Gospel Reading: John 6:24 – 35
For Sunday, August 5, 2012: Year B—Ordinary 18
I don’t remember a lot of what I was taught as a kid in church. However, I do remember being taught this: If I didn’t give my life to Jesus, I would spend eternity suffering in hell with the devil. If I did give my life to Jesus, I would spend eternity at an awesome party with God in heaven.
So, I chose Jesus.
As I think back to those days (and the days, weeks, months and years that followed) I realize that I didn’t know a thing about Jesus. So what motivated me to pledge my life to him? Simply. I liked what Jesus could do for me.
As I grew up and learned more about (un)healthy friendships, I began to be troubled. You see, I was taught that you don’t use people. In my family, “using people” was defined as a relationship that one entered into only for what the other could do for them. That was wrong. And yet, that was the relationship I was encouraged to have with Jesus. Become a friend of Jesus so that you can go to heaven when you die.
In my curiosity, I wondered if anyone else noticed that sometimes people chase after Jesus for what he can give them. The answer is yes and the person that noticed was Jesus himself.
Give us some bread!
Backing up just a bit, we see that today’s gospel text is connected to the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6:1-15. In verse 23 we are told that people came to the place where Jesus had just fed the crowds looking for Jesus. When they couldn’t find him, or his disciples, they went looking for him in Capernaum.
When they found Jesus, they asked him when he had arrived in Capernaum. Jesus cuts to the chase, “You are tracking me down because I fed you, not because you saw signs from God.” (John 6:26, The Voice translation).
Jesus’ miracles seemed to serve a two-fold purpose. On a concrete level, his miracles set people free from tangible burdens. Illness. Social isolation. Physical limitations. Demonic possession. Hunger. On an equally concrete level, his miracles also put God’s power and reign on display. Jesus’ ministry among the people provided tangible proof that, indeed, the Kingdom of God was at hand.
The question is, do people have eyes to see and ears to hear one within the other? If they don’t, their relationship with Jesus will become manipulative and exploitive. They will end up using Jesus for bread and miss out on the Bread of Life.
The Bread of Life
It’s not that food is not important. It’s just that chasing after food, as if it is all that is important, misses a crucial piece of what God is up to through Jesus. If the people don’t stop thinking exclusively about manna and bread to fill their stomachs, which will spoil and rot, they are going to miss out on the fullness of what Jesus is coming to bring!
What Jesus wants to bring is nothing less than the full realization of God’s shalom which God intended from the beginning. That shalom includes empty stomachs getting filled, but it is much, much more. It’s this much, much more that Jesus is helping people to see as he also fills empty stomachs.
The Hardest Question
Are you seeking bread, or other things, from Jesus when Jesus wants so much more? If you were standing face to face with Jesus, would he say, “You are tracking me down because I did____________ for you, not because you saw signs from God.”
Is the sum total of your relationship with Jesus what he gives to you, or is there more going on?