Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?

St Peter

Claude Vignon’s painting, “The Lament of St. Peter,” is a beautiful example of how an artist can use lights and shadows to create a sense of depth. The background is almost indiscernible, yet the robe, hands, and face of Peter are richly illuminated. We see the pain in Peter’s eyes, but with a glance, we understand his ache is not physical. His hands part his robe and point to his heart, which gives us a clue that his lament is spiritual. Perhaps he is remembering his three-fold denial of Jesus in Pilate’s courtyard. Vignon creates texture with high- and low-lights, making the folds of Peter’s garment look natural and giving his beard dimension. The whole painting compels us to feel and understand Peter’s grief.

In John 6:60-69, we come to a turning point in the Gospel. We read, “From this time many of his [Jesus’] disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” What did Jesus do that caused many of his followers to desert him? Maybe they realized he was not going to be the type of king they were looking for—a military one who would conquer the status quo with the force of battle. Maybe his teachings were too difficult to understand. Maybe some of his words offensive. 

After the followers left, Jesus turns to his disciples, including Peter, and asks, “What about you, do you want to go away too?” With this question, we understand that following Jesus was a choice; none of them were forced to stay against their will. What did the disciples realize that those who left did not? Peter and the Twelve had come to know who Jesus is. Often they had more questions about Jesus than answers. Often Jesus’ actions (or inactions) frightened and confused them. Often the sayings of Jesus were hard to hear. All of which makes Peter’s response to Jesus’ question even more beautiful. He says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Being Human Connection: Perhaps we have been tempted to abandon Jesus. Maybe he asks too much or answers too little. But when we realize who he is, Peter’s answer speaks for us all, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Jesus invites us to stick it out with him; to have faith in his unconditional love even when we feel compelled to turn back.

Featured art: Claude Vignon, “The Lament of Saint Peter,” 1623