With its 71 verses, Chapter Six of John’s Gospel might be the longest chapter in the New Testament. It began with the feeding the five thousand men, then leading to Jesus walking on the water, going on to his spending the day in telling a throng of disciples how he was the bread of life. That ended with most of them turning away from him, because they couldn’t see how the bread he would give them could be his body.
As he watched them all go, Jesus turned to the Apostles, asking, “Do you also want to leave?”
We all remember how Simon Peter answered, “Master, to whim shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.” He was saying they had no place better to go.
Jesus seemed to be helpless there as he watched the throngs that had followed him now walk away.
We can contrast the uncertainty of the Apostles and those former followers with the wild enthusiasm of everyone on Pentecost. Then the Apostles were instantly changed from being weaklings to being bold champions. Then the crowds accepted the word without hesitation. Three thousand of them were baptized that day.
You’d rightly say that the difference was that on Pentecost they had all received the Holy Spirit. Speaking to the crowds, Peter had said that Jesus, as a reward for his heroic self-sacrifice, had been given the right to pour the Spirit into people’s hearts.
Another way of seeing that is, as we were told, “Faith is a free gift of God.”
You and I today might repeat the words of that father in the Gospels who was seeking help for his son. When Jesus asked him if he believed, the man answered. “I do believe. Help my unbelief.”