The disciples say: “This teaching is difficult.”
The followers of Jesus, the ones that have decided to continue learning from him – as we are told many others had abandoned this pursuit – complain that what Jesus is trying to help them to know is too hard, too complicated, nuanced, just out of the grasp of their understanding.
I have to admit on first reading of this Gospel text I commiserated with the disciples. This lesson is too difficult. Too confusing to parse out. Why am I here? Why have I chosen a path which requires that I wrestle with teachings that are obscure, perhaps obtuse, just out of the grasp of my understanding.
I imagine the disciples asking the same questions. Why did we decide to leave my whole life, everything we knew, behind for this? What are we doing here following Jesus, who just keeps on giving us lesson after difficult lesson after nuanced lesson just out of the grasp of our understanding?
Yet, here we are – the disciples, you all, and I – continuing to follow Jesus even when the teaching is difficult. We are here because we know that it is important. We follow Jesus because we know we have something to gain from his teachings.
Jesus asks his twelve disciples: “Do you wish to go away?” If what we are doing here is so challenging wouldn’t it be simpler to just abandon the pursuit?
Peter responds on his own behalf and perhaps the behalf of the other disciples: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
We know that here, in the midst of the difficult lessons and obscurity, there is meaning and value. Jesus’ teachings offer us truth that is loving, liberating, and life-giving. This sort of truth, the words of eternal life, while powerful is not simple or easy. If it was, well, we wouldn’t need to be here.
Jesus invites us to engage, to do the work of comprehending, to take an active role in our own learning. God calls us to take up the task even when it’s difficult – knowing that the result will mean a fuller and deeper life. Jesus doesn’t expect us to get it right away, he is always there with another lesson, helping us to live more fully into God’s vision for our lives.