Rev Felicity O’Brien, 30 August 2012. All rights reserved.
Today’s passage from John’s Gospel has the refrain that Jesus is the Bread of Life. This idea occurs many times, each with a different emphasis. This time, the disciples are starting to understand what Jesus means when he says “whoever eats me will live because of me”.
They are starting to see that there will be a cost to discipleship. They complain that it is difficult teaching. Jesus doesn’t reassure them however, he doesn’t say, “there there, it’ll all be alright so long as you stick with me”. He leaves them to make up their own minds where they stand. Perhaps he was waiting to see if his teaching about eternal life had sunk in yet. Are they prepared to accept Jesus as the Son of God? Or are they unsure, not knowing where it will lead?
Many of the disciples turned away. We don’t know how many, but there had been a lot of people following Jesus, wondering if he was the One, the Messiah. They were hoping for deliverance from the Roman occupation, but this Jesus seemed to speak only in parables, and didn’t look much like a General.
The Twelve were still with Jesus, and he asked them “Do you also wish to go away? “ I think this is interesting – he didn’t tell them they must stay, or argue and persuade them with rhetoric. He left it entirely up to their own God-given free will. Following Jesus is a choice – daily we choose to follow him, or not.
There are times when we too can look back at the day, and see parts where we definitely did not follow him. Simon Peter had the answer though, when asked if he wished to go away. He didn’t say Yes or No, but just that there really wasn’t another option, because Jesus has the words of eternal life. He repeated their belief in Jesus – “we have come to believe and know that you are the holy one of God.” I hope Jesus was pleased by his answer – the disciples were finally starting to understand!
As the world around us increasingly seems to be turning away from Jesus, we too have to choose– no one is forcing us to follow Him. But when we remember why we followed him in the first place, even if it was a long time ago, and life has rolled around many changes, the truth stands firm. Jesus has the words of Eternal Life, and he is the Holy One of God.