19 April 2010John 6:22-29
"Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'" (v.29)
This passage, along with the rest of the readings for this week,
comes after the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (John
6:1-15). It is part of an explanation of one of the famous "I
am" sayings of John's Gospel where Jesus said "I am the bread of
life" (John 6:35). Jesus is reported by John to have made several
"I am" sayings which offer a challenge and inspiration to the
development of our spiritual lives.
The passage begins in a bit of confusion, with people wondering how Jesus has managed to move from where he had performed the miracle of feeding people to Capernaum (where today's passage is set). Tiberias was a major Roman town on the south west coast of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was a sizeable Jewish town, one which was the centre of much of Jesus' ministry, on the north west of Galilee. The feeding of the 5,000 took place on the remote east coast of the Sea of Galilee so the return journey to Capernaum was neither simple nor easy. The boats from Tiberias must have done a large zigzag across the lake to find the people and help them to Capernaum. John doesn't offer an explanation for how Jesus made the journey, but takes the chance to question the motive of those who were following Jesus.
Jesus was quite brutal with the crowds. He accused them of wanting a meal ticket rather than believing in God. He encouraged those listening to change their motives and desires and encouraged them to search for the things which bring eternal life. To believe the right things was more important than it was to eat.
Jesus also explored the relationship between work and belief. The crowds asked 'What are the works of God?' suggesting the desire for a list of things to do. Jesus replied that they needed to believe in the one God sent. Believing is something which has a consequence on the things we do. We cannot separate what we believe from the actions we take.
When, if ever, is it right to care more about the things we believe than feeding the hungry or feeding ourselves?
What possible role can there be for fanatics today?
When do good deeds happen accidentally?
What things can we believe in that don't influence what we do? Do such things even exist?