“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)
Years ago, a young couple who are dear friends of ours were going through a significant life struggle. The pain and desperation were both devastating and overwhelming. When I asked the husband how he was dealing with the struggle and the heartache, he replied, “At first I was tempted to get mad at God, but then he said to me, ‘We’re past that now, aren’t we?’ And he was right.” He had come to understand God, and God’s goodness in a deep and profound way. He didn’t just believe that God was good, he knew that goodness.
I think that’s what Simon Peter was saying right here. After all, many of Jesus’ disciples had “turned back and no longer followed him,” but Simon Peter had stayed. What was the difference? I think the difference was that Simon Peter, just like my young friend, not only believed in the goodness of God, but he knew it—he had experienced it firsthand in a deep and profound way.
To believe (pisteuō) means to be fully persuaded of, and to know (ginōskō) means to become intimately acquainted with. One without the other will not suffice. It is not enough just to know intellectually. In order to truly believe, we must also know relationally. We will never be convinced of the goodness of God’s heart until we have experienced that goodness firsthand. It is this relational knowing that anchors our intellectual believing in a deep trust in, and experience of, his goodness. That’s why Simon Peter just couldn’t walk away; he knew better. His response was not, “I have no other choice,” but, “I know, I know, I know, that you are good, whatever this life may bring.” May we be the same.