RCL Year B, Proper 13 (Alternate Readings)
Exodus 16:2-4 and 9-15, Psalm 78:23-29, Ephesians 4:1-16, Saint John 6:24-35

The pastoral point of the homily last Sunday was to encourage you to open the eyes of your faith to perceive Jesus as often as you can. It turns out that this point precisely describes the shortcoming of the people in the Gospel today, itself the continuation of the Gospel last Sunday.

You recall from last Sunday that the people, having been fed with the five thousand, fail to see God and eternity when they look at Jesus. They see in him another prophet doing what another prophet, namely Elisha, did—feeding a large number of people with a few barley loaves. Their spiritual short-sightedness continues in the Gospel today. Jesus tells them they look for him, because they ate their fill of the loaves not because they saw signs. They live entirely in the physical and transitory world; they seemingly know nothing of the world Jesus comes from and speaks about, the world of the spirit and of eternity.

Jesus is that world, and he declares to them to look for it, to desire it, rather than the belly-filling loaves: “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”[1]

If those people were to say that the feeding of the five thousand, like the manna in the wilderness, points to the Eucharist, and if that were the full extent of their perception, they would still be short-sighted; they would still be missing a lot.

Jesus is trying to get them to open their eyes to more than the Sacramental Meal that he will institute and leave behind as his memorial. He is trying to lead them to glimpse and to conceive “all that is, seen and unseen,” or, as we used to say, “all things visible and invisible.”[2]

Jesus is trying to get them to perceive eternity as well as their next feed bag, heaven as well as earth, and the whole thing as well as some of its parts. He is putting it to them that God is infinite and that their perception is large enough to grasp that infinitude. Salvation is more than being on time or on pitch; it is more than leaving the devil behind. It involves seeing oneself as part of the whole thing, itself a part of God.

Jesus wants those people to get it, just as he wants Nicodemus to stretch a bit and understand that an old man can indeed be born again. He wants us to get it, too. It’s all there for us to touch and to see that God is in all and All.

[1] Saint John 6:33.

[2] BCP, pages 358 and 327.