JOHN 6: 24-35
Rev. Kathleen Rolenz
Scripture: Gospel of John 6:24-35
Selection: So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" 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. 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." Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
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? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 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. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 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 be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Focusing Quote: 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. 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."
Meditation: You are looking for me, Jesus says, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate your fill of loaves. Jesus’ disciples are always demanding a “sign” from Jesus—some kind of magic wonder working sign--as if healing the lame weren’t enough; as if making the blind see weren’t enough; as if his entire life up to that point wasn’t evidence enough by now, no—they want a blinking, neon sign that screams to the world “this is Him! This is THE ONE!! Come see the Hebrew peasant wonder worker! Step right up!” Perhaps I am being uncharitable to those faithless disciples, yet it does seem to me that they keep insisting that Jesus continues to “top” himself; to make his miracles and signs ever more bold, more astonishing, more dramatic.
Yet, what does Jesus really do? He puts his hands in his pockets and comes up with real bread, yes, but also pulls out deep metaphors that, if understood, will satisfy. Time and time again he directs our gaze not to a loaf of bread, but to the fact that there is bread that will gratify us for all time. We may clamor for real bread, but Jesus tells us that the gifts from God, if truly absorbed, could slake our hunger forever.
I count myself among those faithless disciples, because when I am hungry, all I can think about it getting food in me as quickly as possible. I sometimes forget everything else but taking care of that one immediate hunger; that instant need. When I am spiritually empty and feel as desperate for God’s presence as I do for a piece of bread, I want not just food, I want a miracle. I want God to make God’s presence known to me RIGHT NOW, on demand, like a cable TV movie. I want God to pay attention to me—to my needs and my hungers—and spoon feed me grace, compassion, hope and generosity of spirit THIS INSTANT! I want more than bread, I want a direct SIGN FROM GOD that God loves me and is caring for me.
In those times of emptiness, what I get is actually manna. We don’t know what manna really was. Some think it was a type of plant that was produced by dew; other suggest it was actually a sweet-tasting insect excrement. Still others claim it was truly a substance the likes of which we have no knowledge—there is nothing comparable to manna in the 21st century. We can’t know what manna really was, but we can know what it represents. Manna represents a promise from God that S/He will not leave us comfortless. Manna means that although we may not get one particular kind of bread (i.e., only whole-wheat grain bread with flax and oats added), God still gives us something to sustain us. God will never let us go hungry for God’s presence. All we have to do is ask.
Prayer: Dear God, I sometimes don’t know what I am hungry for. Sometimes I think I need bread when what I really need is simply…You. I give thanks for the life of Jesus and his ministry, because he points to all the ways in which I may realize how satisfying a life lived in and with God’s presence in. Jesus life reminds me that Your Grace, O God, is always available to me. All I have to do is to ask you, and like the Jews in the wilderness, you shall provide for me. Thank you, Precious Lord, for the many ways you continue to feed me and to sustain me. Amen.