Today’s reading: John 6:22-71
God, we look for you in longing, our souls starving for the food that endures for eternal life. So many of us are walking around in the wilderness, thirsty and searching. In our struggle to believe, help us find genuine faith in you, help us come to you and hold on to your promise that you will never turn us away.
The feeding of the Five Thousand was a miracle. Jesus had taken a humble offering from a boy and turned it into a feast where everybody ate to their satisfaction. The people were impressed. They had seen him heal the sick also, and now they saw Jesus as the prophet who had come to save them from oppression. Jesus knew that they wanted to make him king in the narrowest sense of the role, and he wanted none of it. He walked away.
Eventually they found him. Jesus didn’t turn them away, but he uttered sharp words of truth that sliced through their motivation. “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (verse 26). Jesus went on to describe himself as the bread of life, and to point to the source of that life, God in heaven. “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (verse 33). Heaven came down and gave life to the world, let us reflect on that verse, let’s examine the nature of our faith in Christ.
Why do we believe? How did we come into that faith? Are we like the crowd of people who had seen and experienced Jesus’ miracles, following him because we had eaten our fill of the loaves? Jesus said that “…you have seen me and still don’t believe.” (verse 36). The crowd asked him for more miraculous signs, so that they can see and believe him.
When they mentioned their ancestors, who ate manna in the wilderness, Jesus’ response was blunt: “Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness and they died.”
I inherited a part of my faith from my ancestors, the version of Christianity handed down through generations, introduced partly by the Dutch who colonized Indonesia for over 300 years. As a child who went through school in Indonesia and learned about our colonial history, one piece of the country’s history haunted me for years: puputan. It means fight to the death. Over 1000 people in Bali, an island in Indonesia, died by suicide when Dutch forces came to overtake the island in 1906. The Dutch came to conquer; they came to eradicate tribal languages and traditions; they came with Christianity to justify colonization of the native peoples. The liturgy and catechism I followed, the hymns I sung as a child in a church built by colonized faith, I see all of those as manna that my ancestors ate and told me to eat. I managed to live; I managed to survive; but I could taste the tinge of death and oppression.
We might have inherited values from our ancestral cultures that are not life-giving. We may have also inherited a colonized faith that oppresses instead of offering freedom. When there is gender and racial inequality in our churches, do we accept that as part of our faith? Or do we rise up and fight for what’s just? “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (verse 63).
We fight to find spiritual food that gives life to the world.
We fight not to die, we fight to live.
What are some things in your life that you have come to realize were perishing food? In what ways are you now challenged to experience the type of life-giving food of Jesus?
Created by: Meita Arnold
Meita Arnold is an immigrant, a citizen of the Kin-dom, a traveler, lifelong learner and investigator. She’s captivated daily by the wonders of science, art, nature and motherhood.
Image by: Iswanto Arif