1 August 2021John 6:24-35
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.' (v. 35)
Earlier in this chapter of John's Gospel, verses 1-15 gives a full account of the feeding of the five thousand. Then, in the night, in another watershed moment with his disciples, Jesus walks on water (verses 16-21). This is like a bridge between the miracle or ‘sign’ and the controversy that follows, inviting the disciples to trust in Jesus and not be afraid. Today’s passage is only the start of a long discussion about ‘the bread of life’.
So much of John’s Gospel points back to the events of the Exodus, revealing continuity with God’s actions in the past, and showing Jesus to be the one bringing a New Exodus, a New Promised Land. There is often confusion as the Jewish people of his time grapple with what Jesus does and says. Sometimes it’s his disciples, trying but struggling to follow. Sometimes it's the crowd – questioning earnestly and swaying indecisively. And sometimes it is Jesus' fellow religious teachers, rigorously challenging and trying to discern truth; or people with most to lose from the ‘kingdom’ Jesus offers, endeavouring to trip him up, discredit him, or worse. In this chapter, the people have obviously noticed the connection between the feeding miracle and the story of Moses in the wilderness. And, while they naturally yearn for release from oppression (as in Egypt), Jesus’ apparent annoyance with them is probably related to the sort of king they have in mind, as opposed to the sort of king Jesus will be revealed to be.
The word ‘believe’ is used a lot in John’s Gospel. We need to believe to gain the life that Jesus offers. It’s worth remembering that the word can also be translated as ‘trust’ or ‘have faith’. Belief is not purely a matter of rational acceptance (“Do you believe God exists?”) but more of a relational attitude, as we might say to a friend: “I believe in you”.
Jesus points the people to God as the source of their nourishment (verse 32). The ‘manna from heaven’ episode in Exodus 16 was about learning to rely on and trust God. Jesus has just invited his disciples not to be afraid (verse 20), because it is him who comes alongside them in the storm. And, in his famous prayer, which forms the pattern for all Christian worship, we say time after time: “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6 and Luke 11).
- Is Christian belief for you ‘rational’ or ‘relational’ or both? How would you describe it?
- In what sense is Jesus ‘the bread of life’ for you? Do you come to him for your ‘daily bread’?
- In our Methodist Way of Life, we are invited to commit to pray daily, to worship with others regularly, and to look and listen for God in Scripture and the world. We might like to ask ourselves:
- What is the pattern of my prayer life?
- How easy or hard do I find it to pray?
- What has spoken to me recently in worship or in the Bible?