There are times when the situation is simply black or white. You are either in or out. You either stay or leave. There is no room for indecision. The time to choose is now. This is the situation in this Sunday’s Gospel. People either accepted or rejected Jesus. Most did the latter. Only a few chose to stay with him.
This Sunday’s Gospel is about coming to a decision and sticking by it. Jesus had the rare ability to offer a straight option—you were either for him, or against him. He himself was fully committed to his mission, and to all that was best for us, even if at times his disciples complained. He was used to being criticised by his enemies, but when he could not depend on the loyalty of his friends, he had to call them to account.
In a way it was hard on the disciples, because, by the nature of what Jesus offered, it could not just be some sort of an a la carte menu, from which they could choose whatever suited them. When some of his followers began to walk away, he didn’t run after them and try to reason with them. That was not his way. Rather he turned to those who stayed and challenged them to commit themselves.
There are three types of people in every gathering: those who cause things to happen; those who watch things happening; and those who don’t know what is happening! Peter was the one who stepped up to the occasion. “Lord,” he said, “who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.” For Jesus, losing the others was worth it, if it left him with loyal followers like Peter.
Jesus was not concerned with numbers. His whole life shows that the value of something does not bear any necessary relation to the number of people who support it. Popularity does not necessarily show where truth is to be found. Numbers are not everything. We follow Jesus not because he was or is popular but because, in the word of Peter in the Gospel, we recognise that he has the message of eternal life. He is the Truth.