John 6:24-35 | 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
He is Waiting for Us
The Bread of Life Discourse in John begins with the people looking for Jesus. Some of them had just been fed in the miraculous Feeding of the 5,000, and now they want more of Jesus. They actively seek Him out. Coming to Jesus isn’t a one-time proposition. As humans, we come to Him, are fed, and then must return again and again. He is always there and available to us; but it is our responsibility to seek Him. God’s gift of free will means it is up to us to take that responsibility.
As humans, we want the miracle—a healing, a feeding, a dramatic miracle. We want the one-time event to happen again and again, at our command. We want magic: “Sir, give us this bread always” (v. 34). But Jesus isn’t magic. Jesus doesn’t want us to have just a one-time thing—He wants us to have eternal life. So He gives us Himself: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (v. 35). It’s not magic that brings eternal life but belief. Belief in Jesus. And belief isn’t a one-time thing; it has to be fed continuously.
Jesus tells the crowds, “You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (v. 26). The people might think the miracle bread is what drew them to Jesus, but they were searching Him out again because what satisfied them was the Bread of Life, not physical food. Once we truly find Jesus—not the magic when He does what we want Him to do, but the real Jesus, who feeds a need we didn’t know we had—we are compelled to return to him over and over. We have been filled by something we didn’t know we hungered for.
We often call something a miracle if we have prayed for a specific result and that result occurs. I’ve certainly prayed for a number of miracles. Sometimes my desired result happens and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s the miracle we usually want Jesus to produce. If we had followed Jesus in the first century AD, we too would have wanted Him to defeat Rome. If it had gotten to the cross, we too would have wanted Him to jump down and show His power and authority. But those demonstrations of power wouldn’t have done anything to bring about God’s kingdom on earth.
We can’t know when Jesus will give us the miracle we want because we can’t know the Big Picture. We simply don’t see all the moving parts. It can be very hard to explain to a non-believer why you believe even after something bad has happened. It’s easy to believe in God when things are good or when He has just answered a specific prayer the way we wanted it answered. But true belief is evident when those things haven’t happened, but we still trust that He is good and right and knows best. And that trust can only happen when we have gone to Him continuously and have seen His good playing out in our lives. Jesus wants us to get in the boat and go find Him. He is waiting for us.