For the past Sundays we’ve heard of Jesus feeding 5000 people with the five loaves and the two fish. Jesus reminds the people about the manna with which God fed their ancestors as they journeyed through the barren desert. Without this gift from God they would have died. Jesus claims to be a new manna. He is the living and life giving bread come down from heaven and whoever eats this bread will live forever. He startles the people by telling them that unless they eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood they cannot have life in them.
The people find this hard to take. They know Jesus, they know his family. His father is a simple carpenter, they know Mary his mother. Where does he get off talking like this? Who does he think he is?
The people are bothered by Jesus claiming to be the revelation of God, “this indeed in the will of my Father that all who see the son and believe in him may have eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day,” as well as his words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. How can this man give us his flesh to eat? This is barbaric.
Their response to these claims are totally natural, “this teaching is difficult, who can accept it?” The old translation was ‘this is a hard saying and who can take it? And so we hear these sad but understandable words, “because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” Jesus would not back down from his own words, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you cannot have life in you. He would not water down his words. Saddened by the departure of his followers Jesus turns to Peter and the others and asks, “do you also wish to go away, are you leaving too?” Peter speaks for all of them with the simple but honest answer, “Lord to whom can we go, you have the words of eternal life.” Peter was saying, ‘Lord I really don’t understand what eating your flesh and drinking your blood is really all about but we trust you, we trust that you have the words of everlasting life, we trust that you are the holy one of God.’
We too trust, believe that Jesus is the holy one of God, we too trust that Jesus and his church have the words of everlasting life. We want to be nourished by his body and blood so that we can have the strength and courage to hear and do other difficult and demanding teachings of his, ‘ Love one another as I have loved you, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick. At times these are difficult sayings, challenging sayings for all of us but we have to remember that as often as we do these things to the least of his brothers and sisters we do them to Him.
As we face the difficulties and sometimes the disappointments of life, as we struggle to live with the limitations of our church, may we have the insight of Peter and say, in spite of it all, “Lord to whom shall we go? you have the words of everlasting life.”