John 6:67 – 68 – “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
What do we do when life is hard? (As it has been for so many during the pandemic.) What do we do when we find the teaching of Jesus difficult?
When we’re up against it, different people adopt different kinds of coping strategies. Those
who were with Jesus at a challenging time also reacted in different ways.
There were, firstly, those who turned away and stopped following Jesus. These were the
disciples who could not stomach Jesus’ hard teaching any longer. Some disciples started
grumbling amongst themselves. There was dissent in the camp so much so that ‘many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.’(v 66) There was a parting of the ways, as we say, so that only the Twelve were left.
Secondly, Jesus turned his attention to the Twelve. Did they also wish no longer to be
associated with Him? Simon Peter spoke up for the group. Yes, following Jesus was getting
more demanding and, No, they didn’t understand fully all that Jesus was trying to teach
them; but they could not leave because Jesus had the words of REAL life, ETERNAL life.
Peter had hit upon the vital truth that Jesus was not just a great preacher and healer but
the Holy One of God, the expected Messiah. The One who came from heaven and who is
just as much at home in the life of heaven as the life of earth!
So, the first group left Jesus but the second group, the Twelve, stuck around Him. Now we
turn our attention to the third group, which you won’t find in the Bible reading, because
the third group is US! And the question is, ‘What is OUR response to this hard teaching of
Jesus?’ The question is, ‘Are we 21 st Century Christians more like the first group of disciples or the second group – the Twelve?’ (If we’re honest I reckon we have all been tempted at some time, especially when things are tough, to leave our faith behind).
That having been said, most people in churches today are, I believe, unashamedly stalwarts – we wouldn’t be part of the church if we weren’t! But, I guess, like the Twelve, we find it a lot more challenging today to be a Christian than it used to be when we were part of a larger crowd. At times in the history of Israel those faithful to God were much reduced to what the prophets called ‘a remnant.’ (Elijah thought he was the only faithful one left! And Isaiah prophesied that only a remnant would return from exile – I Kings 19; Isaiah 10:22)
Perhaps in our day and generation we need to take pride and hope in being ‘God’s
remnant’ – those who remain faithful to him whatever the challenges may be – for our
strength is not in numbers but in the Lord himself.
Prayer: Almighty God, who spoke through the prophets that they might make your will and purpose known: inspire the guardians of your truth, that the many may be blessed through the few and the children of earth be made one with the saints in glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Revd Terry Spencer