"This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice." Orthodoxy, GK Chesterton
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[e] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
I have a new favorite passage. It may only be there for a few days (3 now), it may reside for the rest of my life.
It has been awakening and refreshing to me for a few reasons. This sticks in my head (along with the rich young ruler) as a time when the hard teaching presses followers (or potential followers) to the wall and some walk away. Then Peter's response rattled my bones.
First, Jesus's teachings are not always easy. The more you look at them the harder they are. That's refreshing at a time when so much seems to get fluffed up and sugar coated to be consumable. All the while losing substance and leaving you empty. From the world, it is generally assumed and taught that Jesus was a pacifist and sought some middle road to make everyone happy. He was a candyman handing out happy treats to followers and churches should do the same. Lie. He told his followers to be ready to bear a cross. 1.A is that I shouldn't expect to be able to offer the truth as a message of ease and comfort. This is more a point of conviction rather than rejoicing for me; I'm not seeking to upset people and generally keep my mouth shut rather than stir up people I don't know. Truth in love may (and will) mean teaching hard things.
Second, people stopped following and went away. This was a dividing line teaching (Jesus came as a sword, Matt 10). If the faith of the followers was a logical ascent to something higher, or chasing a candyman they went home at this point. If my faith is only worth following when it makes sense or when it makes my belly happy I'm in trouble. It isn't faith at all it is a convenient rewards program.
Third, I love Peter's answer to the question of "You do not want to leave too, do you?" It wasn't a matter of wanting to leave, he answers - where am I to go? You hold life. Not completely unrelated to the point above, I may not always understand the truth but I can trust and know that the source is the the source of life and the only source of life. There may be points during a confusing time when the desire is low, but that doesn't change Jesus being the source. It actually reinforces the need for drinking straight from the source. "We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God".
Fourth, is that all of the other teachings may be mental ascents or candyman chasing as well, there will reach a point where you have to chose to go home or press on. The only reason to press on is if it is known and trusted as a life giving source. When the path gets tough; or the formula or rituals crumble under the weight of the world; are you left saying "huh, I guess I'll go home" or at a point of belief and knowing "I can go back to a house but it is empty, I need to stay by the side of Jesus for that's where my life is found".