Jesus feeds a crowd of five thousand, and then he walks on water. When he calls out to the disciples, “It is I; do not be afraid,” we know Jesus offers something more than bread alone. The people had their fill of the loaves, but what they still lack is Jesus himself. “It is I.”
The crowd chases after Jesus clamoring for more bread and more miracles. But since Jesus refuses to be their king, they want to know how they can become miracle workers on their own. “What must we do to perform the works of God?”
And Jesus answers, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” In other words, the true work of God is the work of believing, the work of faith. This is no ordinary work, either. Indeed, this “work” means to receive on his terms Jesus’ offer of himself, “I am the bread of life.”
Then the religious leaders weigh in: Who does he think he is, this Jesus? Isn’t he the kid we knew from down home? How can he be from God? Aren’t the things of God extraordinary and spectacular, not lowly and common? (See v. 42.)
Yet Jesus doubles down: “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” And by flesh he means his humanness in all its stark reality.
Spirituality doesn’t seek God in high and lofty places, but in the ordinary, the lowly, and the commonplace. We may come to church to be “uplifted,” but Jesus offers us his flesh as the place where heaven and earth dwell. God leads us from the heights of heaven back down to earth to meet us in a body, from a manger to a cross.
God of miracles, you abide with us in Jesus, the Word made flesh. Feed us with the bread come down from heaven so that we may serve a hungry world with your love. Amen.
God had prevented David from building a temple in Jerusalem but then permitted David’s son, Solomon, to build it. In First Kings, Solomon places the ark of the covenant in the holiest place, and God’s presence descends. The psalmist rejoices in the Temple and would rather be in its courts than anywhere else because that is where God dwells. The New Testament readings remind us that the people of God have always met with resistance. The author of Ephesians compares living the Christian life to going into battle, so we must be prepared. Jesus also meets with resistance in John. His teachings are too hard for many to accept, so they abandon him. When we face resistance, therefore, we should not be surprised; but we are also not alone.
• Read 1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43. How does your faith inform your sense of hospitality to friends and strangers?
• Read Psalm 84. Is your joy in the Lord? How does your relationship with God help you through times of sorrow?
• Read Ephesians 6:10-20. How do truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and God’s word help you live boldly as an ambassador of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
• Read John 6:56-69. God came to us in a messy human body. How does your embodiment help you understand what it means to abide in Christ?
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