Monday, July 30, 2018

Pentecost 10B

John 6:1-21

1After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.

5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" 10Jesus said, "Make the people sit down."

Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."

15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

16When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." 21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

The church's year of grace has reached the tenth Sunday after the feast of Pentecost! None of scripture suddenly popped onto the scroll or page in fully finished form as plenary inspiration erroneously imagines; all of it was the result of a long transmission and development process that included a dynamic tradition of oral, spoken, stories and commentaries that changed a little with each narrator and each community. We're still in Revised Common Lectionary Year B, Mark's gospel year. Because Mark is the shortest, most concise gospel, this year we hear more readings from John's gospel than we do in Matthew's or Luke's year. The gospel we received from the community gathered around the beloved disciple John is the outlier, rogue gospel and almost didn't make the canonical cut. John's account of Jesus draws upon two main written documents: the signs source and the I am source. Today's reading includes both a sign (John's word more or less for miracle, for an action that points to a reality beyond itself, as a street sign or product label does) and one of Jesus seven "I am" declarations that refers back to God's revelation of Godself to Moses as "I am" and thus reveals Jesus as God incarnate.

Today's story of five loaves of bread and two fish is amazing on many counts—among them the fact all four gospels include it:

Matthew 14:13-21 – Mark 6:32-44 – Luke 9:10-17

In John's loaves-fishes account, Jesus himself rather than the disciples feed the people. Jesus gets bread and fish from a little boy. John's Maundy Thursday upper room account doesn't include the founding meal of the Lord's Supper (Holy Communion, Eucharist), but in its stead features the servant task of washing feet that likely happened at the hand-washing point of the Passover liturgy, just as we observe it here on Maundy Thursday. Because of this, some commentators have suggested loaves and fishes may be John's "founding meal." I mentioned barley was one of the seven agricultural gifts of the Promised Land; Robin's study bible said barley was the grain of poor people. Jesus' followers were fishers by profession; in the surrounding culture, fish was a food of the gods. Also, we have the initialism ichthys where the letters of the Greek word for fish are the first letters of Jesus Christ Son of God Savior.