Should I Stay or Should I Go?
by Sarah Anderson
Many of you have probably heard the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Each of the four Gospels tells this story, or versions of this story, when Jesus, on the side of a mountain about ready to teach, decides to feed the mass of hungry people who came to hear Him. It was a big task, one that the disciples weren’t sure they could handle, but with one boy’s lunch sack of fish and bread, Jesus miraculously multiplied the food and fed each empty belly. He even made enough for leftovers. Most of what we know about this story stops here, but following the miracle, the story goes on. Not long afterwards, Jesus and the disciples cross a lake only to find more people waiting for Him on the other side. The crowd had heard what Jesus did with the bread and were thinking this was the kind of guy they could really get on board with. But their motivations and their intentions weren’t fooling Jesus—He knew what was going through their minds. He knew their flaky devotion had more to do with what He could do for them and He called them out on it. So, while still holding their attention, Jesus launches into some pretty heavy teaching—teaching that caught the crowd off guard.
The people who had been waiting on the other side of the lake listened for awhile, but it didn’t take long before they started grumbling and then arguing sharply with each other. The problem was that what Jesus was saying didn’t make a lot of sense. The people were confused, offended, and frankly, probably disappointed in what Jesus was asking of them—so much so that the Bible says many abandoned Him. They turned their backs on Him. In other words, Jesus didn’t live up to the expectations the masses had in mind, so they decided maybe He wasn’t for them after all. And, they left.
Maybe you know the feeling. Maybe you can relate to the masses. Maybe you have heard some cool stuff about this Jesus guy, and experienced some really amazing things through relationship with Him, but then all of the sudden, He asks something of you, or He confuses you, or suddenly starts to seem distant. Maybe your expectations go unmet and before you know it, you are left with a choice to make. Do you stay or do you go?
The crowds left. And I can imagine the scene was a little uncomfortable. Maybe they all left at once, or maybe one by one—as Jesus continued to baffle and bewilder. Regardless of how it happened, by the end of His teaching only twelve remained—the twelve disciples. And after the crowd disbanded, Jesus turned and asked those who lingered, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67 NIV). And in the substantial pause after the weighted question Peter looks at Jesus and answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68 NIV).
Peter and the rest of the disciples heard the same message the crowd did. They probably had the same questions and dealt with the same confusion as those who walked away. But Peter vocalizes what the twelve knew and the crowd didn’t. “No one else can do what You do. No one else talks like You talk. No one else offers what You offer—not just bread to eat, but words that satisfy. We may not get You all the time. We may not understand what You want so badly for us to understand, but where else would we go, if not here? Who else would we turn to, if not to You?”
There is going to come a time when we find ourselves in the same place as the disciples did. When this happens and we get before God and confess our confusion and admit our disinterest, He asks us, “You don’t want to leave too, do you?” And this is the point where we need to make a choice—when we need to make a call. Do we really believe that Jesus holds the words of eternal life? Do we really believe it is worth sticking it out—despite our uncertainty, our confusion, our expectations? Do we really believe that this relationship—as difficult as it may be at times—is worth fighting for? And if we do, then we have the chance to say, like Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? I haven’t got this all figured out, but I know this. You have the words of eternal life.”
And that is a great place to start. The best place to start. Not with answers, not with clarity, not with complete and total understanding. Just a simple statement that says exactly where you are—with no place else to go, and the confidence and the faith that being with the Jesus is the best place to be.