“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.” (John 6:66–71 ESV)
The United Bible Society’s Commentary on John points out that this section of John 6 is a good summation of the final results of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. What are those results? Pretty much failure…almost. The response of many of Jesus’ disciples was: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” John points out that these disciples no longer followed Jesus.
There is one glimmer of hope, and even that glimmer is not without problems. Peter comes through with perhaps the most significant comment in this passage. When Jesus asks the twelve: “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter responds with this magnificent statement: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
The words “to whom shall we go” mean literally “to go back to what lies behind.” Peter’s meaning is: “if we cease being your disciple, whom then could we follow?”
The verbs “have believed” and “have come to know” are in the perfect tense. The perfect tense was used when something was done in the past and it is still true and it will be true into the indefinite future. So Peter is telling Christ, “We already made that decision. It is a finished decision. We cannot go back on it. We will not go back on it.”
Jesus’ response is quite curious. He doesn’t deny that the twelve had made the decision, he points out—for the first time—that he himself chose the twelve disciples “and yet one of you is a devil.”
Jesus certainly had a strange, unexpected way of making [and keeping] disciples, and from the perspective of the world, Jesus’ Galilean ministry was almost a complete flop. He ends up with eleven committed disciples and one who will betray him to crucifixion. Funny thing is, Jesus is not the least bit interested in the world’s perspective on his “success.”