Path of Resoration
by Marjorie George
The crowd in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel wanted something. They thought they wanted Jesus, but it turns out they wanted their version of Jesus. They wanted what Jesus could do for them.
The crowd had been following Jesus, John tells us, because of the “signs” he had been doing: clearing out the temple, defying authority, healing people. It was better than a circus — even a Roman circus — and this was a crowd of spectators come for the prizes.
Jesus did not disappoint. Were they hungry? He fed five thousand of them from a boy’s five loaves and two fish. Did they want miracles? He defied a storm and walked on the water. Their hands were out, their eyes were open. “Come, let us make you our king,” they cried. “Teach us to do what you do,” they begged. “Feed us always,” they insisted. They reminded Jesus that, after all, their ancestors had been fed manna in the wilderness by God; what could he put up against that display? But when Jesus turned from the superficial to the profound, from bread for today to the bread of life, the crowd lost interest. When the teaching became “too difficult” (6:60), John says, “many turned back and no longer went about with him” (6:66).
The narrative of John’s sixth chapter is an exquisite leading by Jesus away from the life of the world, the external life, to the offer of a greater life, an internal and eternal life with God. The conversation moves from tangible bread to manna bread, to Jesus as the bread of life, to the body-of-Christ bread and blood-of-Christ drink. It is the progression we have to make if we are to grow into life in Christ. Not because Christ is self-centered and demanding, asking us to commit to irrationality. But because Christ knows that the surface life, the life of external things, offers no lasting satisfaction.
But note that in John’s story, not all of the followers left. Turning to the 12 disciples, Jesus asked, “Do you also wish to go away?” Whereupon Peter responded with that incredible statement that all who call themselves Christ-followers must one day claim: “Where else would we go, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life” (6:68).
That is the way of the journey of restoration with our God. Sooner or later, those who follow Christ are asked to do things, to live in ways, that sound “difficult” – if not downright crazy — to the world. Ways that we may not understand. Sooner or later we have to stop seeking answers from the world, for the world can never provide them. A life lived in Christ will never be satiated by power, possessions, recognition, or false-security. “Not as the world gives, give I to you,” (Jn 14:27) Christ said.
Pray God that when you and I are offered those opportunities – and we are offered them repeatedly — to move forward with Christ or turn back, we will recognize with Peter from whence comes the life abundant and lay claim to it.
Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.