This is a hard teaching, who can accept it?

The power of forgiveness

Meditation on John 6:60-71

The NRSV says, “this teaching is difficult, who can accept it?” The Tyndale, NLT has, “this is very hard to understand; how can anyone accept it?” while the NCV has “this teaching is hard, who can accept it?” Hard or difficult teaching, the resulting question, or even conclusion is: It is not acceptable; no one can accept it. Who hasn’t been at such a point of bewilderment?

I have, a lot of times or even most of the times!

This text reminds me of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was established in South Africa in 1995 in the aftermath of the abolition of the apartheid system. One of its mandates was to hear confessions – to encourage people to come forward and disclose all the atrocities they committed, to tell the truth, thus paving the way for forgiveness and reconciliation.

The hearings began in 1996 and Archbishop Desmond Tutu who chaired the hearings would say later that it became impossible, right from the beginning, to proceed. People came forward and made confessions of horrid atrocities that could not be imagined of human beings but monsters. People recounted how they tortured and dismembered their victims – atrocities committed by both sides, blacks and whites!

After hearing these horrifying confessions, the members of the commission could not sleep at night, nightmares haunted them. One could not hear these stories and think of forgiveness/amnesty and reconciliation. The overriding impulse was revenge. That was what looked like justice.

This is very difficult teaching; who can accept it?

Chapter 6 begins with Jesus feeding the 5,000, after which a large crowd followed him. In verse 19 he walks on water (in the evening) and in the morning the crowd went to Capernaum in search of him. There he taught about eating his flesh and drinking his blood – that is the teaching about the bread of life. That was too hard for the crowd; they deserted him: It was too difficult a commitment to make.

Sooner or later, that moment arrives when a commitment is called for. If it is not unsettling, unraveling, shaking one’s comfortable world, it is not the real thing. That comes in every area of life.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who completed the recovery program last April. We talked about his first few weeks in the program and one of the things that stuck in my mind was how he stared at the outside. He would walk by the back office, stand by the glass wall, and just stare outside – for quite a long time actually.

I asked him what was going on in his mind. He said, “I was asking myself, ‘how did I end up here? Am I really going to go through this?” That was what was going on in his mind: “This is a hard teaching; who can accept it?”.

He made the commitment and yesterday we looked back in wonder, at how good it has been.

Every time we confront this call for commitment – for whatever cause in life – Jesus is asking, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Like Peter we say, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. And when we look back at the commitment we made, we are amazed at God’s grace because it is only through grace that we are able to take it.