John 6: 35-40
Today’s gospel could be viewed as speaking both of exclusivity and inclusivity. It begins with one of the seven “I am” statements from the gospel of John, which echo God’s self-revelation in Exodus 3: 14 as ‘I am’. Jesus is speaking to a crowd and reminding them how God feed the people in the desert and that the bread that God gives from heaven gives life to the world. He explains that he is this bread. Unlike the supermarket loaf of white sliced sandwich bread that has a ‘best before’ of sometime next week, the unleavened bread of Palestine is made fresh each day and eaten on that day. It might even be made for each meal, with bakeries busy in the late afternoon making bread for the evening. It is the daily bread, fresh and new at each encounter, many times in a day.
Interestingly Jesus doesn’t say he is the bread ‘for’ life but the bread ‘of’ life. Either phrase works, but the ‘of’ indicates an exclusivity. Playing with the bread metaphor, ‘the sandwich for lunch’ is very different from ‘the sandwich of lunch’. One indicates a range of possibilities, the other indicates an exclusive relationship. It is the only thing possible. Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is needed for life with God, fresh, new and sustaining at each encounter.
And who gets to have Jesus as this bread of life? Anyone who comes to him, anyone who seeks a relationship with him will never be driven away. It is God’s will. There are no conditions on this. It is inclusive of all. It is not when you conform to some earthly standard or rule, when you present in a particular way or fit into a rubric. All you have to do is come to Jesus to be raised up on the last day.
Alison Gore is a parishioner at St Paul of the Cross, Glen Osmond. She works in education and formation.