Today's Lectionary Text
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Our Scripture for today points out a truth that I find very uncomfortable. Jesus had just fed the huge crowd with the loaves and fishes and then crossed the lake. Those speaking to Jesus had an ulterior motive of getting some more free food. They had a very transactional approach to following Jesus … follow Jesus, get a free meal. All too often I fall into a similar trap. I evaluate situations with an eye to ”what’s in it for me.” If I do what God wants, good things will happen for me. Or, if I follow Jesus, I’ll get a wonderful life in the hereafter. When I reflect on this attitude and approach, I feel something is lacking. My motivation of “getting from giving” just seems wrong somehow.
God gives with no expectation of return on investment. God gives to us (graces us) simply because God loves us and wants our best. That is the motivation I wish were my default setting, acting motivated by love without expectation of repayment or return on investment. That is about as countercultural as one can get. Our culture is all about “what’s in it for me.” And as those living in this culture, that attitude rubs off on us, well at least it rubs off on me.
Jesus directs those speaking to him to do those things which have eternal significance. And in response to their desire for free food … manna from heaven … he identifies himself as the Bread of Life. Jesus teaches them, and us, that following Christ, giving ourselves wholly to him will result in lives that are fulfilled in a way that far exceeds a life lived solely to satisfy physical needs and self-interest. Living a life characterized by unconditional and selfless love, giving and serving without precondition or expectation of reward, is the life God created us to live since it reflects the nature of God, God’s image if you will.
I aspire to be this type of person: motivated by unconditional love, selfless in giving and service, and faithful to the Faithful One who bought my life with his own life.
--A.G. Turner, pastor
Valentine UMC, Valentine, Nebraska
Prayer for Reflection
God of grace, teach me to love as you love us, teach me to serve as you serve us, teach me to be faithful as you are faithful to us, that many may find life through the Bread of Life, Christ our Lord. Amen.
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