The Bread of Life
5 August 2018 – Lectionary 18, Proper 13
The crowd was hungry, and they received the gift of bread. Jesus points out to the crowd that their interest in him is misguided: it is not the gift of bread that should motivate them, but the sign of giving. The act of giving the bread is a sign of a greater reality, the reality of God’s everlasting love and care for God’s people. The bread satisfied the immediate needs of the crowd; the fact that bread was given in the first place should inspire the awareness of One who acts on behalf of the crowd; and the appropriate response of the crowd would be praise and thanksgiving to the One who always provides. Jesus warns the crowds: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life” (v 27). The Gospel writer continues to develop the relationship among gift, Giver, and act of giving, and in doing so, Jesus is lifted up as the culmination of this relationship: as the Bread of Life, Jesus is both the gift and the Giver, and he embodies the act of giving. –– Steven H. Fazenbaker
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Unlike the Great Multiplication, in which Jesus recognizes the needs of the crowds and acts to satisfy the need, God provides bread from heaven in the Exodus story in response to the complaining of the Israelites. . . Six weeks out of Egypt, and the memory of the Israelites is already beginning to fade. Not only have they forgotten the miserable conditions from which they have come, they have also forgotten the acts of God that rescued them from their miserable conditions. God hears their complaints and responds. . .
The author is very clear that the gift of bread is meant to be a sign of God’s provision. The author is also very clear that the Israelites fail to grasp the meaning of the sign, and almost fail to recognize the gift itself. . .
When we are not able to remember God’s gracious acts in the past, nor recognize God’s gracious acts in the present, it is difficult to hold any hope for the future. . . Yet God continues to act on behalf of God’s people. . . –– Steven H. Fazenbaker
The author of this letter is begging the church in Ephesus (and, most likely, several other churches in Asia Minor) to think of themselves not as separate and individual congregations, but rather. . . as “one body” (v 4). This is not a command to exchange individuality for conformity, however. Rather, a variety of gifts has been given to the churches. Each church’s responsibility, therefore, is to develop its own gifts and help other churches discern and develop the gifts unique to their communities. It is important to remember, however, that each of the various gifts was given for a common purpose: “for building up the body of Christ. . .” (v 13). –– Steven H. Fazenbaker
Steven H. Fazenbaker is director of the Wesley Foundation at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Homily Service 42, no. 3 (2009): 100-110.