The Holy Gospel: August 5, 2012 (Year B)

Read:  John 6:24-35

Meditation:  “The Gift or the Giver?”

The lectionary is asking us to deal with a crucial aspect of the Gospel:  the temptation to create the faith on our terms.  Last week, we saw that the crowd wanted to make Jesus their king—king on their terms.  We might call it the manner of our faith—the “who’s really in charge” question.

Today, we are challenged to ponder the motive of it.  Jesus came right out and said the crowd (some of the same folks who were among the 5,000) was only following him for what he could give them—not for who he was.

He shifted the issue from a loaf of bread to the Bread of Life:  “I am the living bread.”

The shift reframes our faith.  Why are we following Jesus?  The motive issue.  Is it for what we get out of it, or is it simply for Who Jesus Is?

We are drowning in a sea of proclamation based upon the “blessings and benefits” which come to us as we follow Christ.  But even though there are surely many of them, this approach leaves unanswered the question, “But what if those blessings and benefits were suddenly to stop coming—to dry up?”

The fact is, this happens.  Read history and you’ll see that saints are not always successful.  They do not always “win.”  They do not always get well or have bulging bank accounts. The prosperity gospel (which is really no gospel) fails to develop us along the lines of raw devotion to Jesus because of Who He Is.  It fails to include desolation along with consolation.  It doesn’t tell us how to believe in the midst of deprivation and suffering.

Until we grow into a relationship with Christ that is “I-Thou” not “I-It,” we still have some growing to do.  We must never stop asking ourselves, “Why am I following Jesus?”  Things come and go on our journey.  Jesus is the only “constant”—whether it be through sun-drenched fields of flowers, or the valley of the shadow of death.


About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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