A teacher will not be satisfied simply because their students pass their exams. That helps but it is only the beginning. What really gives joy to the teacher’s heart is when the student is awakened to what life is offering.
They think for themselves. In John chapter 6, Jesus is leading his hearers to this point. Yes, they have understood that he has given them bread. They are full. But can they go further? And the good thing is they are curious: ‘What must we do?’ Jesus is pleased with this progress and leads them on. ‘You must believe in the one God has sent.’
At this point their attention wanders – a critical moment for any teacher. They speak of needing proofs. Prophets, like Moses, proved themselves by signs. Very well! Jesus backtracks a bit to be in tune with their request. He agrees Moses gave them food in the desert but they should know it was not Moses but God, ‘my Father’, and the Father is now giving you ‘the bread of life.’ They respond, ‘give us this bread’ though they haven’t a clue what Jesus is meaning.
Jesus waits. And he is still waiting for us to really grasp what God is offering. We look for the basics; food, shelter, clothing, work, schools, hospitals, transport, communications and the rest. We struggle for these things. Some countries have them all – for all their people, like Finland. But, Jesus says, there is more. These are only the basics. We must not stop there. He is offering the ‘bread of life.’ We are not to jump to quick conclusions and say, he means Holy Communion.
Yes, he does mean that but what does that short phrase contain? It contains the essence of the Christian life here and now and a fulfilment in the future that ‘it has not entered into the heart of men and women to conceive.’ The future will be unimaginable happiness but we are not concerned with that now. What we have is the nitty gritty of the daily life of a Christian. This involves, above all, a constant change in the way we think.
As an example, we can take Orthodox Archbishop Anthony Bloom who died less than twenty years ago. He battled in his early life during the Revolution in Russia but later found peace and security in France. The ‘security’ drove him crazy and he found he was much more alive in the struggle! He delved into life in the Spirit and went on to write piercing accounts of what it entails. At one point he talks about forgiveness. It has to be total and unconditional – like crossing the Red Sea, he says. When you forgive, you take on yourself all the pain and evil another has done. He quotes a Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp: ‘… and may we remain in our enemies’ memory, not as victims, not as a nightmare, not as haunting spectres, but as helpers in their striving to destroy the fury of their criminal passions.’ To be ‘helpers in destroying the fury’ we need the bread of life, which the Father is offering through Jesus.
1 Aug 2021 Sunday 18 B Exod 16:2…15 Eph 4:17…24 John 6:24-35