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.” (John 6:66-69)
This conversation between Jesus and his disciples is recorded at the end of a long chapter in John’s Gospel. Jesus had traveled to the east side of the Sea of Galilee in the region of what was known as the trans-Jordan. We are told that quite a large crowd followed him because of the miracles they had witnessed him perform. Jesus, as was so often the case, used such occasions as a teaching moment.
Knowing that they had been walking with him for some distance and were inevitably hungry, Jesus asked Philip where they might find enough bread to feed them. Philip, in essence, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Good question.” Peter’s brother, Andrew, piped up, “There’s a little boy here with a bag lunch,” knowing full well that it wouldn’t go far with a crowd of over 5000. What Jesus did, of course, was to take those two small dried fish and five small pita breads and miraculously multiply them and distribute it among everyone who was there. When everyone had eaten their fill the disciples gathered up the leftovers for another day. This was done for all the crowd to take notice.
Not long after, the disciples got aboard a small fishing boat and set sail for the other side of the lake. Many in the crowd apparently were aware that Jesus hadn’t left with them. By the next day the crowd had made their way around to the other side of the lake, and lo and behold, there was Jesus, with his disciples. Sometime during the night Jesus had followed on foot, across the water, no less! Another miracle. The first thing the crowd wanted to know was, “When did you get here?” In other words, “How did you get here?”
Jesus turned the question on its head by saying, “I know what you really want. To be entertained by another miracle not to mention another free lunch.” They weren’t too keen on Jesus’ response, so they appealed to Moses who had fed their ancestors for forty years in the wilderness.
Now here’s the teaching moment. Jesus told them that he was the “bread of life”, and that to follow him they must “eat his flesh and drink his blood”. He was not talking about cannibalism, of course, but rather about being united to him by faith. That union with him would mean walking in covenant relationship with him, just as eating the manna in the wilderness 1500 years earlier required walking in covenant relationship with the God who had spoken to their ancestors from the mountain.
Well, of course, what Jesus said proved too much for many in the crowd who took their leave. Thus, Jesus’ question to the twelve, “How about you? Do you want to leave too?”
Simon Peter’s response is so telling. “I don’t see any option. Not if you are who we have come to believe you are.” But notice how he addressed Jesus – “Lord”! That’s more than just a polite term of respect. It is an acknowledgement that this Jesus whom they had chosen to follow was more than just some itinerant preacher. He was the Christ. Discipleship is about following Jesus.
Well, being a Christian is more than just going for the entertainment and the expectation of goodies. It really means following Jesus and calling him Lord.
Pastor Tom Bridgman