The Bread of Life with the Eternal
Here we are, we have made it to the last passage from John 6, the final one in this series about Jesus as the Bread of Life. Well done, and thank you for following through the entire chapter.
Just because we have reached then end, though, does not mean we have exhausted the lessons, so, as ever, read and think and draw your own conclusions. Make connections between the different sections of the story, and delve into what Jesus as the Bread of Life means for you. As for me, I have a few more points of interest to highlight. I'll begin to address one here.
Back in the beginning of the chapter, we saw Jesus running from the crowd, looking upon the crowds with compassion, teaching and feeding and healing them - there were so many people! We see Jesus cross the sea, heal more people: the gentiles and the "unworthy", and the crowds follow. There is the sense of a wandering caravan carnival or a mob just following, eating everything in sight like the locusts of old. The atmosphere is vibrant with this vital energy, and while the people may not entirely understand what Jesus is saying, they follow this charisma.
Slowly, the crowd seems to shrink a little in size. We can't tell for certain, but when the chapter says that Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, the text does not mention the crowds filling the over-flow area. They may have, but the description of the people changes from "the crowd" to "the Jews". More accurately, it should be read as "the Judeans" - the established religious and secular community that had always just had the Hebrew faith in their lives, the people for whom Jesus teaching was the biggest challenge, being so close, yet changed, from what they were comfortable and familiar with.
Now, this week, that descriptor term is "the disciples". As in, "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?'...From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." (John 6: 60 & 66) We learn in the reading that "The Twelve" stayed, but there is the sense of the deserted hillside, the empty seats.
Here are some questions:
Were these three distinct groups of people Jesus has been teaching and evangelizing this chapter, or do the three types represent the faith journey of the listeners? If the later, then for all Jesus' dynamic preaching and miracles, he is left with the same followers he started the chapter with (and he also condemns one of the Twelve as the devil and betrayer).
Does this passage illustrate a crisis of faith? If so, for whom? And how can these words help us when we have a crisis of our own?
Why do the Twelve stick with Jesus, even when all the rest of the teeming mass of people abandon him?
Those disciples that said "this is a hard teaching" were right, but it is hard in a different way for us than it was for them so many years ago. Culture and time change some meanings, and in the change, the truth is revealed.