Gospel: John 6:24-35
Many of the five thousand people Jesus fed in the wilderness continued to follow him throughout the countryside. Jesus challenges them to consider the real nature of their quest.
24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were [beside the sea,] they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Grace and peace to you, people of God, in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Last week, we read John’s account of Jesus feeding 5000 people and walking on water. We talked about how we are all drawn to goals, success, and titles while Jesus seems to flee from them. Jesus, instead, is concerned with identity – both his identity as the Word made flesh and our new identity as children of God. And this new identity is not simply a one-dimensional identity, one in which we are transformed on Sunday mornings and the occasional time we remember to pray before meals, but is a holistic, all-encompassing identity. At least, it strives to be. It affects every sense of our body, not just our theoretical lives. It not only alters our spirit, but our bodies as well. So, for the next couple of weeks, we’ll be looking at our different senses and how they are affected by a life marked by faith. Just as people could experience the miraculous bread with all their senses, so can we.
Today, we have a rare glimpse into what happens after Jesus seems to ride off into the sunset (or take a stroll over stormy seas or whatever Jesus did after the proverbial post-miracle mic drop). We are often tempted to end stories, especially stories of Jesus’ signs or miracles, with “and they lived happily ever after.” Rarely do we get a second encounter between Jesus and someone he has performed a miracle for. This week, however, we see the crowd crossing the Sea of Galilee in order to ask a few more questions. Apparently, over a dinner of bread and fish, they forgot to get all the information they wanted that drew them together in the first place.
The encounter seems really funny, though, like the crowd was not able to connect the dots of what had just happened with who Jesus is. They ask two questions that Jesus graciously answers. First, they ask about doing the works of God. Secondly, they ask about seeing a sign that could help them believe.
Let’s concentrate on the 2nd question, because that one seems perhaps the most audacious. That crowd had just been fed by a work of God, an incredible miracle that happened the day before, and yet they still asked for a sign to support what Jesus says about God. “What signs will you give us?” seems like an odd question because they had not just seen an incredible sign, but they had eaten it. It would be like someone giving me a top of the line guitar, or car, or paid off all of my student loans with a note on it saying, “Happy birthday! I love you!” and me asking, “Well, if you love me, how can I tell?” If I was in Jesus’ position my first reaction would probably have been, “Seriously?! Are you kidding?! What do you think the whole bread and fish thing was about? What more could you possibly see that would give you reason to believe?” This crowd, just like we often do, failed to recognize the miracle that had just happened to them.
And we find ourselves in this position a lot. We often see things without noticing how miraculous they really are. If you have kids around you on a regular basis, you have reminders of how miraculous life really is as they notice a lot. Sometimes, you can just bring a kid to nearby park and they’ll be so interested in examining the world around them that you might never actually get to that swing set you came to use. The world is beautiful and miraculous and kids understand that. Yet, somewhere along the line, we go from a child noticing everything to being in a crowd like the one that confronted Jesus asking, “What sign will you give us?”
In our time of technology and logic, sometimes we don’t notice miracles, unless they’re linked to in a YouTube video. That may be one of the most tragic losses our culture is seeing right now. We, like the crowd, often feel entitled to some kind of sign that we can see, or expect some kind of miracle in order to believe or trust God. In their case, they ate bread and, I suppose rightly made a connection between the bread they had received and their history of manna in the desert. But Jesus, instead, connects the bread he gave them to the present, to himself, and the purpose for that bread. “The bread of God,” Jesus says, “is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” What better description could we give Jesus than that?
Thankfully, Jesus is more patient than I could ever be. Instead of throwing up his hands and stomping away in disgust and annoyance, he patiently tells them what we have managed to forget. When we ask for a sign, Jesus reminds us that he is the sign. He, like the bread, was seen and is seen, and his physical presence here on earth, his physical death and resurrection, are what we need.
Marcus Borg in his book The Heart of Christianity describes the idea faith as visio or vision. Faith is a way of seeing the world, wearing rose-colored glasses, so to speak. Faith, in this way, is a way of looking for God, being aware of the presence of God, in all things. It doesn’t mean that we blindly follow, that we check our brains at the door, or we never wrestle with matters of belief and faith. It means that we look and see with intent to notice and bring attention to God and what God is doing in the world.
I feel that one of our best possible things our faith can teach us is to see, again, with a sense of wonder. No matter what happens, I am convinced that God is present. If we could only see all the ways the God is at work in the world, I imagine that we would become overwhelmed with joy and wonder. Faith in God, in Christ, and in the Holy Spirit means, in part, we begin to see through a new lens. Instead of the lenses of hatred, fear, and pride, seeing the world as a place of despair and hopelessness, through faith, we dare to put on the lenses of hope, joy, and, most of all, love. (put on glasses)
Sometimes, we can look a little silly when we choose to see the world through love. It take practice and it goes against what we so often experience in our world. But when we look through the eyes of faith, the eyes of love, we not only see God’s work, but we want to enter into God’s work. We become a part of it, serving and spreading joy and peace to the people around us. Yes, this world is messy and broken, we can easily see that. But God is still at work here and I think we can still see that too, if we put on the lenses of faith and prayerfully pay attention. Jesus tells the crowd that he, the bread of God sent down to give life to the world, is still feeding us and giving us life. And, thanks be to God, miracles are still all around us, waiting to us to see and notice them. My prayer today is that we could take notice of the miracles that happen all around us, every day, and would take the time to see them as a sign of God’s love for us. Amen.