Have you ever come across a person, or group of people, who really like to over complicate things? Well men and women of faith have done precisely this over the years. And we still do it. Yet, in the gospel reading we have just heard Jesus simplifies things in the most astonishing manner.
John tells us that the gospel story we have just heard takes place the day after the Feeding of the Five Thousand. If the gospel reading had started a few verses earlier we would have heard that a large number of those who had been present at the previous day’s miracles ‘got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.’ They go looking for Jesus because they want some answers to their most pressing question. Having just seen Jesus at work they want to know what they too must ‘do to perform the works of God.’ Jesus gives them a straightforward answer: ‘that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ Jesus’ answer is both straightforward and liberating. His simple, uncomplicated, response is simply this: ‘that you believe in Him, whom he (God) has sent.’
Let’s pause and reflect on this for a moment: those who have followed Jesus to pop their question have been carrying with them the assumption that God is above all interested in performance, and that they somehow need to start pulling off all manner of tricks in order to impress God. Jesus effectively says to them ‘no you are wrong, the only thing you need is faith, or belief.’ But, he also goes one step further by declaring that He is the one in whom they must believe; its a declaration that he is indeed the Messiah, the ‘bread of life.’
Now having witnessed the previous miracle’s you might think that the crowd who have been following Jesus would take him at his word, but no, they ask for further proof – more miracles. Jesus then refuses to provide them any further proof. The reason for this is obvious: if we keep seeking further proof, as a basis for faith, then we will never get to the point of straightforward belief because we will have relegated God to the status of a magician. This is the mistake that the likes of Richard Dawkins and the evangelical atheists make. Faith is much more basic and straightforward than they dare to allow.
Jesus asks us to believe that he is the ‘bread of life,’ and that by trusting in him, praying through him, reading about him, and being fed by him in the Eucharist our deepest cravings and desires will be met. When all is said and done that is our faith in its simplest form; and thank God it really is that straightforward, because I for one haven’t got the intellectual capacity to test whether other so-called proofs really do point the way towards God.
So what might the consequences of a such a straightforward belief be, where this belief is underpinned by a commitment through prayer, reading the bible and sharing together in the Eucharist be? I think St. Paul nails this for us when he says that the fruit of an active faith will be ‘maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.’
When we approach this level of maturity something truly amazing happens: we stop worrying about ourselves, our status and our needs and, instead, become concerned with how we may serve others through the use of our God given gifts. When we reach this level of maturity the miracle is that we find real freedom and liberty; our lives, to pick up again on that one word from the gospel, cease to be a performance.
The genius of our faith is this: all we have to do is truly believe and allow ourselves together, in community, to be fed by him who is truly the ‘bread of life.’ It is the only true way to freedom, liberty and maturity. The alternative is mere performance.
Let us pray:
Loving and gracious Lord, help us to simply believe; feed and sustain us through word and sacrament that we, your people, may grow in to full measure of Christ, in Jesus name we pray, Amen.