Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. (Jn 6:26-27; NRSV)
I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. (Jn 6:35; Message)
As I ponder the sixth chapter of John, I hear Jesus inviting the crowd and us beyond our me-centered, consumer-minded approach to spiritual life toward the abundant life of seeking to become part of what God is about in the ongoing story of creation and redemption.
After Jesus feeds the huge crowd with just five dinner rolls and a couple of fish, he and the disciples move on during the night. The crowd tracks him down the next day, and he speaks some truth to them: You’re interested in me because of what I give you. But there’s so much more to the spiritual life than being fed.
It’s not a verse I’ve taken notice of before, but it catches my attention today. I see in the mirror that I engage in church life saying, “Feed me!” I see church (and by extension, God) through the lens of what it offers, a lot like I do a store or a plumber or a restaurant. I’ve come to see the spiritual journey as chasing God around with my hands out like Oliver Twist pleading, “Please, sir, can I have some more?” I judge the church (and by extension, God) by how well it meets my needs, how well it matches my preferences, how successfully it makes me comfortable.
In a consumer setting, this is rational. But Jesus is challenging the crowd to see beyond their consumer assumptions about what it’s all about. Sure, he says, I’ll feed you. I’m the ultimate food. But there’s more to it! I like the Message translation of verse 35: the Greek words translated “come to me” and “believe in me” get wrapped together in “align with me.”
This is a different lens from the consumerism lens that’s usually in front of our eyes. Instead of Jesus the market barker trying to get us to buy his bread, I hear Jesus the wilderness guide beckoning, Come with me. Follow me.
It’s not about receiving a product. It’s about aligning myself with something much larger than myself. It’s about offering myself as a cell of yeast in the loaf of God’s ongoing creation. It’s about allowing myself to be folded into the cosmic work of redemption and reconciliation. Do you want to be fed? asks Jesus. Then become part of me, for I am the Bread of Life.
As we look ahead to the Lenten journey, I feel some fear, some vulnerability, some anxiety that has me wanting to focus on getting fed. Then I hear Jesus reminding me that I will be fed; I am freed from worrying about how I will find food. I am freed from shopping for fulfillment at the lowest price possible. I am freed to align myself with him in his work of redeeming the broken and reconciling the world to himself.
Here’s my prayer: Baker God, give me the courage to trust your provision and shift my focus to being folded into the Bread of Life, that others might be fed through me.