Where else do we go but to Jesus?
In John 6:53, Jesus says something which jars his followers. He says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”
Up until this time his disciples were following him around and watching as he did his healings, listening to his teaching, thinking they were starting to get familiar with him, following him because he seemed to have the answers. But suddenly, Jesus is taking them in a completely unexpected direction. He is shaking them up by saying something completely bizarre. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. Listen to how wacko that sounds, you eat my flesh and drink my blood. Cannibalism is completely forbidden for us, yet that is what Jesus seems to be saying. And it would have been even worse for those folks there. The Jews didn’t even allow blood in the meat of the animals they ate. It was even more scandalous to think about drinking human blood. His followers begin to grumble. And Jesus doesn’t really help.
He says, “Does that bother you, well it is even worse, wait till you see what is next, when I ascend to where I was before.” (John 6:62). “Ascending” in John means being lifted up on the cross. You’re following someone who is going to be crucified. His followers all start to turn away.
Well, almost all. He looks at the 12, the core of his disciples, “Do you also wish to go away?” And it is Peter who answers for them, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68).
It is fitting it is Peter who answers — Peter’s relationship with Jesus is a powerful example of the highs and lows of a disciple’s life. There is not a whole lot of middle ground with Peter. He is either at the top of the mountain, at the head of class with brilliant insight into who Jesus is and why he has come — or he is at rock bottom, reaching new lows with his foot in his mouth or denying that he even knows Jesus. And notice that Peter doesn’t say, “You are a great teacher or wonderful miracle worker.” He says, “The reason we can only follow you and your words of eternal life is because you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:69.) A magnificent insight. Now of course, Peter doesn’t always follow the path even after this. He deserts Jesus when he is arrested, he denies him three times, he cowers with the others in the upper room afraid to go out and face the ones who crucified Christ, but Jesus still loves him, takes him back and allows him to become the rock on which our church stands.
So, when Jesus turns to you and says, “Do you wish to go away?” how will you answer? There are lots of different ways to go, business prospects, family commitments, comforts of home, search for social status. But Peter knows and we should know there is only the one way we should go. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” We need to follow him.
REV. DALE BROWN is the pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian churches. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.