Then the Jews began to complain. This line sticks out to me in John 6. What is more human, then to complain? Here is a group of people in the presence of Jesus, and they do not even know why he is existing. I am trying to imagine how Jesus had to tell his story over and over again. He explains who he is, why he is there and how he can help. Jesus has to testify and explain everything: with arguments, stories, parables, histories and prophesies. Jesus is working hard to tell you the message in the way you understand.
In John 6 Jesus says “I am the bread of life” and people begin to complain.
My sense of humor immediately kicks in. First of all because the Greek word for it is so perfect its Goggoyzo–which to me sounds like what murmured, grumbling sounds are, Strong’s Greek dictionary says this onomatopoeic word is also the sound of doves muttering to themselves.
Secondly, I find this hilarious because these Jews are doing the exact same thing the Jews did to Moses in the desert. They are grumbling. Why is this mere boy telling us who he is? We already know who he is, he is the son of Joseph and Mary, end of story, done.
The parallels are hilarious.
Also, too I have to wonder, how do you not believe Jesus? This is directly after he feeds 5,000 people? Some of whom are the exact people who are grumbling now.
To me, also, Jesus sounds pretty grumpy here. He specifically crosses the lake, in a storm, to escape these people, so they don’t force him to be King (v. 6: 15), which is a whole different sermon right there, but suffice it to say, Jesus tries to get away, and they follow him.
And he says, you only like me because I fed you bread. A pretty grumpy response, from a teacher who is definitely saying “You are missing the whole point!”
Jesus says: You are looking for bread, but you aren’t even looking for the right bread!
People: Really Jesus tell us about the right bread!
Jesus: The right bread makes you full forever, and gives you life forever it is miraculous bread like the Manna given from God to Moses. You need this bread from God.
Jesus: The bread is me
People: Umm ::mutter, murmer, grumble::…Doesn’t this guy know he’s human? That’s impossible, Clearly, there’s something wrong with this guy, what he thinks we don’t know he is Joseph and Mary’s Son?
Jesus: ::Sighs and rolls eyes::
Let’s cut to the end of all this debate though, because even the disciples are aware that Jesus says he is bread of life they say: “This teaching is difficult.” This whole episode ends with a lot of Jesus’ disciples leaving him. The twelve stay, even though they do not understand, but many people leave.
Communion is a tough nut to crack. It is hard to fully understand what Jesus meant when he said “I am the bread of life” different denominations evolved different understandings of communion, whether its literally, metaphorically, miraculously or symbolically Jesus’ body when we break the bread. In my own denomination–Presbyterian Church of the United States of America–we think there are 5 major meanings of communion and are supposed to –ha!–communicate all of them every communion celebration. This makes me laugh too, because if Jesus couldn’t explain things in a way that humans could grasp it, then I couldn’t.
But one of the themes is that communion is spiritual nourishment and the foretaste of the Kingdom feast that is to come. This passage starts us to grapple with the meanings of foretaste/kingdom/nourishment. There are a lot of places to go here. Maybe the point is to completely understand, but instead to enjoy the taste of Jesus.
How is it going for you? Are you tackling bread, Elijah’s depression & nourishment in 1 Kings 19 or Psalm 34’s blessing? Let us know how your sermon work or spiritual practice on these texts are going this week!
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for use over seven years. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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