John 6 is the lengthy passage in which Jesus feeds the five thousand, walks on water, and explains the bread of life. Each of these merit much attention. But what also needs attention is how the passage ends, with Simon Peter answering the “So what?” question.
Throughout the chapter, Jesus shares the mystery of God by using ordinary things: bread, fish, water. He tries to get the disciples to understand how the kingdom of God relates to the here-and-now, but also what is required to have eternal life: belief in the Son. Jesus mentions the need to believe in Him four times (29, 35-6, 40, 47), then stresses the importance of eating His body and blood to live forever (53-8).
Jesus knew that not all believed (64). His teaching had led to a moment of decision. He clarifies the choice once again: “’For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’ Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (65-66).
They had followed to that point, but Jesus is saying that it is time to go deeper; to follow AND believe. When it gets harder, it is too much for many.
But Simon Peter stays, saying: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (68-9). His commitment is important not because he has total clarity about God, Jesus and eternal life, but because there is so much he can’t know. Although he knows Jesus is the Holy One, he can’t fully know what that will require of him. But it matters not, because he has come to believe. In following, his belief will be lived out.
Simon Peter decided to keep following because of who Jesus was and what He was doing. He had seen and experienced something that prevented him from returning to old ways. He did not know exactly what that meant, but he knew too much to go back. He wanted more.
What did Simon Peter know? He knew he was called. He knew that was mysterious. Maybe he knew it was OK to be scared. Perhaps more than anything, he wanted the bread of life - and he knew no one else had it (68).
Calling invites us to say yes to a purpose bigger than ourselves; to shed old ways that are too small; to trust in new ones that will teach us who we really are. Saying yes requires belief AND following into the unknown. It is the bread of life that makes that possible.