Signpost for Sunday 2 August, 2015: 2 Sam 11:26-12:13a; Ps 51:1-12; Eph 4:1-16; John 6:24-31.
The thing that always gets me with this passage from John is that we are clearly told in verse 24 that the crowd that trailed Jesus and caught up with him at Capernaum are the very same bunch who shared the fish and bread picnic in the hills. Yet here they are in verse 30 asking how on earth they can believe Jesus is really who he says he is with out ‘a sign’. They even blindly refer back to that other miracle bread, manna. Don’t you just want to slap them? But there’s the clue for me – refer back to Moses (just as Jesus does in verse 32) and don’t stop at verse 31 as the lectionary does but read on a bit.
That’s when it hits you: the first time God declares who and what he is, it is to Moses (Exodus 3:14) and he uses those famously enigmatic words “I AM who I am.” The writer of John’s gospel knows that his first century audience will recognise the echo of those words in John 6:35, “I AM the bread of life.” Now that Jesus has dwelt among us (John 1:14) there is no enigma, instead there’s verse 35.
Most importantly, the author of John is writing for first century followers of ‘the way’ and he is alluding to the significance and symbolism of the ‘new’ practice of sharing the Eucharistic meal. He’s reminding those people that this isn’t some weird new ritual that someone just came up with. It is deeply rooted in the love of God for humankind, evident in the life (and death) of Jesus the Christ.