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The crowd said to Jesus, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’
What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?
Following Jesus’ resurrection there was much fear and uncertainty. Many questioned all that they had witnessed during Jesus’ earthly ministry. That uncertainty began long before the events of Holy Week and Easter. We see it in today’s reading. As I mentioned yesterday, these events are immediately preceded by the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the storm tossed waters of the Sea of Galilee. We may well think that these two events provide evidence enough that great and miraculous things were occurring, but not so. Yesterday Jesus told us of the call to believe in him whom God had sent. Today, the crowds go on pressing for signs that might convince them. Furthermore, they ask: What work are you performing?
It would not seem unfair for Jesus to throw up his arms in despair at this point. The crowds are asking for signs, and they are asking what work he is performing! From the moment of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan there have been so many signs, so much healing and teaching. What is it that the crowds want to see? What is it that we want to see? What stands in the way of our human capacity to have faith in God? However, Jesus does not fall into the depths of despair, rather he tries another way of developing the understanding of those crowds, and us.
The crowds speak of the ancient history of the Jewish nation. The crowds speak of the time when those journeying through the wilderness received the miraculous manna from heaven. Jesus responds by saying that they are being fed anew, with a new and living bread, a bread that will sustain them for ever more. The crowds are being offered the bread of life which is Jesus himself.
Many human beings have developed an inbuilt scepticism that prevents them from ‘letting go’ of their own mistaken certainties. Instead, they prefer to hold on to myths, legends and superstitions. Even when they are confronted with the blindingly obvious they express feelings of doubt and uncertainty. They go on demanding a level of proof that takes away the need for faith. However, such proof cannot be forthcoming because it is our faith in God that will ultimately bring us into the certainty of the eternal life won for us through the earthly life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let us pray that we may find the courage to set aside the frailty of our human logic, and that we might live our lives as those who truly believe in the glorious resurrection of Jesus, our Lord and our Saviour.