By Emrys Tyler
Jesus had just given his disciples the most difficult of his teachings so far. Because that teaching violated so much of the culture in which they had been raised, which culture they believed had been ordained by God, they could not accept it. So “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”
Jesus then asked his core group, the ones who had been with him the longest, “Do you also wish to go away?” And Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (This story is found in the gospel according to John, chapter 6.)
These students of Jesus, the ones closest to him, had encountered a vitality, a promise, a power that they now could not live without. It might be like the teacher or mentor you had who opened up a world of possibility and excitement. Now you simply must study history, must get another car to fix, must cook some new dish for your friends, because you have found life in those things. It might be like a person — a friend, a mate, a working team — whom you could not imagine abandoning because you get such joy being with them. That vitality draws you back to them again and again. You would give up so much for them, for that work, for that cause.
Followers of Jesus have encountered someone in the person of Jesus Christ that they must follow, no matter how difficult the trail becomes. We could compare it to married couples who say, “I can’t imagine spending my life with someone else.” Or someone who says of a difficult job, “It may be hard, but I was born to do this.” For the past 2,000 years, people have discovered in Jesus something worth living and dying for.
And following Jesus always requires hard things. He leads us into an awareness of life that requires repentance, apology and forgiveness. He calls us to love people that our culture tells us to ignore or despise. He commands us to participate in justice for others while sacrificing our own privilege and comfort. He asks us to rest with less while the world drives us ruthlessly toward more. All followers of Jesus find themselves in a vocation that forces them to say, “This is not what I would have chosen, but Jesus is worth it.”
There is no reasoning that arrives at such commitment. There is no understanding that grasps this call. It is only knowing the radiant Someone whose light illumines the world that makes sense of Christian faith. Like plants drawn toward the sun, we can do nothing except reach ever onward toward Jesus. Of every other alternative we must say, as Simon Peter said, “To whom can we go?”
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