Real Life Feeding
“I want what you can provide for me, but you I do not want.”
This kind of thinking pervades contemporary thought. When someone goes shopping, hardly anyone is interested in knowing more about the sales assistant or the cashier. You just want to make the transaction and go home right? (Online shopping is just an extreme version of this.) Or one could like such and such a government minister because his policies are good for me and for society. But invite him over for a cup of tea to chat and really get to know him (no strings attached)? No, thanks.
To be sure, there are limits to how many people we can get to know on a personal level. But I think if we are honest about it, we sometimes treat our own family and friends in the same way. We deem them ‘useful’ to us, and give them a call only if we need something. This ‘seeking the gift but not the giver’ attitude reflects an idolatry of self.
When Jesus was asked to provide the eager crowd with an ‘iron rice bowl’ (to use Pastor Dev’s metaphor), we can detect this attitude in the people. They might have construed the Lords’ prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” to literally mean just that: “Feed me!” Of course they could also have meant more than just material nourishment: “Feed me! And kick the Romans out!” With bellies full of food, and minds full of nationalistic thoughts, they wanted to install Jesus as king. Didn’t the feeding of the 5,000 men take place during Passover, commemorating when Israel’s Egyptian slave-masters were judged (John 6:4), and wasn’t it reminiscent of the great Exodus days when Moses led the Israelites out into the wilderness and gave them manna to eat?
I don’t think the Jews missed that connection. However, what I think they did miss was what the miraculous feeding signified. Way back during the Exodus, God’s intention for letting the Israelites go hungry and rely on manna from heaven, was to let them “know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Fundamentally, what was at stake was not filling bellies but believing in the Father. God wanted His people to know that His word is trustworthy, and it is sufficient for life.
Likewise, Jesus could just as well have been saying, “Don’t look to the bread and the fish. Life is more than food. Look to me! Listen to my words, feed on them, and believe me. And you will have eternal life.” (cf. John 6:40, 47) Focusing on the gift and not the Giver would be like saying that we desire God only for what He can provide, but not because of who He is and what He really came to give.
No lover would desire his beloved to treat him like that. Especially when the lover is a King who has given his life in sacrifice for the life of the beloved. For this lover whom we are talking about is also the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sin of the world, so that we can be restored to a personal vibrant relationship with the Living God — the Lord of all creation. That’s real life.
But did the Jews really care about that? Did they care about who Jesus was, the One sent by the Father to give real life?
Stay tuned and find out more this Sunday!