Ego eimi, Jesus begins. I AM. Then he finishes the audacious sentence: I AM the bread of life. I AM, he goes on, the bread from heaven here to do the will of the One who sent me: to help people believe and by believing have eternal life.
As Jesus speaks and acts in John’s Gospel, the people hear him at one level while he seeks to move them to a deeper level. When Jesus feeds the 5,000, for example, the crowd, stomachs filled, rushes to make him king. Jesus flees. God wants the hungry fed, but there is a deeper hunger and a better bread.
The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. (Somebody once said that next to Homer’s Odyssey the Bible is the “eatingest” book in the world.) But John’s Gospel is the only one that sets the miracle at Passover. The connection is charged: It is God who feeds and saves, and a meal is a sign of God’s justice and mercy.
These days churches are tempted to mimic corporations, and pastors try to become CEOs. But these texts call us to re-imagine our life together as the people of God, and the texts’ images are of sheep and shepherds. In Mark 6 Jesus is pictured as a shepherd-king with Godlike “compassion” as he looks upon the multitude wandering “like sheep without a shepherd.”
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