Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. For many years, I dreaded these five weeks at the end of the year of Mark. Six weeks of bread? Good grief! I listened to Pastor Jean’s sermon last week. As he spoke about the people wanting Jesus to give them more bread, and when I read this week’s gospel, I realized that these readings are not about bread. Well, not just about bread.
Jesus is speaking to the crowds around the time of Passover when the people, through ritual, remembered God saving them from slavery in Egypt. Of course there is more to the Exodus story than the Passover meal. When the people found themselves in the wilderness without any food, they complained that they should have stayed in Egypt where there was plenty of food. When God hears this, he provides the people with manna - a kind of bread that fell from heaven. But there was more to God's action than merely daily bread. God used the manna to teach the people to trust that God would provide for them.
The people were only supposed to gather enough manna for one day, but because of greed or fear that God might not feed them the next day, the people gathered more than they needed. But the extra rotted over night. This is how the people learned to rely on God to provide for them every day what they needed. And God did provide for them for 40 years. They learned to trust God's love for them as they wandered in the desert.
In today’s reading, the crowds think they know everything they need to know about Jesus. They don’t trust that he is sent from God. They only follow him to see if he will do the bread trick again. That’s when Jesus talks about who he really is and where he comes from. The people start grumbling, just as the Israelites did. Thinking they knew who Jesus was: just the son of Mary and Joseph, the carpenter’s kid.
But Jesus reminds them that the people who were fed manna died. The bread he was offering them was the Bread of eternal life. And once again, the people need to learn to trust what God has promised. God sent Jesus, the expected Messiah, not as a warrior or a great king they were expecting, but as a man who came to teach them about God's love through his preaching and teaching, and finally, through his death and resurrection.
So, what are we to do with this gospel? Can we, too, learn from Jesus to trust God? Can we step out in faith and share God's love with our neighbors? Can we trust that God will give us the words to say and the trust to risk being rejected as Jesus was? We are called to be God's hands and feet in the world, loving our neighbors and sharing God's love. This is needed now more than ever. As we continue to suffer through this pandemic, fires, floods, hurricanes, and war, people need to hear God's words of love and experience that love, through how we care for all our neighbors.