You Just Don't Get It, Do You? Reflections on John 6:35, 41-51
When studying the Gospel of John, we need to be careful that we don't identify the term "the Jews" with all Jews of Jesus' day and certainly not with Jews today. It refers to a group of those who opposed Jesus, and probably is colored by the conflicts John's community was having with local synagogues near the end of the first century. When we read of characters or groups in Scripture behaving badly, our first impulse is to judge them and certainly not to identify with them in any way.
But let's make ourselves more vulnerable and open ourselves to the correction and purification this text offers us. We can only be nourished if we accept the bread that is offered. What would happen in our inner lives if we allowed ourselves to be addressed by the line Jesus could have said to his detractors: YJDGIDY?
YJDGIDY? Your own prophets foretold that you would be taught by God. Yet here I am sent from God and you scorn me.
Have we disregarded the truths of the religious traditions from which we came?
Have we been too preoccupied or cynical to open our minds and hearts to the promises of God through Jesus?
YJDGIDY? Jesus tells "the Jews," "Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness and they died" (Jn. 6:49). God now offers us the bread that results in eternal life. Rather than open our minds and hearts to God's presence, do we also focus on negative minutiae and harden our hearts?
When someone in a movie says to someone else, YJDGIDY?, it's always either the beginning of an argument or the end of a relationship. Maybe that's why Jesus doesn't say it in chapter 6 of John's Gospel. He is interested in neither.
What he is interested in, with every person and group he encounters in the Gospel of John, is initiating a dialogue that can lead to a faith that is the beginning of a relationship. He doesn't want to start an argument or end a relationship. He just wants us to get it.
(For more detail about the screenwriters conference see my blog "Knack for Noticing" http://www.patheos.com/blogs/knackfornoticing/2012/07/screenwriters-heaven/)
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.