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John 6:52-71 - The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
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 answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
This is such an honest passage of Scripture – raw and gritty and real-life. Anyone who assumes that the Bible is a collection of made-up, pie-in-the-sky stories about easy faith and effortless belief needs to read this and put themselves in the moment.
Jesus has just finished teaching a really difficult teaching. Modern-day Christians don’t struggle at all with Jesus talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. We have years of Communion teaching to help with this. We know about the cross, and the empty tomb, and the Last Supper. Frankly, we may not struggle ENOUGH with the teaching… but it’s part of Christianity 101. For the folks who first heard Jesus talk about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, however, this was extremely difficult… and disturbing… and gross. Suddenly many weren’t sure this was what they signed up for.
So how does Jesus respond? Interestingly, He doesn’t do what Church leaders today do every time there is a controversy on social media and people are criticizing some teaching of the Church. We quickly do damage control, almost every time. Instead, Jesus says (in essence): “There are lots of difficult things you’re going to hear, and lots of great things, but God isn’t the one who has to change. You are.” And that’s it. These people can choose to follow Him or not.
There is a sermon in that all by itself. But then comes the best part of the story. Jesus watches many of His followers walk away, and then He turns back to the twelve and says,“So, how about you. Are you going to leave, too?” And Peter says, “Lord, where else would we go? You’re the only one who has the words of eternal life.” Translation: “Jesus, we don’t get everything, and we don’t like everything, but we want to stay close to you because we know that you are the way to eternal life.” That’s faith.
Sometimes faith is heavy and burdensome. Sometimes you strain to hear God’s voice above the chaos of everyday life, or to find His presence when your heart is broken and your spirit is heavy. Even Jesus’ closest followers struggled sometimes to believe. But faith always comes back to Peter’s declaration in John 6:68: “Where else could we go? In what other place could we find Truth that TRANSFORMS and Grace that leads to ETERNAL LIFE?”
There is no other place; no other way. Faith doesn’t require us to understand all of the “whys” and “hows." Faith clings to the WHO.