John 6:60-69 (CEB)
60 Many of his disciples who heard this said, “This message is harsh. Who can hear it?” 61 Jesus knew that the disciples were grumbling about this and he said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you were to see the Human One going up where he was before? 63 The Spirit is the one who gives life and the flesh doesn’t help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 Yet some of you don’t believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning who wouldn’t believe and the one who would betray him. 65 He said, “For this reason I said to you that none can come to me unless the Father enables them to do so.” 66 At this, many of his disciples turned away and no longer accompanied him. 67 Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are God’s holy one.”
This past Sunday (August 26th) our Gospel reading included this section from the Gospel according to John. Unfortunately I can’t cover every part of every scripture reading in one sermon, so we will take a quick look at this text now.
In this passage Jesus recognizes the lack of belief in some of his followers. The Oxford English Dictionary defines belief as ‘an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.’ The Greek word that is translated as belief is pisteuo. A more appropriate translation for John’s Gospel would be trust or rely on, instead of belief. While using the word belief isn’t incorrect in this passage, translating pisteuo as trust helps to shed greater light on the point Jesus is making. Jesus isn’t pointing out a lack of cognitive assent to what he is saying, rather he is pointing out their lack of trust in him and thereby in God. So when Jesus turns to the twelve and asks if they will leave, Peter’s response is one of trust. Where else can they go? Jesus is the one who they trust and know is from God. Peter and the other disciples may not have intellectually understood all of Jesus’s teachings in the moment, but they had pisteuo, they had trust.
Just like those whom Jesus was teaching, we might sometimes find a teaching or aspect of our faith challenging, in fact I think to be challenged by our faith is a good thing. The point of decision comes in the midst of the challenge, do we trust? Do we trust that Jesus is the one who has the words of eternal life? If we do, that trust can see us through the challenge, through the lack of understanding, just like Peter’s trust saw him through.
In the midst of the challenges that come with life and faith we have the promise that
“in life and in death we belong to God”*, if we are willing to trust it.
*The opening line of A Brief Statement of Faith