The Work of God, the Bread of Life

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Jesus Breaking Bread for the Five Thousand by Brent Kastler

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

John 6:24-35

If the crowds were not hungry before they began to look for Jesus, certainly they were when they arrived. A windy night had passed since they had been fed with the loaves and fish created and broken by the hands of Jesus. Then, they rowed and searched again. If the twelve baskets of remnants had filled them in the morning, by noon the hunger had crept back into their bodies.

The crowd went out onto choppy waters to look for Jesus, filled with questions. Perhaps each morning we join them in wondering about the signs of yesterday. Curiosity propels us over the edge of the boats as we launch into a journey toward that which astounded us. Finally, after rowing and peering along the shoreline, Jesus comes into sight. We greet him with questions and with each response he guides us into divine mystery.

“Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus never tells them. He does not reprimand them for seeking. Instead, he speaks their reasons for seeking into the space between them: you are hungry; you want to see; you want to live and be filled. Deep within, Jesus sees that human hunger for more than what we ate yesterday, the desire to see something greater than what we saw yesterday, the craving for life eternal and fullness within him. He names that hunger and says the food to satisfy it is coming.

To this promise of eternal food the crowd asks, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” What are the things we can do to satisfy that pang and grumbling within our souls?

“Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’”

A work in the singular, performed across time. The manna in the wilderness and the true bread from heaven are the same work of God. The manna was sent from heaven so that the people might live and believe in a God of deliverance and sustenance. In the fullness of time, the true bread from heaven came down so that humanity might live anew and believe in that very same God.

What is this true bread which came from heaven? What is this bread which gives life to the world? It is not a what or a that. This bread is a who.

The Bread of Life, come down to humanity, for humanity, stands in the middle of a crowd. Amid this crowd, where we ask questions that seem to miss the mark, the Bread of Life still calls us to him. We insist that this bread be given to us always. To our questions, demands, and even confusion, the Bread of Life waits in our midst with arms outstretched, saying “come to me. I am right here.” The Bread of Life is the work of God, echoing across from manna in the wilderness to the tables in our sanctuaries. It is the work of God which continuously calls humanity to come and believe.

There are days now and days ahead when ravenous questions will be gnawing at our souls. When did you come here? What must we do? What are you going to do? Please, can we have this forever? Jesus never condemns these questions. Instead, each answer invites us into new life. Jesus names the deepest hunger inside of us and never tells us to stop seeking. Curiosity about the signs of yesterday launched us into the boats on the water and it is the work of God, the Bread of Life, which draws us always to the shore.

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