On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“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. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
- John 6:60-69
I once heard a sermon on this Scripture. I think a different translation could have been used, but the pastor emphasized how Simon Peter responded to Jesus as if saying, “Where else can we go? We’ve hooked our horse to your parade.”
Have you felt that way? Maybe this is similar to the quote from The Screwtape Letters where C. S. Lewis writes that Satan’s machinations are no more in peril than when the ‘patient’ has no concept of God’s presence and all seems lost, yet he still obeys.
I started this year with a play on the number for the year, 2020, asking if we will have 20:20 vision. With the pandemic and the fear over the spread of the virus and then the fear over the social distancing driving people bonkers, it seems that our spiritual eyesight is trying to see through a tunnel. The tunnel has no lighting and is filled with smoke and dust. No one can see the light at the end, but we ask ourselves, “Where else?” We keep treading forward.
God’s light still shines. It shines as bright as ever. The smoke and dust are in our own eyes.
As an illustration, one day when I was working, many years ago, my wife had the car that day to go grocery shopping. In fact, she met one of my friends at work and shouted across the produce section the greeting that I always gave him. He had just slipped in to get something for lunch and was frightened by hearing familiar words said by a different voice in a different place.
After my wife returned home, she put away the groceries and then called me. She was in terror. She had become blind in one eye. I asked one of the IT guys to give me a lift home, since she had the car. I drove her to the eye doctor, and after the ophthalmologist did an initial exam, I drove her to a clinic near Presbyterian Hospital near the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland, PA. My wife had three tears of the retina. The tears produced blood that filled my wife’s eye, not allowing her to see. If she had a retina detachment, she would have been transferred to the hospital for emergency surgery. Instead, right there at the retina clinic, they essentially used a freeze ray, at least some kind of cryogenic device, to stitch the tears back together. In time, most of the blood dissolved, but she still has a little floater of blood that causes her frustration from time to time, and it is so many years later.
My friend, who my wife greeted that morning, has often joked about seeing him might cause anyone to go blind. Now that she can see, we all laugh about it.
In this Scripture, many followers of Jesus walked away. They could not understand what Jesus was saying about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Much later at the Last Supper, the words were repeated for the Twelve, but they still didn’t understand. Yet, so many went away because they could not understand.
Even those that remained were probably all like Peter. “Lord, where would we go? You have the answers to all our questions, and even though we don’t understand what You are saying, where else?”
As we have our doubts, our lack of understanding, our confusion, and even our angst over the present trials, take heart. All will be revealed eventually. The answer to the question of “Where else?” is that there is not where else that you can go to obtain the answer, only from God. It’s kind of like what the Apostle Paul said about “working out our salvation.” You cannot work your salvation. God does the saving; we accept it. But as the bumps in the road get bigger, we must navigate around the potholes of life and work out our confusion and lack of understanding. As a result, we will grow stronger in the faith and also in understanding.
Where else, indeed.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.