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(Read this series from its beginning here.)
Can we reclaim this passage in our lectionary reading for this week?
I think the synoptic gospels can help us.
The synoptic gospels don’t emphasize Jesus as a person (as John does) but emphasize Jesus’ teachings, specifically his teachings on nonviolent resistance, mutual aid, resource-sharing, wealth redistribution, debt forgiveness, and more. Jesus’ teaching in these gospels has very concrete political and economic implications for communities. No wonder many of those with much political and economic power, then and now, have chosen to interpret Jesus as providing a path to heaven rather than an affront to unjust social structures in the here and now.
But ponder for a moment how our understanding changes if we interpret these teachings as “the bread of life.” Coupling John’s Jesus who is the bread of life with the synoptics’ definition of Jesus in terms of his teachings would lead us to state:
Nonviolent resistance is the bread of life.
Mutual aid is the bread of life.
Resource sharing is the bread of life.
Wealth redistribution is the bread of life.
Debt forgiveness is the bread of life.
And in a time of massive wealth inequality, when the richest are competing on getting to the edge of earth and space while most of the world still does not have even their daily needs of food, shelter, and care met, we wonder if these statements could be true.
Consider the political and economic forces obstructing the changes we need to make right now to effectively address climate change alone. What does it mean to have the bread of life today?
If eating this kind of “bread” would lead to life and refusing these things would lead to death, that would make much more sense to me if we defined the bread of life as the ethical, social and political teachings of the Jesus story.
It is much larger than this, too.