Jesus walks on water
16 When evening came, Jesus’ disciples went down to the lake. 17 They got into a boat and were crossing the lake to Capernaum. It was already getting dark and Jesus hadn’t come to them yet. 18 The water was getting rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When the wind had driven them out for about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the water. He was approaching the boat and they were afraid. 20 He said to them, “I Am. Don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and just then the boat reached the land where they had been heading.
22 The next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the lake realized that only one boat had been there. They knew Jesus hadn’t gone with his disciples, but that the disciples had gone alone. 23 Some boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they had eaten the bread over which the Lord had given thanks. 24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Bread of life
26 Jesus replied, “I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. 27 Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Human One will give you. God the Father has confirmed him as his agent to give life.”
28 They asked, “What must we do in order to accomplish what God requires?”
29 Jesus replied, “This is what God requires, that you believe in him whom God sent.”
30 They asked, “What miraculous sign will you do, that we can see and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
32 Jesus told them, “I assure you, it wasn’t Moses who gave the bread from heaven to you, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 They said, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!”
35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I told you that you have seen me and still don’t believe. 37 Everyone whom the Father gives to me will come to me, and I won’t send away anyone who comes to me. 38 I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 This is the will of the one who sent me, that I won’t lose anything he has given me, but I will raise it up at the last day. 40 This is my Father’s will: that all who see the Son and believe in him will have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Thoughts on the passage:
There are seven miracles in the Gospel of John and two of them come back to back. First, Jesus feeds the five thousand using only five loaves of bread and two fish. Then, that night, he walks on water. These two miracles set next to each other provide several key teaching points. They illustrate the power of Christ. They also ask the question about what we find compelling in the power of Christ.
I grew up watching the Indiana Jones movies. In one of them, Indiana Jones is searching for the Holy Grail and he is asked “For whom do you seek the cup of Christ, is it for his glory or for yours?” That line from the movie has stuck in my head for all these years even though I could not tell you the last time I actually watched the film. I think Jesus is wondering the same thing when he confronts the crowds who have been following them. He is challenging them on the real reason they are following him, not because of the great signs he has performed but because of what he has done for them.
Why do we follow Christ? Sit with that question for a minute because it is an important one. We all need to make sure we know the reason we are following Christ because otherwise, quite frankly, what are we doing here? One of the realities is that it can be hard to answer this question without talking about ourselves and sounding like the crowds. The crowds followed Jesus because they were hungry, and he gave them bread. Are our answers really much different?
For many of us, salvation would be a reason we follow Christ. It is certainly a selling point of the Christian faith that gets used to encourage people to join the church. We have all probably heard one Christian or another preaching and exhorting people to convert so that they might be spared from Hell. Think about the reasoning behind that for a minute. Is that really any different than following Jesus because he gave them bread? Sure, the reward is eternal, but it is still about the reward. We do it for what it does for us.
We could come up with a lot of other reasons that we follow Christ or are a part of a church, but a lot of them would still be about what it does for us. You should join a church because of the community. You should join a church because of the worship service. You should join a church because of the mission work in the community. Why would these things be compelling, because they make us feel good. Too often we root our faith in how it makes us feel. This is human but it has its challenges.
One of the biggest ones is what happens on those days when church does not make us feel good? What happens on those days when following God is hard? What happens when we are not sure that being a Christian is making a difference in our life the way we had hoped. Do we give up on Christ then? Do we turn away from God? Do we walk out on the church? I would hope the answer to all of these is “no,” but if we root our faith in the benefits we get from it we are ignoring the real reason that we should be following Christ.
Look again at the scripture lesson for today and see what Jesus tells us to do. Jesus tell us to follow him because of the signs he does. Now, I think he is making a really important distinction. He is saying we should follow him because of the signs he does, not because of what the signs do for us. The miracles are never about us. It is not about the healing that Christ brings to us, it is not about the abundance that God overs us, none of it. The signs are a demonstration of God’s power, revealed in Christ. It is not about what that power does for us.
We are not supposed to follow Christ because of what Christ does for us. We are supposed to follow Christ, because he is the Son of God. We are supposed to follow Christ because he is the Word Made Flesh. We follow God not because God has made us wealthy or healthy, both of which we know are fleeting gifts. Instead, we follow God because God is the author of all creation and there is no fitting response but to fall down and worship God.
The people are clamoring for yet another sign. The people are still wanting to be feed. When they ask Jesus for more, he gives them a powerful response. “I am the bread of life.” He does not give them what they are asking for, but he does give them what they really need. He points them away from their own personal needs back to the real purpose for his coming to earth, to help us be in relationship with God. Through the signs and miracles of Christ, we are better able to worship God.
We do not follow Jesus because we need more bread. We follow Jesus because he is the bread. We do not follow God because God created us. We follow God because God created everything. We do not follow God because God loves us. We follow God because God loves everyone. It is not about who we are and what God does for us. It is about who God is and what God does for everyone.
I grew up a Cubs fan, my mother was a Cubs fan, my grandfather was a Cubs fan, and my great-grandfather was a Cubs fan. My great-grandfather lived to be 91 and the Cubs won the World Series twice in his lifetime (when he was three and four). My grandfather is 91, the Cubs have won the World Series once in his life time (when he was 89). He spent his entire life cheering for a team that could never win. Rooting for the Cubs was a source of identity for my family, but it was never about what the Cubs did for us since all they did was lose. It was about loyalty to our team.
We are not called to be fair-weather fans who only cheer for our God when we are winning. We are not bandwagon Christians who only claim Christ when he is working miracles in our lives. We are called to be diehard fans of God. We do not love God because God heals us or provides for us, or even saves us. We love God because of who God is. We follow Christ because he is God’s Son, our savior, the Bread of Life. Amen
Questions to Ponder:
What does it mean to you to call Jesus the Bread of Life?
How do we avoid the temptation to think about our faith only in terms of what it does for us?
What does a fair-weather Christian look life to you? What does a diehard Christian look like?
God, you move and work in wondrous ways and for that we love you. Open our eyes to the miraculous things you do around us each and every day. Fill us with joy that we might celebrate your good works. Bless us that we might be instruments of your joy in the world. Amen