Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

John 6:22-59
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
analysis by Ed Schroeder

The Lectionary Gospel for Sunday a week (4 August, ’96) in the Revised Lectionary is Matthew’s rendering of the Feeding of the 5000 (Matt. 14). I didn’t get to working out the program of that text in Crossings format. So I send in a substitute. I have on the hard disk (from Aussie days in 1994) a Crossings matrix worked out for the Johannine version of that pericope, to wit, John 6. It was prepared for a workshop down under with the “answers” mostly withheld and “prompts” offered instead for the participants to do exploration and discovery on their own. Here ’tis.
Peace and Joy! Ed 

John 6:22-59

The text is a dialogue sermon between Jesus and those he had fed the day before, including his disciples (vv.1-15). The topic is bread, what it takes for people to live. In Aussie slang we say: “What do you do for a crust?” The alternatives are an either-or: either Moses’ bread (= God’s law) or Jesus’ bread (= God’s grace and truth). That contrast comes already in John’s opening chapter (1:17). In our text, what’s the people’s bread problem? What’s the solution?

Diagnosis (The Sickness)

The Symptoms
D-1 Confused Priorities about the Crust we live on The crowd is initially attracted to Jesus. Why? (v.26) As the dialogue develops they move away from him toward “Moses” and the law’s focus on “doing” (v.28). What makes “doing” so attractive as a way of getting your crust? Jesus says (v.26) that they missed the “sign.” Even though they saw the feeding-miracle happen, what did they miss? How do disciples today do the same? What is there about the law (doing in order to get) that confuses us too in prioritizing Jesus?

The Deeper Infection
D-2 Feeding on Moses = missing out on the Bread that lasts for eternal life. “Doing the work of God” when Jesus is on the scene is clearly stated. See v.29. The opposite is to be working for Mosaic crusts (=”believing” someone else). How tragic is that? What do you miss out on? We hear the answer over and over again. See vv. 27, 33, 35, 40, 44b, 47, 50, 51, 52-58. When Christians (we too) get pulled away from Christ to work for any other “crust,” we suffer a big loss.

Where Such Sickness Winds Up
D-3 PerishingAny bread other than Jesus “perishes.” So it is no surprise what happens to us who try to live on it. See vv. 49 & 58. What makes law, even God’s law (Moses) powerless to keep people alive forever? See v. 27 (2nd sentence) for a hint. Another hint is in v.40, the “will of the Father.” If it was not God’s will to give sinners life by Moses-bread, what was that bread for? See v.45b. What dietary information was Israel supposed to “learn from the Father” when they received the Moses-bread? If we don’t learn that, what happens?

New Prognosis (The Healing)

Christ Takes our Sickness to Heal Us
P-3 Life from the Bread that came down from Heaven (= Healing for D-3) Why does Jesus’ bread work to give life where Moses-bread could not? One factor is his better credentials (27c), his better connections (32b, 37, 40, 44, 45, 46), but most of all his actions as we read in the last line of v.51. It is finally Jesus’ work on the cross that does what law cannot: give sinners life. He rescues us from our D-3 “perishing” by taking our death as his own. That “bread” of his own self that he gives is “life for the world,” life for us.

Healing the Deeper Infection (= Healing for D-2)
P-2 Believing = Having Life that Lasts How does the life that lasts get to us? Our text has a variety of ways of answering that. See vv.29, 35b, 37, 40, 47, 51b. And then comes the language of Holy Communion: v. 53-58. Put these many word pictures into your own language to answer: How does the Life-Bread of P-3 become the “crust” that I too live on?

Living With New Symptoms ( = Healing for D-1)
P-1 Living Daily Life with Priorities Straight: Christ as my Crust to live on. Read the text again with this question in mind: What can/does daily life look like when people live from Jesus-bread instead of Moses-bread? Check again the Moses-items in D-1 and describe the Christ-bread alternative(s). Some suggestions are in vv. 26, 27. Or again in 35–coping with life’s recurring hungers and thirsts. What’s the long term economics of Jesus’ food program? What’s the good news for daily life in the three-part sequence of v.57?


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