Today's reading started with a statement that really hit me. In the devotional part of our reading, F. LaGard Smith, says this about the Jews of Jesus' day: "They can accept Jesus as a popular hero who works wonders, but they are unwilling to accept the demands of discipleship." So the question that gets put on the table today is this; Are you following Christ in true discipleship, or are you linking up with a folk hero, a legend, Superman maybe, when it fits the circumstances of your life? John masterfully pushes his readers toward answering questions like these throughout his gospel, and as we read today, he does so once again in what has been come to be known as Jesus' Bread of Life Discourse. (John 6:25-66)
Jesus is just coming off the mountain side where he feed thousands of people and they are all flocking to see him again the next day. As with any scripture we chose to read and engage with, we need to understand its context to better understand what it is saying; not only to the original audience but more importantly to us today in 2013.
So Jesus has just performed this amazing miracle of providing bread for the multitudes. It is no surprise that they have sought him out again. They are hungry. If someone came to town and performed that kind of miracle and you had a history of being underfed and hungry, wouldn't you follow this guy around town? But Jesus calls them out for what they are doing. He says to them, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill."
They are missing the forest for the trees. The feeding of a multitude like that should have sent bells and whistles off in this nations heart. God had performed just such a miracle hundreds of years ago when Moses led the nation through the desert and God provided manna for them each day on the desert floor. Jesus' miracle was missed though and people were only looking for their next meal.
When Jesus presses them further on the issue and points to the fact that the bread that Moses gave them to eat was from His Father, who in fact gives the true bread from heaven. He says, "For the bread of God is he who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world."
Given all of that what would your response have been? How would you have reacted to a man who only yesterday fed you till you couldn't eat any more and yet stands in front of you today telling you that there is true bread that comes from heaven and that it gives life to the whole world. I am sure your answer would be the same as mine and the same as those that day.
"..from now on give us this bread."
Notice they didn't ask for a couple days worth or say 'no thanks we got what we wanted with yesterday's bread'. There is no way anyone would ignore an offer like this. They did what you and I would have done. "Give us this bread from NOW ON." This is an on-going request. It was very much tied to, at least in their world, the fact that manna was provided daily for the nation of Israel until they reached the promised land. It is why we pray in the Lord's prayer, 'give us this day our daily bread', we are trusting in the the true giver of life and the giver of the true bread for our daily life, our daily provision.
But it is at this point, that the conversation turns. It is at this point that you can almost see the collective lean in as Jesus is about to reveal the secret of this true bread. I can just imagine the hush and the deep inhale the crowd must have drawn as one, as they awaited the profound life giving answer that they hoped to hear. And at this point Jesus say this:
"I am the bread of life"
Amidst the immediate fallout of grumbling, arguing and confusion, Jesus says this three different times. Even going to the point of saying that, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."
It is at this point that the other shoe drops. When people are pushed into a position where a decision has be be made, they will make one. I know that this sounds like an obvious statement, but we live in a world where we want everyone to feel happy and we don't want to rock the boat too much, so we create situations where people can ride the fence and live life without having to make too many "tough" decisions.
John says that it is at this point that many of "his disciples" (these were not casual followers - these were people who had made some level of commitment to Christ) said that this was a hard teaching and wondered if anyone should follow it. And so they abandon Christ.
To be a follower of Christ requires hard decisions. But when we begin to operate in the mindset of Christ and we begin to pattern our life after his and for Him, the hard decisions suddenly don't seem so hard any more. It is after this teaching that many of the 'followers' of Christ abandoned him. (John 6:66) But when pressed, what do the twelve say to Christ's question of whether they will stay or go?
Peter's answer says it all. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Jesus is inviting us into a relationship unlike any we have ever been in or ever will be. Will your answer be one of a fair-weather friend or one that sounds like the words of Peter. Make a choice today to answer and answer boldly with the words:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."