We may have struggled with yesterday’s passage – so did all of Jesus’ hearers, including his followers! Jesus was not dismayed by this – he knew that not all of his followers were truly believers (v64b). There were the twelve disciples whom Jesus called specifically, but there were also many others who believed initially and considered themselves followers. However, this last bit of teaching has made these think about their commitment and many turned away.
Being a disciple of Jesus means accepting all that Jesus said and committing to living life to please him. Some have no desire to live like that – others start off well, but sometimes are choked by ‘life’s worries, riches and pleasures’ and they fall away (Like 8:14). Jesus assures us, however, that ‘all the Father gives me will come to me…. I shall lose none…but will raise them up at the last day’(v37,39). That can be a great comfort to us if we remember that God is always good, just and perfect.
We too can find some of Jesus’ teaching ‘hard’ to accept today, partly because society has moved on a long way from faith and now Jesus’ words often stand in direct contradiction to what is accepted by society generally, so that Christians are perceived to be out of touch, intolerant, prejudiced and just plain wrong. The sermon on the mount teaching is hailed as a wonderful ideal to aim for (but unattainable) but other aspects of Christian faith are regarded as irrelevant to modern day living.
Being a true disciple means accepting all Christian teaching as given in Scripture, however difficult it seems, and asking for God’s help in understanding those things we find difficult. That is definitely not the way the world works – we need to be wary in case the pick-and-mix attitude of belief in today’s world rubs off on to us. There will be difficult issues, beliefs which will put us at odds with the rest of society, but we need to hang on to the fact that if it is in God’s revealed word in Scripture, then it is absolutely true, no matter what others think or believe. Evidence for the genuineness and trustworthiness of the Bible is very solid – we can depend on it and indeed we need to be telling and showing others that it is so, because this is a big area of doubt for many folk. The Bible is our authority for everything we believe, so we need to know it well, know what it says about the sticky issues society throws up and stand up for it.
When Jesus turns to the Twelve to ask what they plan on doing, Simon Peter speaks up for the rest of them, as usual! He has just heard Jesus say ‘These words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’. I’m sure this confirmed to him what they had heard, seen and experienced over the past 2 years or so – miracles of healing, of feeding, miracles of nature, walking on water … teaching about God which was evidently from God and affirmed by God…the example of Jesus himself, like no other person they had ever met. All he can say is ‘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.’(v69)
We can echo that for ourselves – we know it doesn’t make life easy, but there is nowhere else to go!
Judas is there listening to all this – Jesus already knows his heart (v64, 70). I wonder what he was thinking about it all …perhaps he too had found this teaching hard…he could have left at this point, with others, but he didn’t. Perhaps this is the beginning of a stirring in his heart which wasn’t so prepared for such a committed way of life. Perhaps his loyalty to Jesus wavered in the face of further difficult issues and challenges. He goes along with it for the moment, but the seed is there and grows into an attitude which will eventually bear the fruit of actual betrayal – his feet did slip! If we find ourselves wavering in our faith, or having wrong attitudes, or when we are tempted to allow ourselves to just ‘slip back’ a bit, Psalm 73 can be a good wake-up call and a real encouragement for us – read v2-3, 13,17, 21-26 now. We need to deal straightaway with these thoughts and not let them grow, as Judas did.
Jesus knows all that is in our hearts – the struggles, as well as the faith – we need to ask him to show us ourselves, and change us, so that we can truthfully say, with Peter, ‘Lord you know all things, you know that I love you. (John 21:17)