Home, Part 2
Part 2 of my sermon from last Sunday.
The sixth chapter of John is 71 verses long. That’s pretty long – so long, in fact, that it takes up five weeks of lectionary readings. A church could concentrate just on the 6th chapter of John for the entire month of August. I think, though, that to understand today’s reading, we need to see it in the light of the rest of its chapter.
Chapter 6 of John begins with the feeding of the 5000 – that’s 5000 men, and their families. Andrew, who was always bringing people to Jesus, brought a little boy to him with two loaves of bread and five fish. Andrew did it, I think, not believing that it could be any help at all in feeding the crowd. Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to everyone there. Once everyone had had their fill, Jesus has his disciples gather up what was left over – 12 baskets full. I wonder about that particular action – I wonder if Jesus was trying to teach something about faith – something about who he was to his disciples by having them collect the leftovers. I wonder if later they would remember the full baskets.
Next in the chapter comes the passage where Jesus’ disciples are in a boat, out on the water. They are frightened to see Jesus walking toward them – on the water. Jesus tells them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” That could also be translated as “I am – do not be afraid.” Sound familiar? I am – In John, walking on the water is not so much a miracle of Jesus’ power over the forces of nature, but what one commentator called “a miracle of theophany, of the revelation of the divine in Jesus. An encounter with God.
So, two miracles in the 6th chapter, and then three discourses, or discussions. The first is with the crowd, and then with the crowd and disciples, including the Jews, who ask him questions and complain, and then a final discourse with the disciples alone. Throughout these discussion, Jesus is speaking about being the Bread of Life. It includes another I am statement – I am the Bread of Life. It’s interesting to me that the chapter begins with Jesus feeding bread to the crowd, and then revealing that he is “I am”. All 71 verses are connected to each other, and they seem to culminate in the reading we have today.
And we get there, right at this culmination, and we hear the verse 56: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” and we say, “Oooh yuck.” When we get past that reaction, we can hear something else. We find the heart of the verse -- the word “abide.” What does it mean to abide?