26 August 2012

John 6:56-69

"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.'" (vv. 66-69)


It can sometimes appear amazing that those who heard Jesus' words and also witnessed his miracles could continue to doubt him. This was especially the situation with Jesus' disciples who witnessed him carry out many amazing miracles, yet it was still not a case of 'seeing is believing'.

So why was it that, as today's reading suggest, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him? It can be argued that although the disciples were fortunate to see Jesus in action, it was more important that they heeded his words and did what he asked them to do. This teaching involved self-sacrifice and enduring various hardships. Jesus never said there was anything glamorous about the path he asked his followers to tread; it was tough and treacherous, but it was one Jesus was willing to take (and lead his followers on).

Taking up one's cross to follow Jesus is difficult and the rewards are often never received in this life. However, as one great philosopher said, 'When presented with a range of choices, the hardest one is often the right one to opt for'. In today's reading, Peter chose to stay with Jesus, because despite the inherent difficulties, he believed that Jesus had "the words of eternal life" and he knew that Jesus was the "Holy One of God". In many respects, Peter's answer was a spiritual no-brainer, since a real follower of Jesus could not say 'No, Lord!' The response must always be affirmative.

However, Jesus never asks his followers to walk this road alone. In John 14:15-19, Jesus speaks about how his Spirit will enable the disciples to have the strength to follow him. And like those first disciples, the Holy Spirit is still available to 'take my hand, and let me stand, where no one stands alone' (from the song 'Where No One Stands Alone' by Mosie Lister and sung by Elvis Presley).

To Ponder:

  • Have you ever been in a position where you, like some of the disciples, considered turning back? What happened?
  • When faced with difficulties, what is your first response?

Bible notes author

Richard Reddie

Richard Reddie is an author and researcher, who for three years headed up the set all free project which marked the 2007 slave trade bicentenary. He also worked as an education policy officer for Race On The Agenda (ROTA), a social policy think-tank looking at issues affecting London's Black Minority Ethnic Community.