I Am the Bread of Life

Week 1:  I am the Bread of Life – John 6

Series:  “I Am”s & Identity – Discipleship & Attachment in the Gospel of John

Ryan M. & Karen R.
April 12, 2015
Church of the Beloved



Discipleship and Attachment in the Gospel of John

We are going to take a look at the Gospel of John this Easter Season and specifically, compare the theological concept of discipleship with the therapeutic concept of attachment. We have a number of therapists in our community and Jackie and I have asked a number of them to help us with this task, so at the end of each sermon, instead of having a Free Form time, we will be in conversation with a different counselor each week in order to give us a different angle on the topic.

Introduction to Gospel of John:

Each of the 4 Gospels has a unique audience.
The books within the Bible are not written to us
but they are written for us.

– Mark is written for a Greek speaking audience – one that needs explanation of Jewish custom and aramaic terms, but is familiar with Latin terms – possibly a Roman audience.

– Matthew is distinctly Jewish, with more Hebrew Bible references than any other Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as the New Moses, the new law giver.

– Luke is written to “Theopholis” – translated means “the lovers of God,”
meant to be read aloud in the gathering of believers.

Mark, Matthew and Luke, all share the same basic structure and narrative flow.  If you’ve read them you’ll notice that in some places they are identical to each other.  But you’ll probably also notice that John’s Gospel is very different than the Synoptics.  Here’s a couple ways that John is different:

1. There’s no infancy narrative in John.
Instead of “Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem.”  In John we get “in the beginning was the word, the word was the light, the light was the life…”

2. John is a very cosmic Gospel.
Sometimes it feels like an LSD trip.  It’s a very mystical Gospel. You hear it in the way Jesus speaks.  He sounds like a Yogi in the Gospel of John.  Sometimes you have to read a passage five times to even start to understand what he’s talking about.

3. There’s also a different ordering of events in John –
For instance Jesus clears the temple right away, whereas in the synoptics Jesus clears the temple at the end book.

4. Much fewer miracles in John.  
Instead John is concerned with ‘signs’.  Miracles signal another reality.  The miracle itself is not as important as the thing it signifies. In John Jesus doesn’t do miracles, so much as Jesus is the miracle.

5. Lastly, there are no parables in John.  
The synoptics are full of parables, but instead, in this gospel Jesus embodies parables.
Like with the miracles, it’s as if Jesus is the parable in the book of John.

This book is made up of really long conversations, face to face encounters,
not the kind of single wise sayings of Jesus, but lengthy encounters with complex characters.  Remember the stories we told during the season of Lent? The woman at the well, Nicodemus the pharisee, the man born blind… they all come from John.
So we can see that this is a highly relational Gospel.  It’s deeply concerned with relationships.

This is one of the reasons why Marty Stortz, a professor at Pacific Lutheran says that John’s Gospel is a “discipleship Gospel”.

Chapter 21 says that the Disciple whom Jesus Loved – the Beloved, is the witness to this Gospel.  But it’s also the latest Gospel to be written, long after the temple was destroyed, probably around 120 or so, after John had died.  There is a lot of evidence to suggest that it was written by a second generation of Jesus followers, who were part of John’s community.  What John witnessed in Jesus, John passed down to others,
and they wrote it down, and passed that down to new disciples… and so on, till it came to us – this group of Beloved disciples.
    So it’s a discipleship gospel.

QUESTION: What comes to mind when you hear the word disciple?

QUESTION: When have you been poorly mentored?

QUESTION: When have you been mentored well?

QUESTION: What would it mean for you to be discipled by Jesus, now in the 21st century?  (Given the complications of not currently being in human form before you)?

I’m hoping that the Gospel of John is going to give us some clues to this question of how Jesus disciples us.

 Discipleship in John is about identity. – Marty Stortz
Think about how parents worry about who their kids hang out with,
Why? Because who we hang out with shapes our character –
the Gospel of John is largely stories about hanging out with Jesus in lots of situations.
The call of discipleship is in Jesus’ first words: “come and see” in reply to Peter and Andrew, “where are you staying?” This echoes the prologue’s good news that “the word became flesh and dwelled with us.”

Our identity gets shaped by hanging out with Jesus, especially as we come to see who he is.

Jesus offers a series of “I am” statements about himself.
He says, “I am the bread of life” in todays Gospel.
He says, “I am the way, the truth, the life”
I am the resurrection
I am the good shepherd
I am the gate
I am the world’s light
I am the vine…

Each of these tell us something about Jesus… but they are also relational revelations
I am the vine… therefore that means you are the branches.
It also tells us about who we are in relationship to Jesus.

So let’s look, very briefly, at the first I AM:  Jesus says, “I am the bread of life”

He says this in the context of a much bigger story in which he feeds thousands of people, and it says “then the crowd wants to come and take him by force to make him king.”  So what does Jesus do? It seems to me that Jesus is questioning their motives for following him – “Why do you want my disciples? Are you here for the show? the spectacle of miracles? Or are you here for the free food?  the bread? Or are you here for me? Jesus has thousands of followers and what does he do?  He grosses them out.
He says, “if you’re here for the spectacle – I’m it.  If you are here for the bread, I’m it.
I am the bread of life.  Here’s my body.  Here’s my blood.  Eat up you cannibals.”
And what do they say? “This teaching is too hard for us.”  Which is first century speak for, “You are off your rocker Jesus.” And all the thousands of disciples go away.  Only the 12 are left. He goes from 12 disciples to 5,000 and back down to 12 overnight. Worst church planter ever. Don’t you think it’s weird that Jesus thwarts his popularity?
What I think is going on in this story is what Jesus is always doing in every encounter he has.  Jesus is trying to get to the heart of their desire.  “Why do you really want to be my disciple?  What do you want out of it?  What do you want?
And this is the question I think Jesus is asking of us too.  Do you really want to be my disciple?  If so, why?  What do you want? Because when you become my disciple, what you get is me, Jesus. If you are here for the free food or for the miraculous… you’re gonna be disappointed. But if you are here for me… I’m here for you.
This seems to be the initiation into disciple in the way of Jesus.  There’s no bait and switch here.  There’s no rewards program or new users gift bag. Jesus is kind enough to repulse disciples who are in for the perks.
So what’s motivating you to become a disciple of Jesus? What does your heart say to you?  This is really important to wrestle with this question early.  Even, “why are you here at Beloved?  It can’t be for the big glorious programs…  So, are you here for Jesus?  To somehow get close to him.  To somehow become discipled by him?  If so, that’s where we’re headed this season.  But, on the other hand that might sound repulsive to you.  I don’t know.

(Move into attachment talk with Karen)