Something Is Different

A reading for Wednesday, August 20, 2014: John 6:1-15.

The lectionary story for today's devotion is the feeding of the five thousand. It's a pretty familiar story for most Christians, but today there is something different.

Close to the beginning of the story this line appears, "Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near." Why would that be an important to know? This story happens on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, far from Jerusalem, the temple, and most Jewish people. Why would John, the writer of this gospel, want us to know this seemingly trivial fact.

Jesus has gone up to the mountain with the disciples. He continues to heal and to perform signs and wonders that draw the crowd that gathers. Up to this point, most of what we see is pretty familiar. So too is a mention of the passover. This is the tradition of the people of God, reminding them of the God that delivered them from bondage and slavery. Those following Jesus would probably wonder how they could again celebrate what God had done. What about the passover?

Jesus is about to do a new thing... one that is connected to, but not limited to the past.

Nobody would have imagined celebrating the passover in such a way, on a hillside with barley loaves. There was no temple, no priest, and not even a table. In the Old Testament, Elijah multiplied Barley loaves to keep a widow and her son from starving. Elisha had used 20 barley loaves to feed 100. The people on the hillside with Jesus would know these stories and would wonder who this Jesus is? Barley loaves? Jesus is greater than Elijah and Elisha? Jesus is able to feed us in the midst of the passover? Out of the past, a new tradition emerges. A new covenant. The people would conclude that the abundance of God is far more than they thought it would be.

The point of the story is this. Often we operate out of a mentality of scarcity. We think we know what's important. We measure faithfulness out of habits like traditions, buildings, budgets, membership and programs. If we suddenly find that we are in a new place, we are uncomfortable and feel lost. Like a group of Jews that were not able to observe the passover so far from home.

What if Jesus is doing a new thing? Something we don't expect or even understand? What if it's even better than what we have now? What if there are new questions to ask? It's the same God, and like the story, the abundance of God is far more than we thought it would be. God can provide for us, protect us, and use us even here. We belong to Jesus. Jesus will provide a future for us, one that is connected to the past but not limited to the past, even if we don't recognize it at first.

Christianity and the church is a pretty familiar story to most Christians. I wonder if today something is different?

Jesus is about to do a new thing... one that is connected to, but not limited to the past.


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