John 6:35, 41-51 Deserving our Devotion
The lectionary passage today involves one of the verses from last week. Verse 35 in which Jesus makes this incredible declaration. I am the Bread of Life.
Now when people encounter a profound declaration, they are likely to respond to it emotionally. In our passage, some of those who hear Jesus begin to grumble, “How dare he say to us, I am the Bread of Life. We know his background. We know his parents, we know you Jesus!”
Sadly, we human beings tend to try and judge people based on what we think we know rather than how the person really is. There is an old cliché, “Familiarity breeds contempt” that I believe fits this situation pretty accurately.
But in what these grumbles do we find a spiritual danger that is found in a Danger of deceptive decisions.
Each day of our lives we make decisions. It is a gift we have been given by our creator that can go from gift to curse very easily.
The gift of choice is good. How we use this gift, however, can be good or bad. It depends on how random or how careful we are when we make our decisions. This is where, and why, discernment is so important.
Those who grumbled against Jesus were making a decision. The decision was not to accept what Jesus said of Himself. Now these people were from the crowd who had seen Jesus feed 5000 with a few loaves of bread and a few fish. They were glad for Jesus to do this. However, their motives were more than spiritual. In fact, Jesus confronted them that the reason they followed him was for the free meal. Now, when Jesus doesn’t do as they want, they decide to grumble. They decide to focus on his upbringing. They are looking for any reason to complain or try to discredit him. They are not listening to what he says.
Yet He is someone who has demonstrated great power. Not a good decision.
God wants a loving relationship with us. Familiarity with God should not breed contempt but awe, respect, and devotion. Jesus always offers and never coerces.
We receive this advice from one of Jesus’s most loved followers and the Holy Spirit, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 Jn. 4:1 NRS)
What does Jesus ask of any of us? Jesus asks us to hear the good news. And the good news is God has become one of us, to love us, teach us, reach us and offer us the Kingdom of God.
Now, he does warn us of the cost of following him like taking up one’s cross and a willingness to die to ourselves, but that is only if we chose to follow him. But he also makes it clear that it is worth the devotion, the choice, of seeking God through Jesus, thus the bread of life.
But if we think the bread of life statement is a bold statement, just wait. Jesus also says, “No one can come to me unless they are drawn to me by the Father.”. In this, Jesus gives us, the Declaration of the divine draw.
“No one can come to me unless they are drawn to me by the Father.” It is important for us to understand what Jesus is saying here. John 6:44 is as important for the church today as John 3:16 is to the whole world. It tells us that our ability to even believe must come from God.
There is a mistaken idea that in order for the church to survive it must stay relevant to the culture and business-like in its operations. People do not come to God unless it is the Spirit that draws (Calvinists would like drags) a person toward the Divine.
Churches have lost touch with the reality of being the Church. Never has our faith depended upon human structures without the structures trying to deepen that dependance. Deep down I am afraid far too many are influenced more by fear than faith.
Here is our faith. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people1 to myself.” (Jn. 12:32 NRS)
This is God’s chose way to continue to involve humanity in God’s active, creative, restorative grace by giving us the privilege of living in the light of such a deep and spiritual understanding.
Jesus knew the cross was coming. His Divine nature and his human nature understood this kind of love was what we needed. This honor to our free will hopefully would open our eyes to the reality that surrounds us, sustains us, and will determine our life in all eternity.
Ah, eternity, I wonder how those listening felt when Jesus mentioned the last day and eternal life. Remember his words, “and I will raise them up at the last day.” This opens for us we need to understand. For verses 44 and 50, open up for us a promise help us. Determining the described destiny.
Whoever eats from it will never die. But didn’t the disciples eat the Bread of life?
Flash forward: So, Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” (Lk. 22:8 NRS) And during that Passover meal (itself is a very rich study in remembrance of God’s faithfulness) Jesus “took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”” (Lk. 22:19 NRS) So, here we find the Bread of Life linked with the beginning of the Great Thanksgiving.
But wait. The disciples died. Yet the Scripture says, “This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that whoever eats from it will never die.” (Jn. 6:50 CEB) Is this not a paradox?
Remember verse 44: I will raise them up at the last day. (Jn. 6:44 CEB) Now add verse 50, “This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that whoever eats from it will never die. “(Jn. 6:50 CEB)
These two things are not in paradox but in promise. Yes, physical death, but tied to resurrection. Raised to new life in a reality yet to come, yes, but now we live in the promises of God no matter what our place in unfolding time.
The great mystery in which we live. We are called to remember. We are called to remembrance. We are called to join as the Church in communion, bread and wine, flesh and blood, life and death. Holy Spirit please call to us all. Draw us oh Advocate to a desire for devotion and direction as you speak to our hearts and minds to Him who is Deserving our Devotion. Amen.