane, as well as in your own times of agony and despair? Will you remember my suffering in your times of pain? Will you help to carry my cross, will you bear the burdens of others? Will you hear me tremble, cry out, and take my last breath as you humbly place yourself at the foot of the cross? Will you keep vigil at the tomb? Will you keep walking the lonely road when I seem to be far away, when all seems lost? Will you patiently and hopefully wait for my resurrection in your life? Or…
Do you also wish to go away?