{John 6:66-69; ESV}

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.”

 Jesus did not allow popularity distract him from his calling. It would have been easy to do given the crowds that followed him, but Jesus remained focused on his mission.

This reality is especially seen in John chapter 6. Jesus has fed the 5,000 and the crowd wanted to make him king. Jesus’ popularity was at an all time high. How does he respond to the excitement of the crowd? First, Jesus questioned their motives. Second, he taught them a hard lesson.

In this difficult teaching Jesus told the crowd that he was the bread from Heaven. Not only did Jesus claim to be the bread from Heaven, a reference to the manna of old, he taught that if they hoped to be part of God’s Kingdom they had to eat of his body.

This was a teaching the people did not understand. The result is that they left grumbling. The crowd had pursued Jesus with the hope of making him king, but they left his presence confused.

There is a very important lesson that we need to remember in the first part of John chapter 6. That lesson is that we should never be afraid to tell people the truth.

In terms of contemporary evaluation Jesus had preached His worst sermon. He started the day with thousands of followers, and ended that very day with just a handful. His teaching literally drove away thousands of people, and Jesus didn’t try to tailor his message to win them back.

In this Jesus tells us that faith is more important than numbers. We often get this the other way around. In our churches we will often sacrifice truth and faith for people we can add to our membership list. To keep them coming back we do everything we can not to offend them.

I have been part of church families where you have to walk on egg shells around certain people because the leadership is afraid those people might get mad and leave the church. The result of this behavior is that no one is challenged by the truth. The best thing that can happen to such a church family is to lose a few people. It is not always a bad thing for the Kingdom when people choose to walk way from Jesus.

That gives us the context we need to look at John 6:66-69. Here we notice that Jesus invited his twelve disciples to leave with the crowd. This is speculation on my part, but I would suggest that Jesus offers this invitation as an opportunity for the Twelve to evaluate why they followed Jesus. These men had to come to grips with why they followed this man who taught such outrageous truths.

Life often throws circumstances at us that provide us with opportunities to examine why we follow Jesus. Everything from a surprise cancer diagnosis to the inability to find work to a heartbreaking break up can lead us to question our faith. A gut wrenching crisis of faith is a common experience for those who follow Jesus.

I think that is why Peter’s words ring down through the centuries. “Where else can we turn?” Only in Jesus do we discover the very words of Life. Jesus’ teachings bring clarity and understanding to life.

One of the thoughts that kept me going through my last crisis of belief was: Jesus brings meaning and understanding to life. What kept me going through that dark time wasn’t apologetic arguments, but the difference Jesus had made in my life.

The reason Peter claimed that Jesus had the words of life was because of the difference three years following Jesus made on his life. What he had heard, seen, and experienced made Peter realize the only way to truly live life was to stay with Jesus, even if everyone else left. Peter, as well as the other disciples, realized that only Jesus had the words that he needed to experience eternal life. I pray that we all come to that realization.

Questions to consider:

  • Why do you follow Jesus?
  • What has gotten you through your crises of faith?
  • How have experienced Jesus’ teachings as the “words of eternal life”?


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