Our reading today is from John 6, the whole of which is rightly called the Eucharistic Discourse, John’s reflection on the meaning of the Eucharist seeing that the other gospels had well recorded its institution at the Passover meal the night before his crucifixion. We are at the end of the discourse and it seems that there is a crisis among the disciples. They seemed to have reached a point with Jesus’ teaching that is just too much. Perhaps too much to have compared himself to Moses, too much to have referred to himself as the living bread come down from heaven, or just too much that can’t be reconciled with their preconceived idea of the role of the Messiah.
I wonder if the crisis is even wider. In yesterday’s post, I mused about John 6 and the wider topic of the Incarnation. It is one thing to begin to understand the depth of God’s love for the world: that God himself would come to shepherd his people (Ez 34); that God would come as one of us, dwelling with us (Jn 1); or that the message of salvation might be offered to more than just the Jewish people (Jn 4). But all that Jesus has taught and promised is only made possible at the cost of his own life. At the cost of his passion, death and Resurrection. That God has to die. That’s just too much.
Disciples begin to desert Jesus: “Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”’ I wonder if the reply was suspended in a liminal moment, the betwixt and between when one decides to stay or go. I wonder if there is silence while a human calculus played out in that liminality.
“If everything he says is true and he clearly has the power of God in him and with him… if it’s true, then he is the light of the world, the promise of prophets fulfilled. He has the words of eternal life…… But how can I know?… I can’t, but I can trust. I can believe that he is the Holy One of God. But how can I know?
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Peter gets to spend a lifetime living out that trust and conviction. As do we.