I began reading through the gospel of John at the beginning of the year. This week I came across a verse that caught my attention. It says this about Jesus, "From this time many disciples turned back and no longer followed him."(John 6:60-69, NIV) Prior to this Jesus had been speaking words that sound like what we say during communion - referring to his body and blood. I can see how it might have sounded strange to those who heard it for the first time.
What was Jesus talking about? His disciples call it "a hard teaching" that is difficult to accept. But, to think of those who followed Jesus, who had heard his teaching in person, who had seen some of the miracles he performed -- simply deciding to walk away, that still surprises me. I wonder what I would have done in their situation. Would I have "turned back and no longer followed" Jesus, or would I have stayed the course - even if it was hard?
I wonder what tempts us today to turn back and no longer follow Jesus. Is it some teaching that we don't fully understand? Or, is it a teaching we understand too clearly, but the teaching is "hard" - something that is not easy to do, or does not fit in easily with our lifestyle? My guess is that this is something we all struggle with - I know I do.
When Jesus sees some of that larger group of disciples no longer follow him, he asks the smaller group, the Twelve, "You do not want to leave, too, do you?" Peter answers for the Twelve, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to know that you are the Holy One of God." Peter was not always the "smartest tool in the shed", but I think he got it right here. Because he believed Jesus was the Son of God, he was willing to stick it out, even when it was hard. I want to encourage us to do the same. In the long run, you will be glad you did!
Prayer for Today
Lord, sometimes following you is hard. Sometimes we don't understand, or we understand all too clearly -- but either way it is still hard. Help us to trust you and stick with you, even when it gets hard. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.