Late one Saturday afternoon, I was snoozing on the sofa when the doorbell awakened me. Craning my neck, I noticed two well-dressed young women at the screen door.
“What can I do for you?” I called out, thinking they were Avon ladies and not wanting to be disturbed.
“We’re Witnesses of Jehovah, and we’d like to share some Scripture truths with you.”
I was up in a flash. My wife was about to put an early supper on the table. “Go ahead without me,” I told her. “I have work to do.” I stepped onto the porch and closed the door behind me.
Wanting to get the upper hand immediately, I said to the proselytizers, “I’m glad you’re here. I take considerable interest in your faith. I have a copy of the New World Translation of the Bible, the one your Brooklyn headquarters distributes. I subscribe to Awake! and Watchtower magazines. I have several of the books designed to instruct you in door-to-door work, including Reasoning from the Scriptures. I want you to know that I appreciate your zeal and am grateful that you have come to my door.
“Now, before we go any further, tell me a little about yourselves. I presume neither one of you was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness.” My guess was right. One woman was a former Methodist, the other a former Catholic. Naturally enough, I intended to zero in on the latter.
“You say you want to share Scripture truths. That’s laudable. Why don’t we start with the Gospel of John?” I had them open to the sixth chapter, and we went through it slowly.
In the first part Jesus feeds the five thousand. He provides them, miraculously, with earthly food, a foretaste of what is to come. In the last half of the chapter, he promises to provide them, miraculously, with heavenly food—his own body and blood. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).
“Consider the reaction of his listeners,” I said to the Witnesses. “The Jews who were listening to our Lord asked themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ They took him literally, didn’t they?” The former Methodist made no sign, but the former Catholic nodded slightly.
“Look at what Jesus did not do. He did not correct them. He did not say, ‘You misunderstand. What I said was just a metaphor.’ There was no need for him to say that because they had understood him properly.” Jesus repeated himself: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you . . . for my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6:53–55).
Then, I noted, came objections not from the Jews who all along had opposed Jesus but from his own disciples, people who had accepted everything up to this point. “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60). Again, no attempt was made to “correct” Jesus’ listeners and to assure them that he spoke merely in symbols. He upbraided them: “There are some of you that do not believe” (John 6:64). “After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:66)—the only place in Scripture in which any of Jesus’ followers left him for a doctrinal reason.
I stepped close to the former Catholic and looked her square in the eyes. “And do you know who was among the unbelievers?” She shook her head slowly, her mouth slightly agape. In my snakiest voice I whispered, “It was Judas-s-s-s!”
Her eyes grew wide. Verse 64 refers to the betrayer and brackets him with those “that did not believe.” The disbelieving disciples at least had the courage of their convictions, I said. They ceased to profess with their presence what they no longer believed in their hearts. Judas, rejecting the teaching on the Real Presence, nevertheless stayed with Jesus. Later on he would steal from the common purse, becoming a thief, and later still he would hand the Master over to the executioners, but his first betrayal was in the form of disbelief.
“You need to get right with God,” I exhorted my visitors. “You need to study Scripture more diligently. You need to pray to Jehovah God and ask him to enlighten you about the real meaning of this chapter. And you in particular,” I said, turning on the former Catholic, “need to come back to the Church that Jesus established—the only Church that gives the authentic interpretation of these verses and of all verses in the Bible. Quite innocently, I’m sure, you have allowed yourself to abandon Jesus’ own Church. Don’t be like the disciples who rejected his hard sayings and turned away from him.”
They told me they would think about it.