Peter, the man — III

“Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

This is my first Passover meal after the Lord was taken up to heaven. For this reason, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. I think of the events that led to His passion and play with a thousand scenarios in my mind. I keep asking myself, “How did we miss so many things that are so obvious to us now?”

I remember the time we were all in Capernaum, where my brother, Andrew, I, James and John, come from. By now Jesus was drawing large crowds everywhere, and we were gladly riding the coattails of his popularity. I mean, is there anything sweeter than returning home as the right hand men of the most famous person in the nation?  We went to the local synagogue and everyone came out to hear Him.

For us, local boys, it was a chance to prove our critics wrong. And trust me, they were there. We could spot them in the crowd – the same people who called us crazy for leaving our fishing business and casting our lots with an unknown Rabi who was reputed to be the promised Messiah. Now, they were coming to us with gifts, hoping to have an audience with Jesus. And without our clearance, no one could see Him. Suddenly, everybody admired us and wanted to be our friends.

That is until Jesus opened His mouth and began to speak… I mean, here we were, in the biggest moment of our lives, expecting vindication or at least a pad on the back. If He wanted, He could have made a passing reference to us, like, “For all of you out there who thought Peter and Andrew were crazy, well, I’ve got news for you:  you were all wrong!” But no, instead, Jesus began to say some strange things that got even us, insiders, a little worried.

It started when some religious leaders from our town heard Jesus say that He came from “heaven.” Sure, you can say that thousands of kilometers away from your village, but Jesus was saying this practically in his hometown. These people knew where Jesus had come from, they knew His parents, his brothers and sisters; they even knew what his favorite outfit was, when He used to go to the local synagogue as a young boy. I thought, “Oh, oh, we’re in trouble now.”

Next, Jesus began to talk about “My Father this, My Father that.” People got confused. “Isn’t this fellow the same Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph? How can he then say that he came from Heaven?” But Jesus was on a roll now. The day was getting late and people’s stomachs began to growl. Can’t imagine a worse time to talk about eating flesh and drinking blood… But that’s exactly what Jesus did!

He said, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  Simon, who knew a thing or two about blood from his days as an insurgent against Rome, looked across and mouthed, “This is going to be a bloody mess. Time to get out of here!” But Jesus went on to say, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

I thought, “It’s all over now.” The crowd went wild, a fierce argument broke off, and people were sneering. I looked for Simon and he was gone. I started moving toward Jesus and overheard one of the leaders saying, “How can this fellow offer us his flesh to eat?” There was chaos all around and even some of Jesus’ most dedicated followers were saying out loud, “This lesson is a little hard to swallow. I wish He had skipped it.”

Andrew found me and said, “I guess the paparazzi will leave us alone tonight.” I wanted to smack him, joking at a time like this…, but he couldn’t be more right: our celebrity days were over! Jesus looked at us, a handful of his core disciples still standing there, and asked, “Are you also going to leave me?” I looked around, saw Simon coming back, and for a moment I had a flashback. I thought of the time we had been exhausted from fishing all night. Haven’t caught nothing, we were washing our nets, when Jesus came and told us go to go fishing again. I knew it was useless, but I did it anyway and we had the biggest catch ever. I imagined I was on the boat with Him again when he told the wind to stop and I could hear His voice once more commanding, “Lazarus, come forth!”

Suddenly, I understood clearly that even if I didn’t get the whole flesh and blood thing, what I had experienced with Jesus was real, it was supernatural, and it was stuff that only The Messiah of God could do. So, when Jesus asked if we were going to leave Him as well, for once in my life, my reaction was not one of emotion. Rather, it was probably the most rational thing that ever came out of my mouth and it came to me as naturally as grilling fish on the beach. I said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy one of God.”

Now we know that Jesus was not speaking of literal food or drink. He was pointing us to his death and resurrection, the two events that changed the course of history and restored hope to the heart of fallen humans like you and me. And even if that speech was a little hard on the ears, I am glad Jesus gave it. It was that speech that gave me a chance to settle in my mind once and for all who Jesus really was – my Savior, my Lord, the Holy one of God!

Ivanildo C. Trindade