Proper 13b 2015: Asking Jesus a question

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a Psalm 51:1-12 Ephesians 4:1-16 John 6:24-35

“Jesus doesn’t know how to answer a question”
Jesus doesn’t know how to answer a question. When the crowd says to Jesus “When did you get here?” Jesus replies:
“Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.

This is not the answer we are looking for. The answer has nothing to do with the question! We are reminded of a similar conversation not too long ago. Jesus meets a woman from Samaria at a well, and when she says “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus replies: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Jesus does not know how to answer a question.

We are hearing a parallel story today, a parallel story to the one about the woman, living water, and Jesus. The woman wants to know if Jesus is better, “more than” Jacob. The crowd wants to know if Jesus is better, “more than” Moses. These are strange phrases for us to deal with, words about living water and life-giving bread.

In each discourse, Jesus points the people toward God and away from their earthly heroes. People who drink from Jacob’s well will be thirsty again. “He will give you living water.” “He” means God.

That bread in the wilderness, manna? That came, not from Moses, but from God. “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” “He” means God.

We remember that this conversation takes place right after the people, more than 5,000, have been fed with five loaves of barley bread and two fish, and that after everyone has had their fill, there are twelve baskets of crumbs left over. Jesus performed quite a miracle. The people want to know when they will be fed again. In another sense, they want another miracle, another sign, that Jesus will provide God’s bread in the same way that Moses provided God’s manna.

Then, in each story, Jesus points to himself, and we have heard a huge shift in his metaphors. At the well he says that whoever drinks of the water that [Jesus] gives them will never be thirsty. The water will be a spring welling up to eternal life. To the crowd Jesus says: “It is my father who gives true bread from heaven.” Notice: “my” father, not “our” father. Then, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus is calling himself manna, bread from heaven. He is bread that will feed people forever, not for a time in the wilderness. Jesus is living water. Do you hear the shift?

For those of us who are accustomed to coming to the altar rail almost weekly, Jesus’ statements confirm what we already know. Imagine, however, hearing these words for the first time: Jesus is either completely crazy … or he is the bread of life. Far more than being a wise teacher, “rabbi,” he is taking on and claiming the actions of God.

If we are to take Jesus seriously, then we want to know how we get living water, life-giving bread, eternal life? “Believe,” Jesus says, in God – God has been providing for us all of this time – and then believe in Jesus. “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

This is a key point in the gospel of John, in early Christianity, and in Christianity today. We must believe in the one whom God sent, Jesus. The work of our faith is the belief itself. That sentence is hard to hold on to, but it’s true: the work of our faith is the belief itself.

“Believing” sounds too easy. “I believe.” Am I done? No. Believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior requires more than a statement of belief. Belief calls us, in thanksgiving, to respond to the gifts we have been given, which includes life itself. Such giving is not a chore, or something to be guilty or burdened about – giving in the name of our Lord bubbles out of our joy.

Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we offer bread and wine, “these gifts of praise and thanksgiving.” The bread, wine, and monetary offerings are our gifts to God, presented as the fruits of our lives. We are offering all that we have to be transformed by God, through his gift of eternal life through the death and resurrection of God’s son. How do we respond to that sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving? Exactly. Our response to God’s grace, God’s gifts, God’s self is a lifetime’s work, a lifetime’s gift, a lifetime’s joy.

Here’s what happens when we offer ourselves to God:
 We draw water from a well to provide “enough,” presumably, for our household.
o Jesus offers us living water, that we will never be thirsty – spiritually thirsty – again.
 We, through Philip and other disciples, ask for food, a meal. We know that what we are asking is more than we could ever provide.
o God gives us immediate food to stave our hunger. He also eternally provides bread, spiritual food, of eternal life.

We don’t ask for abundance, and yet that is what we already have and what God is waiting to give us. More. God’s grace is abundant. God, through Jesus Christ, doesn’t know how to answer our questions because we don’t know how to ask for more God, more grace, more spiritual food. But that is what we are the hungry for: spiritual water that slakes our thirst, spiritual bread that gives us life, grace that gives us nourishes and satisfies our hope for new life.

If Jesus responded only to the questions that we ask –
Imagine what we wouldn’t know.
Imagine how we might not be fed.
Imagine …

That God will give us more than we can imagine
And that God is waiting to see how we believe.

Jesus sure doesn’t know how to answer a question, and thanks be to God for that.

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