Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- BCP, page 231


2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14;
Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21
The sixth chapter of John's gospel is a long narrative on Jesus as the Bread of Life. We will be covering most of it in our Sunday readings from this Sunday through September 2nd. I encourage you to read the whole chapter (as well as the text preceding and following it!) to get an idea of how it holds together, to appreciate the way that John weaves stories with the teachings of Jesus in a series of encounters and confrontations.

John's gospel highlights the centrality of the Eucharist --Jesus is the Bread of Heaven who gives life to the world-for the Beloved Community of this gospel. Paradoxically, the fourth gospel does not have a story about Jesus instituting the Eucharist on the night he was betrayed -- that's in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Instead John tells us that on Maundy Thursday Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. That is something worth meditating about: the parallel to making Eucharist is to love one another in lives of mutual servanthood.

As a sort of Cliff Notes, let me here give you an overview of the chapter as a whole.

John 1:1-14 begins with the growing popularity of Jesus due to his healing ministry. It then tells the story of the feeding of the five thousand. It is the only miracle ("sign," in John's language) that is recorded in all four gospels. The event takes place on the east side of the "Sea of Tiberias," [the Roman name for the lake of Galilee] around the time of the Passover. However this is not the one around the time of the death of Jesus.

John 1:15 makes a transition. Jesus gets away from everyone because the crowd wants to make him king. John 1:16-21 has Jesus walking on water -- not the same story in which Peter tries to walk on water too. In verses 22-24, the crowd chases Jesus back to the western shore to Capernaum, which was his base. The rest of the chapter, verses 22-71, is the not-so-friendly discourse/confrontation on Jesus as the Bread of Life.

The section starts with Jesus refusing the flattery of the crowd: you're only chasing after me because I fed your bellies; would that you took "the food that endures for eternal life" (v.27); i.e., Jesus, the Bread of Life (v.35).

At verse 41, the Judeans ("the Jews," as opposed to the Galilean people of the region) object on the grounds that only the manna in the desert was the bread from heaven. Jesus responds with a larger claim of universality: "the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh" (v.51). Then in verses 52-59, Jesus doubles down against his Judean detractors.

In verses 60-66, many of his disciples have problems with Jesus as well and most choose to leave him. In verses 67-68 he asks the Twelve if they too wish to leave and Peter says, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life," and affirms Jesus' identity as the Holy One of God. The narrative concludes with Jesus pointing out that one of them will betray him.

There is so much to ponder in this chapter! I suggest that we take time to ask ourselves two questions: (1) What brought me initially to want to follow Jesus? He makes it clear that following him is not a walk in the park. So: (2) Will I remain walking in his footsteps?

In The Mercy,


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