Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - 13 March 2013
Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for [aiōnion] life, which the Human One will give you. God the Father has confirmed him as his agent to give life.”
They asked, “What must we do in order to accomplish what God requires?”
Jesus replied, “This is what God requires, that you believe in him whom God sent.”
They asked, “What miraculous sign will you do, that we can see and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
Jesus told them, “I assure you, it wasn’t Moses who gave the bread from heaven to you, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
They said, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!”
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I told you that you have seen me and still don’t believe. Everyone whom the Father gives to me will come to me, and I won’t send away anyone who comes to me. I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but the will of him who sent me. This is the will of the one who sent me, that I won’t lose anything he has given me, but I will raise it up at the last day. This is my Father’s will: that all who see the Son and believe in him will have [aiōnion] life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
The feeding of the multitude was the fourth “sign” in John’s telling of the story of Jesus. These signs are crucial. John is leading us to something, building to something. And, this fourth sign is the overarching subject of this chapter.
But what is the sign pointing to? As we’ve seen, John has been telling the story of a new Exodus. Jesus feeding of the multitude represents the feeding of the Israelites while they wandered in the wilderness. But there’s something deeper here. Not only does the fourth sign point to a new Exodus story, it points to Jesus himself. He is the “bread of life.”
As Jesus mentions, the “life” he’s referring to is not only about the physical life, but the life unto ages of ages. In other words, it’s not just “life in the moment” (the temporary feeding of bread), but the whole life; a life lived to the fullest of the ages; in this age and the age to come.
While G_d is concerned about the here and now, that’s not all there is to it. Jesus sides with a number of his contemporaries in believing that life continues after this earthly experience is over. And to sharpen the point a bit, he gives the promise of resurrection; of being “raised up.” But what does that mean?
Several people have seen “resurrection” as nothing more than a changed life in this earthly experience. Of turning a corner. Of striving to be a better person. And while those are all admirable objectives, that’s not what the word “resurrection” means.
The Greek word for “resurrection” is ἀνάστασιν (anastasin) and it means, “stand up; rise.” It every passage it’s used it refers to dead people standing up again. This isn’t about a zombie apocalypse (sorry, friends), i.e., those raised up aren’t still dead. Resurrection means those standing up are now alive again.
Granted, the thought was that people would be, well, like Lazarus; just given mortal life once more. But, as is everything Jesus, he means something deeper. We’ll wait and discover that meaning later. For now, we’ll just stick with his promise that those who follow The Way, of trusting actions that The Way of Jesus is the best way of being human, their lives will continue even after this earthly experience is over.
So, what Jesus means about he being the bread of life, is not just about fleeting moments of earthly satisfaction. When one consumes real, whole food (not food-like products), the benefits of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, nutrients, etc., last beyond the momentary meal. The body takes what it needs and stores it. That is, the body grows because of what someone consumes. But, as Jesus points out, even that is momentary. The bread he offers, himself, does more than just transforms the body. Jesus transforms the whole person. The physical eating of bread, then, can also be a sign. It points to the deeper meaning of following Christ. Of knowing that “consuming Jesus” not only helps the here and now, but nurtures and grows in people so that they, too, become like Christ.
It ties back into his stories about the seeds being sown. It takes a long time for the single seed to germinate and produce a small plant. Then it takes more seasons, and hard work caring for the plant, for it to mature to the point of growing fruit and shelter. Likewise, feasting on the “bread of life,” plants the seed and germinates within a person’s life. The person then must be like a gardener who continues to work the soil and protect that plant so that it can grow and be offered for the life of others.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC