Scripture: John 6:66-71
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.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
We’ve finally reached the final verses of chapter six. This has been a lengthy journey through one of Jesus’ more complex teachings. He has been explaining how he is the bread of life – that only by feasting on his flesh and drinking of his blood will eternal life be possible. Jesus has confused the crowd who follows him, and last time we saw that he also frustrated some of those he called disciples. Now, these weren’t any of the twelve, but they were people who had committed themselves to following this rabbi and shaping their life after his.
The backlash of Jesus’ teaching is that some of those disciples leave. They can no longer follow someone who makes such outrageous claims. I find it interesting that there is no mention of Jesus trying to stop them. They simply go on their way. Jesus reserves his concern with the twelve and how they feel. He asks, “Do you also wish to go away?” When I read this, I hear a little bit of heartbreak from Jesus. Even though he let’s those disciples walk away, I think he’s sad they go. Maybe Jesus is even genuinely concerned that his twelve closest friends will also find his teachings too difficult and leave him as well. I wonder if Jesus feels the fear of approaching loneliness. No one likes feeling lonely. But what a relief to hear the faithful response of Simon Peter. Jesus had chosen his closest followers well.
I think the message of this scene is that the Christian voice is one that can be hard to hear, even among people who count themselves as followers of Christ. We can find ourselves, just as Jesus did, standing in contradiction to cultural norms. The feeling of loneliness is a real threat to those who take the countercultural calling seriously. We cry for justice when others don’t. We believe peace comes through love and forgiveness, not violence and revenge. We champion equality for those who fall to the margins rather than overlook them. These things can leave us in fear of being alone. But the good news of this passage is that we won’t be. Despite the hard teaching, Jesus still has friends around him. Christianity is never done alone. That’s not how God works. We can be confident that even when we express difficult truths, others will be there to support us. That is what Church is supposed to be.
Oh Lord my God, do not let the fear of loneliness overwhelm me. Surround me with your hope. Surround me with your people. Amen.
Thought for the Day:
God won’t let you do Christianity alone. It’s always a community effort.