Of all the questions in scripture, the single most poignant one may be recorded in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus has just finished giving what is regarded as one of his difficult sayings (though a friend once asked which of Jesus’ sayings is not difficult). This one spoke of the need for people to eat his flesh and drink his blood, and the difficulty involved for anyone who wanted to follow him.
Because of this, the writer says, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” It is striking that John uses the word “disciples” for those who turn back; these are apparently not just casual listeners, not the folks who show up only at Christmas and Easter. These people have been teaching Sunday school and working in the nursery, and when longtime pillars start leaving the church we get a little restless; people want to bring in consultants and do focus groups to diagnose the problem.