Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

by Bear Wade

Life-Giving Bread From Heaven
John 6:35, 41-51
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14)
Analysis by Michael Hoy

35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 41Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

DIAGNOSIS: Feeding on One’s Ancestry in the Law

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Murmuring
The word translated as “complain” in the NRSV could also be translated “murmur,” like the murmuring of the Israelites in Exodus 16 (vs. 2, 8). The nature of this complaint or murmur has to do with Jesus’ origins. How can this Jesus, whose ancestry (they assume) is familiar to them, be “from heaven”? John accents the phrase “son of Joseph” to highlight the irony of their ignorance about Jesus’ identity and origins. As with their ancestors in the desert, complaining and murmuring in ignorance “among yourselves” (v. 43) is still a persistent problem; they are unaware of what God is really up to.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Not Eating or Swallowing the Line
The deeper malady is inherent in the complaint: the people are unable to swallow the divine line of Jesus. There were times in the desert when the people expressed their own unbelief in Moses and his divine mission. But now it is the bread that Jesus offers to them that they reject, in favor of some other bread. That other bread may be the Law of Moses, or some other dietary supplement today that bears a resemblance to the same standards of that Law-which apparently may have a greater divine quality about it, or so it would seem.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – Dead
But Jesus points out that those ancestors who pinned their hopes on the Law died (v. 49). And like those ancestors, who died on the manna in the desert, the same fate awaits all who have hope in a bread other than the bread of Jesus. The fate is not only because of their rejection of Jesus, but their rejection of the Father. Because the people do not take the line that Jesus offers, the people are left with the only line open to them: the line whose trajectory is death.

PROGNOSIS: Feasting through One’s Lineage in Jesus and His Father

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – Raised Up
What Jesus gives for those headed on a wrong trajectory, however, is his own “flesh for the life of the world” (v. 51). He takes his place among the dying in order to bring a new trajectory and line of descent for us all: We are drawn into a relationship with him who was sent as our own kin/brother, to be raised up at the last analysis.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Swallowing (= Believing)
In our swallowing that line of Jesus by faith, we participate in all that it promises-eternal life and the joy of Christ’s kingdom. The divine quality is something we take into ourselves by faith, such that we share the lineage of Jesus-and the line of his Father.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – All Taught by God
Mouths can be used for eating and speaking. Rather than speaking the critical complaints that stem from a dying food source, we get to speak the promise we have received and learned that stems from the Father and our Lord Jesus: until “‘all [shall] be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (v. 45). There’s a new line of descendants on the horizon, which grows out of the Promise.


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