Gospel Reading for August 2nd, 2015: Beginning of the Bread of Life Discourse
John 6: 24-35
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set the seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Last Sunday’s gospel on Jesus’s feeding of the 5,000 began a series of five, successive Sunday gospels from John, Chapter 6. This second installment begins a discourse between Jesus and those witnesses to that miracle, including his twelve apostles, on the meaning of the revelation that He is “the bread of life.” While it is tempting to rush ahead to the many implications of this discourse which shifted the paradigm for God’s people to a new, Christ-centered covenant, in this reflection I wish to focus on an insight about faith that emergences from the opening exchanges of this dialogue.
The scene opens in Capernaum, across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias where Jesus had performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves on the previous day. Not surprisingly, the witnesses and beneficiaries of that miracle had come back for more, but they did not find Him there. Jesus and his apostles had retreated across the water to Capernaum. The apostles travelled by boat. Jesus, however, revealed another miracle to the chosen twelve by walking across the water. The other followers missed this incredible feat, despite its proximity to their location in Tiberias. Nevertheless, they notice a boat has been left behind, which is a clue Jesus did not use a boat for his crossing. Their question to Jesus when they find him, after having crossed the sea themselves, shows a sense of curiosity about how he made the trip without the boat when they ask, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus, for reasons that are not clear to us, chooses not to explain that He walked, even though their curiosity is obvious and understandable. The miraculous walk on water was not for them to know about. Instead he questions their motives for coming to find him again. Were they looking for more free food, instead of faithfully following the signs that point to the arrival of the Messiah?
They seem to pick up on His use of the word “signs” as leading them to signs from God. So they ask pointedly, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus responds,”… that you believe in the one He sent,” which He has already hinted strongly is Him, “the Son of Man.”
The crowd seems to understand His point, but this is asking a lot. They want more proof. They want more signs than the miracle they have already witnessed; and they want more bread, in other words more security for basic needs, in exchange for their belief in Him. They do not fully trust Him yet, despite witnessing a miracle already, so they negotiate for more security. How often do we do that with God? How often do we too, say Lord if you just get me out this situation, then I will give over the rest of my life to You? If you show me this proof, I will believe. Jesus seems to being saying trust in me with blind faith up front, and you will get all you need, including eternal life. He is performing miracles daily, but like those followers who missed him walk on water; we do not necessarily get that daily proof of the master plan to make sure our faith is a sound investment. All will not be revealed to us in this life. Instead, we are to trust in Him fully and with humility, and He, “the bread of life” will provide for us in this life and the next. It is not easy to give this trust all the time, but that is the deal. It’s non-negotiable.