In whole of today’s chapter from John, Jesus not only performs
numerous miracles--loaves and fishes, walking on water--but tells
his followers and apostles repeatedly that he is “the bread
of life,” replacing the manna so that “whoever comes
to me shall never be hungry” (Jn 6:35). It’s this teaching
that Jesus repeats preceding today’s reading, stressing that
“the bread which I will give is my own flesh.”
As a professor, I enjoy the challenge of afternoons when I teach
writings that I love, that I’ve sometimes been reading for
more than twenty years, and that have come to define a part of me.
There are also those afternoons when I wonder, ‘why don’t
you people get this?”
Reading this, one of my favorite of all books--the Gospel of John--I
tune into this moment when Jesus, as a teacher, reveals a most central
teaching and the reactions of those around him.
Some simply leave and even though all the disciples stay, even they--as
the text reveals just after--can’t be counted on.
So, like those good old bracelets say, what does Jesus do? Nothing.
He knows some people don’t get it; he knows some of those
closest to him not only don’t get it, but will bring about
his downfall. And he keeps on teaching and showing through his works.
Perhaps it isn’t exactly nothing, but Jesus
does not intervene in the actions of those people who choose to
walk away or try to stop him. He continues the work that He was
sent to do. “The words I have given you are both spirit and
life,” Jesus says in the midst of this conundrum. There is
a patience, and indeed incredible love, in the middle of this mystery
that teaches me as both teacher and student.
Writing this today, I can’t help but think that too much in
today’s world is not simple. But as a humanist, I believe
that people haven’t changed all that much. As a great teacher,
Jesus teaches to do the work you’re called to do at the highest
level. And if people don’t sometimes get
it, I don’t presume to think I am in such good company; but
I do have the discipline & the continuing mystery of the example.