"Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last."
To that they said, "Well, what do we do then to get in on God's works?"
Jesus said, "Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God's works."
They waffled: "Why don't you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what's going on? When we see what's up, we'll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
Jesus responded, "The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world."
They jumped at that: "Master, give us this bread, now and forever!"
Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don't really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don't let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.
"This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time."
At this, because he said, "I am the Bread that came down from heaven," the Jews started arguing over him: "Isn't this the son of Joseph? Don't we know his father? Don't we know his mother? How can he now say, 'I came down out of heaven' and expect anyone to believe him?"
Jesus said, "Don't bicker among yourselves over me. You're not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me—that's the only way you'll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End. This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, 'And then they will all be personally taught by God.' Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father. No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father—and you can see me.
"I'm telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread—living Bread!—who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self."
At this, the Jews started fighting among themselves: "How can this man serve up his flesh for a meal?"
But Jesus didn't give an inch. "Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always."
He said these things while teaching in the meeting place in Capernaum. // John 6:27-59
When my brothers and I were growing up my mom would often leave lists of things for us to do while she was at work. Typically the chore lists included really difficult things like dusting, vacuuming, cleaning our rooms, and cleaning the toilets. I am not sure how often we accomplished the lists before she got home from work, but it was rare. When mom would, with reasonable frustration, challenge our inability to get such simple things done she would be met with, “Yeah but…” The response from her was always, “YeahBut doesn’t live here!”
This passage is one of my favorites in the story of Jesus. He doubles down on challenging the transactional nature of the people’s attitude toward their trust of him.
Jesus does this whole teaching about how he is the living bread. He is calling the people to realize that to get in on God’s works demands an intimacy and trust beyond the transaction.
The whole story is punctuated with the people missing the point.
It’s a constant, “Yeah but…”
Jesus was intentionally missing the transactional expectations of the people. He was asking them to move beyond their dualistic approach to life and faith. Intimacy, oneness, deep connection was uncomfortable and confusing.
Now, let’s be fair, this stuff that Jesus said is weird! It would have sounded just as strange to them as it does to us. If I’m real honest I would have been dropping a bunch of “yeah buts” too.
I think this highlights something for us that we need to be aware of.
Jesus will routinely, often, and consistently challenge our presumptions. When we seek connection with Christ we need to be prepared to move beyond the dualism, the black and white, the either/or, the this or that. Christ calls us further up and further in to something more than a mere transactional faith.
As we read the gospel narratives of Jesus we see this clear trajectory of people being called to something deeper, more full, more real, more mystical…
That’s really it isn’t it?
The bread and wine are not just bread and wine. They are more.
The flesh and blood are nor just flesh and blood. They are more.
Following Jesus is more.
Who we are becomes more.
Existence becomes more.
Everywhere we look we see more.
If you’re anything like me you have something welling up in your chest at the moment, you have this overwhelming desire to say, “yeah but.”
What if faith is setting aside the “yeah but” and simply saying, “I’m willing to trust to experience this mystical and mysterious more.”
It turns out my mom was right, YeahBut doesn’t live here.