The Gospel: John 6:24-35
The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand 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.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: So, this week we move to the Gospel of John. We will be reading John for the next few weeks as travel through this period after Pentecost in Ordinary Time.
And what do you know we find ourselves looking at? The two stories that were omitted from the Gospel of Mark last week. Now, of course, because of the difference in the emphasis or focus of John, the stories are slightly different.
Just as background, for all those of you, or maybe I should say all of us, because I have to include myself in this group, who love the "fine print" details, the commentaries I looked at in preparation for this week say that Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are sometimes called the Synoptic Gospels, give a general summary or synopsis of the life of Jesus. The Synoptic Gospels tell us what Jesus said and what Jesus did. They focus on the "what" of Jesus.
The commentaries then go on to say that John's message varies from the other three Gospels in that he focuses on the "who" of Jesus. The commentaries point out that it is important to the writer of John to verify and communicate to his readers the identity of Christ.
Now don't get me wrong. In the rendition of the story from John's Gospel this morning we certainly get the full details of what Jesus did and what he said through the feeding of the five thousand. John doesn't leave out the what. But John puts special emphasis at the beginning of the story and again at the end so that we are aware of "who" Jesus is throughout the telling of the story. Close to the beginning of the chapter John draws our attention to who Jesus is by emphasizing why the crowd was there: "A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.
"Then towards the end of the Feeding of the Five Thousand he again draws our attention to who Jesus is: "When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself."
John takes the opportunity to point out Jesus' identity in both of these instances. John wants his readers to recognize that Jesus is fulfilling his role as the Messiah. That is part of the who that John wants his readers and us to know. He does that by highlighting the crowd's reaction to Jesus. In contradiction to who John knows Jesus to be the crowd does not understand what is happening, they don't truly comprehend the role of the Messiah.
They are drawn to the signs and wonders that Jesus is able to provide, but they don't look beyond those to the reason he is able to do those signs and wonders.
Then after they have been fed they are again misguided in their intentions and seek to make Jesus an earthly king. They don't comprehend who he already is.
Again in contrast and contradiction John wants his readers to understand that Jesus does know who he is supposed to be and he is able to sidestep the crowd's misguided intentions.
Now, I have to say that I find it interesting that after all the time that has passed since this event happened, after all the words that have been written about it and all that we have come to know about Christian thought and development we are are still left with the need for deciding what this event means for us.
The feeding miracle is set out before us to reflect on this morning. This event must be significant as it is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. It is recorded in Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14. Thousands of words have been written about this event. There is a multitude of interpretations of what actually happened on that isolated hillside. We need to decide what we believe about this story.
Then we need to decide what we are going to do about it. In essence, we are called to decide if we are going to be an active disciple or if we are going to be a passive one? You might well ask what the difference is?
A very simple definition would be that a passive disciple is someone who is just a listener and learner. In contrast to that, an active disciple is someone who takes what they have heard and what they have learned and applies it to their life and to the lives of those around them.
I am going to quote Br. James Koester of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist from his Meditation "Disciple" which was shared on Thursday in the SSJE Brother Give us A Word Meditation
Brother James was looking at Luke 10: 38 – 42 the story of Jesus meeting with Mary and Martha at their house.
Brother James said this:
"But as we saw earlier in the gospel, a disciple does not simply sit at the feet of the master in order to learn. A disciple learns in order to be sent. And a disciple is sent in order to teach. As Paul proclaims in the Letter to the Romans: But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
To be a disciple of Jesus, isn’t simply to be a follower. Even the curious bystander will follow for a time. Martha and Mary were not just curious. To be a disciple of Jesus is not to be simply a student. We’ve all been students at one time or another, but that doesn’t mean we have absorbed the lessons of the teacher into our life.
Martha and Mary were not just students. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be called, and taught, and sent by him, in order to proclaim him as Lord, Messiah, Son of God, the one coming into the world. Martha and Mary become disciples in the fullest sense of the word, and for a first century audience that is scandal and good news rolled into one.
This is what was happening that day in Bethany as Martha and Mary welcomed Jesus into their home. This is what happened that day that Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. This is what was happening as Jesus sent out his disciples to proclaim the coming kingdom. Wherever Jesus goes, he leaves behind him towns, villages, households and individuals who have glimpsed a new vision of the kingdom, and for whom life will never be the same again. He did this by inviting women to be disciples, and teachers, and heralds of the kingdom. He did this by naming Samaritans as neighbours. He did this by calling you his friend. May all of our lives be so turned upside down that we have the courage of Martha and Mary to be disciples and heralds in his name."
When we truly recognize Jesus as the Messiah, as John calls us to, we will need to be active in our faith and in our world. For the Human Family from Prayers and Thanksgivings (BCP pg 815)
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.