Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Bread and Signs

May 24, 2017

Recently I read John 6, which is a really long chapter- 71 verses. There are many, many things to think about. The chapter begins with Jesus feeding the five thousand. Then the disciples cross the rough sea and Jesus walks out on the water to them and they reach the other side.

Then something interesting happened. The crowds (the people Jesus fed the day before) were confused. They saw the disciples leave in a boat, but not Jesus. The crowd, realizing that both Jesus and the disciples are gone, travel to the “other side” to look for Jesus. They find Jesus and ask,

“Rabbi, when did you come here?” (v25) Jesus replies “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them,”This is the work of God, that you believe in him, whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness: as it is written,’He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

John 6:25-31  NRSV

The chapter goes on for 40 more verses. But I found this part interesting and perhaps a little too personal.  The crowds are looking for Jesus because he fed them the day before. We can’t fault people for being hungry and eating the food offered to them. The problem was that they, and I, sometimes think food is just food. We eat food every day, usually several times a day. We forget to see the sign that the food is.

I’m looking for “heavenly”, head turning, traffic stopping miracles. That’s not what I get. Jesus gives me signs and wonders. For example the wonder of food.

We see the bread, we see the wine (John 2:1-11). We are glad to eat and drink. We may even be thankful. But we miss the sign.

John’s gospel gives us signs, rather than miracles. I think that is to help us keep a clearer picture of what is going on. The sign points us to who Jesus is. The sign tells us important things about Jesus, about what matters to him.

The abundance of wine, the abundance of food. These are not things we should take for granted. But I know I do and when I do I fail to see the sign.

Too often I follow Jesus for what he can do, rather than for who he is. From the trivial- praying for a parking spot, to the serious- prayers for peace or healing. It is so easy to be like the crowd and follow Jesus for what he does. It is easy to be distracted by what he does and forget who he is- the bread of heaven.

The crowd goes on to make a second mistake. They ask, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”  Forgetting it is all gift.

Then they, and we, demand divine party tricks, something spectacular to prove that God is God. Forgetting that it is all gift. The gift of life in the kingdom. Life now in Christ. Gift, right before our eyes.

The crowd asked, “What sign are you going to give us…?”  We might ask “What have you done for me lately, Jesus?” We follow as those ancient crowds did- hungry, looking for someone to feed us. Someone to heal us. And Jesus, patiently and with steadfast love feeds us and heals us. Hoping, I suppose, that we can someday follow for better reasons. Simply because Jesus is worth following because of who he is, not what he does.

 

 

What happened in Samaria, doesn’t stay there.

March 19, 2017

 

Sometimes it is good to spend some time with familiar stories.

John 4:1-42 is the well known story of Jesus and the Woman of Samaria, or the Woman at the Well.  It’s a big story and there are many things to think about when we read it. The writer of John pays a lot of attention to this story. At 42 verses it is one of the longer stories in the Gospel of John. I think it has some things to say about women and how Jesus interacted with them.

  • Jesus talks to her, by himself. Apparently Jesus doesn’t have a problem with a man talking with a woman without someone else around.
  • Jesus also doesn’t have a problem treating her like a person of equal worth.
  • Jesus knows she has been married several times and now lives with a man. And he seems not to care about her marital status or her sex life. His mentioning of her previous husbands and current partner are a statement of reality, and in no way can be read as condemnation or judgement, or as approval. Her marital status and sex life have nothing to do with her encounter with Jesus.
  • After her encounter with Jesus the woman testifies, preaches, evangelizes- call it what you like- to women and to men. And they listen to her and follow her to Jesus. No man other than Jesus “allows” her to do this. Her calling is clear to her and to the others in her village who listen and respond.

This story also has some things to teach us about how we should interact with those who have different theological view.

  • Again, Jesus is respectful, he doesn’t belittle her views. There are no condescending comments about Samaritans.
  • He isn’t distracted by her “lifestyle”or her Samaritan ways.
  • Jesus doesn’t hide who he is or pretend he isn’t engaged in a serious conversation with someone of a different tradition. He doesn’t paper over legitimate differences.

Most interestingly to me, Jesus says that both the Jews and the Samaritans have gotten some of this religion stuff wrong. Neither group completely “owns” the truth. The truth is not ownable.

20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you[c] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Spending time with familiar stories helps us remember what we ought to do. Because mostly, I need the reminder.  I need to remember what Jesus taught and how Jesus acted.

Jesus is sometimes not as direct and clear as we might like. It would be much easier, in some ways, if Jesus had simply given us a series of rules and guidelines.

Women this…

Men that….

People with different theological positions…..

But he doesn’t. I used to find this quite annoying. I really wanted rules and some clarity about how to live. Jesus’s way is more subtle and more flexible. It is attentive to the particular situation one is in. It is attentive to whom one is speaking with. Jesus’s way requires us to think about what we are doing and why. Jesus’ way requires us to think about who we are speaking with. Jesus’s way requires us to constantly ask the Spirit for guidance.

The people Jesus encountered knew Jesus by what he said and by what he did.  And it is the same for us. We know Jesus’s will by what he says and by what he does.

The same is true about us. People know who we are by what we say and more importantly by what we do.

 

 


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