The way I see it, at the centre of this reading we have Jesus, checking out a group of potential new disciples. Following the feeding of the 5000, they’ve followed Him across the lake and now He wants to know which of them are simply after another free lunch, who are the thrill seekers just looking for another miracle, and which ones really understand what He’s about and genuinely want to be part of the action. The good, faithful Jewish followers clearly link the loaves and fishes to the manna of the Exodus story, but Jesus wants them to understand that it’s not physical food that’s important. For me the key verse is 33… “the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jesus is referring to Himself here. He is the one who has come down from heaven. He is the one who has taught them, from the scriptures, the Father’s will – that they should have life – and He is the one who very shortly will be heading for Jerusalem one last time, to pay the price for them – and us – to have and enjoy that life, full to overflowing.
How should we respond to this? Verse 29… “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” If we believe in Him, we want to be His disciples (followers) and as such to emulate Him in everything He says, does and prays. St Richard of Chichester gives us the best prayer to offer daily, “Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
Revd. Geoff Eales