“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. . . . Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (John 6:35, 41 – 42)
The Jews, who ever they were in this story, thought they knew Jesus. Thought they knew his origins, his family, his birthright, his life history. How could he be anything else than who they thought he was? Furthermore, they might have thought, how dare he think more of himself than he is.
“Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ “ (Verses 43 – 45a)
The paradox is, unless a person believes there is no way for them to be taught and believe. One has to believe in “the Father” and believe that God sent Jesus in order to be taught by Jesus and fulfill the prophecy of “the prophets.” But do not ascribe this paradox to a Divine who wishes to remain obscure. The gospel of John is dense & deep, and filled with wherefores and whereas. The message of Jesus Christ and his teachings do not necessarily need to be shrouded in mystery. But the mystery is there, for those who go looking for it.
“Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (Verses 45b – 46)
I am reminded at this in point in my reflections of the other Old Testament passage for this week that I chose not to use. Let me set the scene. Elijah is fleeing from Ahab and Jezebel because he had killed “all the prophets” with a sword; a good companion piece connect to NOT dealing gently with those who oppose you. Elijah has left his traveling companions and . . .
“he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you. He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. ” (I Kings 19:4 – 8)
The similarities I see are these. Food has been offered that will sustain beyond normal expectations. It is given by the Divine – surely it must have been because there was no one else there to provide it. However, the difference is that Elijah does see the Divine, or something very close to Divinity. Was it an angel, a messenger of God? Did this angel perform a miracle itself by making the food appear? Did the angel physically carry it? Doubtful. Was it the Godself? Or might it have been the aspect of God that became the Son who was sent? But then what did Elijah see? The interweavings are confusing. And finally, we know that Elijah was taken up into heaven as opposed to dying to the physical life. Now, read on.
“Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (Verses 47 – 51)
I am not trying to set forth new commentary or break ground on new theology. I am simply saying that the question of who Christ was (and is) and Christ’s place in the believe in a Triune God is deep and complex. We can know Jesus as (simply) the son of God sent by the Divine for our benefit. We can also go deeper and look for connections across the scriptures, and allow ourselves to be drawn into the mystery. This search, however beloved reader, must be tested by and with the Holy Spirit. And again we meet with a paradox, because we must authentically believe first in the Holy Spirit in order to learn more.
May you, beloved reader, be drawn in by the Lord God in order to meet Jesus Christ in order to learn increasingly more. Selah!