Jesus had become somewhat of a local celebrity, according to John 6. Throngs were already trailing him wherever he went. And then he performed two of his most famous miracles: the feeding of the 5,000 and walking on water. Jesus had more fans at this point than perhaps at any other time in his earthly ministry. The crowds even wanted to make him king.
But when Jesus taught that he is the “bread of life” (vv. 48-51), his fans just couldn’t stomach it.
“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” they grumbled (v. 60). Forget the miracles, forget the healings—that teaching was too much for them. Many turned away and deserted him.
Jesus asked the Twelve whether they too would leave. Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (vv. 68-69).
Though Peter did not fully understand Jesus’ teaching either, he recognized Jesus’ identity. So he stayed and followed. He knew that he was following a person (not just rules), which made it a two-way long-term relationship. That difference separates followers from fans, freeloaders, and fair-weather friends.
Words of Eternal Life
This passage, especially Peter’s response, has been an influential one in my life. I know that Jesus holds the words of eternal life—life abundant, life to the fullest. But sometimes his words are hard to follow. Like the crowd, I may not want to accept them. I may not want to love my enemy or forgive my neighbor.
But as a follower of Jesus, to whom else shall I go? I must wrestle with the tension between my understanding of Jesus and how I feel about his commands. If I really believe that his words are life-giving, then I must express that belief through obedience, and trust that I’ll be renewed and sustained. I choose to say, “Jesus, I trust you”—despite not having all the answers—because what I do know is foundational.
And every time I obey, I receive life. When I give, I feel thankful. When I forgive, I experience freedom. When I reconcile, I regain a relationship.
To whom shall I go when I face disappointment or tragedy? To whom shall I turn when I am frustrated or perplexed? Jesus, the Holy One, the bread of life.
Often the results are deferred. Sometimes I complain or question or bargain. But still, always, I follow.