John #4 | Parasite

January 26, 2020

John 6:22-35

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and wentto Capernaum looking for Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him,“Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set hisseal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he hassent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” 32 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. 33 For the bread ofGod is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give usthis bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in mewill never be thirsty.”

Recap

As we’ve been exploring the Gospel of John together for the past three weeks, more and more we realize how important Chapter 1 was.

One of the first conversations Jesus has was this:

Jesus: What are you looking for?
Andrew & Peter: Where are you abiding?
 Jesus: Come and see.

The invitation of “Come and see” echoes throughout various stories in John, and what “come and see” points toward is the very first verse of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Origin, Relationship, Identity. This is what the invitation of “Come and see” points us toward to. When we accept the invitation and come out of our “darkness” to come and see for ourselves, what we witness is the first verse of John that is deeply intertwined with these three things: origin, relationship, and identity.

These three things work like the Trinity. They work harmoniously while one is not greater than the other. It is neither an autocracy of one nor a bipartisanship of two, but rather a community of three. And this community is what we call the kingdom of God: the abiding place for God and Jesus and those who believe; the heavenly place of abidance. And this is the answer to the disciple’s questions, “Where are you abiding?”

Once we accept this invitation and witness this first verse of John, then what happens is this deep, intimate abidance. The word “abide” comes the Greek word μένω, “menó” which means “to stay, abide, remain.” So, the word “abide” in John has a meaning more than just being obedient or following, but closer to living together, or co-existing. In other words, abiding means being part of this community together, sharing life.

John 6:24-35

Today’s scripture comes from John 6:24-35. This story comes right after one of Jesus’ most famous miracles, the feeding of the 5,000. In today's story, the question “what are you looking for” echoes. Yes, the crowd is looking for Jesus, but for what reasons? The reason for their desire to find Jesus is similar to Nicodemus’s reason that we talked about last Sunday. His interests were solely on the signs, Jesus’ miracles.

Jesus kindly, or maybe sarcastically, corrects the crowd: “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”

And then for this Jewish crowd, Jesus makes the connection between what he has just done by feeding the 5,000 and the manna in the wilderness. If you remember from the Old Testament, when the Jewish people were escaping from Egypt, God provided food by raining down manna on them. Jesus reminds them that it is God who gives people the true bread from heaven which gives true life to the world.

And just how the Samaritan woman at the well responded, the crowd responds to Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Then, Jesus proclaims,

"I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

The Bread from Heaven

Now, this bread can be understood as two different things. First, it is the bread that Jesus gives. The bread, along with the living water he offered to the Samaritan woman, represent and symbolize abundant life. The grace upon grace as is it described in Chapter 1 — the grace that overflows, the abundance of grace that never runs out. The bread and water give life, quite literally in that it is food and drink to sustain life.¹ And what Jesus is proclaiming and allowing people to see is that this food and drink he gives does not run out. There was an abundance of wine left over after the wedding at Cana. There was an abundance of bread and fish left over after feeding the 5,000. What thus Jesus promises and gives is this abundant life; the life of grace upon grace.

Second, Jesus himself is the bread from heaven. He makes it clear in the later verses 51-52.

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the word is my flesh."

Jesus is whom God sent to us so that we may have the life of abundance. Jesus’ body and blood sustain us. Jesus’ body is the living bread, his blood the living water. And we are invited to consume Jesus’ body and blood.

While for churched people, this may remind us of the instruction at the Last Supper; where bread and wine are consecrated and consumed in remembrance of Jesus's life, ministry, and death.

But, for those who are unfamiliar with this sacrament, this is simply cannibalistic. The early church after Jesus’ death was often mistaken as a cannibalistic cult, for the rumor in town was that these so-called Christians regularly gathered at their homes to eat the body and blood of a man named Jesus of Nazareth.

I also remember the various stories of colonialism, when these Christian Westerners were trying to change the custom of indigenous people for their lives were deemed too barbaric, the indigenous people questioned the Westerners saying, “How do you call us barbaric when you are the ones who eat the body and blood of the one whom you worship?”

Parasite

I was thinking about why Jesus would use such a cannibalistic metaphor of people eating his body and blood. I know he is equating himself to bread that is the most basic yet essential sustenance to life. That just as we have this physical life by consuming bread, we would have this eternal life when we "consume" Jesus.

While reflecting on this thought, I came to think about the word "parasite." Now, there is some association between cannibalism and parasites. But I am also very fascinated by this Korean movie called Parasite, which earned six nominations for the upcoming Oscar’s. The movie Parasite is about this poor family infiltrating into the rich family’s house.

While doing some research, I learned that the word “parasite” comes from the Greek word παράσιτος “parásitos” which means “a person who eats at the table of another.” Knowing this definition, we know see how parasitic the people are in the Gospel of John, continually asking Jesus, “Sir, give me this water” or “Sir, give us this bread always.” What people are trying to do is to eat at Jesus’ table or to infiltrate into God's house.

It is this parasitic behavior that made the crowd to search for Jesus. They were looking for the food on the table. And Jesus tries to redirect their focus from the food on the table to the One who prepares the table.

“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.”

And what Jesus ends up doing is inviting people to eat at his table, over the bread and wine that represent his body and blood. Jesus is inviting all of us to eat at the table which we do not fully deserve, because that is the manifestation of God’s love for us.

This invitation to the table is the invitation of “come and see.” Come and see for yourself where this bread and wine comes from. Come and see for yourself what consuming this bread and wine means for us. What this “come and see” results in is not only our personal faith in Jesus, but us outgrowing our parasitic behavior and becoming the cohabitants of the kingdom of God, fully abiding in the dwelling place of God, and loving and serving and taking care of one another as ourselves. This is what abiding means: being part of this community together, sharing life as Jesus says later in verses 55-56.

"...for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, andI in them."

This week, I stumbled upon one of my old friend’s Facebook post. He wrote,

“When I was younger, the elders told me, “Come and see about a man who they call Jesus.” Haven’t regretted that decision yet. Selah.”

My prayer is that as we continue to celebrate this table together as a church, we become a community that abides in God and God in us, and a community that never regrets of accepting the invitation of “come and see,” and a community that continues to share this invitation with others, committing ourselves to this peculiar characteristic of the kingdom, that is we share life together at the table prepared by God. Let us pray.

¹Karoline M. Lewis, John (Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentaries), pp. 94-5.