John 6:16-34, 60-71
Some people want spectacle in their miracle.
Some people don’t want miracles at all.
And some people are content for the miraculous within the mundane.
Jesus walks to a new town. But on this occasion he walks on water while a storm is brewing. Sneaking up on his disciples in a boat, they become frightened. He tells them: “It is I; don’t be afraid.” They take him in, and they immediately reach their destination.
The crowd that Jesus fed the day before search for him. They find him across the lake and ask him when he arrived. Jesus doesn’t answer that question. He is not interested in touting his own horn regarding miraculous workings. Instead, he addresses where their priorities are, slowly guiding them towards faith in Him.
After explaining that he is the bread of life, those following find it difficult to comprehend what Jesus is asking of them. He draws a distinction between flesh and Spirit which sifts out those who don’t really want to follow.
Jesus then turns his attention to the twelve, asking a poignant question, “Do you want to leave too?”
And sweet, sincere Simon Peter answers, “To whom would we go, Lord?” Peter confesses that Jesus’ words lead to eternal life. Peter states that they know Jesus is the Holy One, sent of God.
If I was listening to all this, depending on my mood in the moment, if Jesus asked me “do you want to leave to?” I wonder what I would say. Too often it feels as if I would be tempted to answer him yes. Perhaps it’s my perception of God’s distance, perhaps I would answer differently if he were standing in front of me.
This past year I was planning to leave the church I attend. If somebody asked me, “do you want to leave?;” for a stretch of about 6 months, I would have unabashedly and perhaps with insensitivity said: “yes.” I could have given them a date. But nobody really asked and there were a few people I just told in order to get another perspective.
I think, during that time, I slowly and painfully realized that my expectations and miracles themselves are not dictated by what I want. Scripture says miracles follow those who believe. Another way of saying it is: miracles accompany those who live for God. Miracles happen when I walk out the mundane day to day and obey.
I am not capable of forcing a miracle in the same way that I cannot force faith. If there happens to be water in the direction Jesus calls us, Jesus will help us navigate. Jesus made the way and asks us to keep taking steps in faith, even if our next thousand or million steps don’t move a single mountain.
I’ll be honest. My flesh hates that it works that way. My flesh hates that it can’t snap its fingers to fix things. My flesh hates that it feels like drudgery to reconcile the people close to me. My whole being hates when churches act as marketing machines rather than rejoicing over the Gospel. Jesus was not interested in selling bread; He was interested in being bread.
Yes, Jesus is the bread, and the imperfect Church is still his body. The imperfect church I attend is still part of His bride. Cultivating the sense, that people in a medium-sized church would actually like to spend time with each other or would want to pray for/with one another when they are hurting has too often made me feel like I’d be better off withdrawing.
In spite of this, Jesus is teaching me something about walking and something about the mundane. The only thing that matters is that mine and your next step is in Christ:
Some of those steps you’ll be looking down, sullen because this wasn’t the story you wanted to tell about yourself and I’m sorry for that, I’ve been there too. I’ll mourn with and pray for you.
Some of those steps you’ll be looking ahead, focused because you’re determined to see something through and I’m cheering you on, I’ve been there, though less often than I’d like to but I’ll pray for you still.
Some of those steps you’ll be looking up, wondering, because you are not sure how God is going to come through, knowing you are only going to make it, if God does move on your behalf. Regardless of how that feels, it is the best place you can be. I’ll pray God moves on your behalf.
Some of those steps are on water, leading you to surprise the ones you love, arriving at the eventual response of a welcome embrace as you continue on the journey together. That’s where the Church treads, which is why he gives us one another so we won’t journey alone. I’ll rejoice with you in our glorious future.
Will we take those steps? After all, Lord, where else can we go?