Summary: When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into these boats and went to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they had found him on the other side of the sea, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus replied t
A wise person once told me that what you see in life depends on what you are looking at, and that what you hear depends on who you listen to, just as the answers you get depend largely on the questions you ask.
Now I do apologize for beginning my sermon with such a ponderous set of philosophical axioms, but in truth I actually want to use those questions to introduce the even more obscure German philosophical concept of ’fragestellung’, which I think translates roughly as ’the putting of the question’. According to some of the great German thinkers, it’s the ’fragestellung’ - ie. the way you pose the question and the position of the questioner - that is all important in determining the answer you get.
And while I’m not in the habit of calling upon the fathers of continental existentialism at this time on a Sunday morning, I did think we might need some help in understanding why Jesus responded with such aggression and even sarcasm to a group of people who asked Him a very simple question - namely, "When did you get here?"
It was the first of a series of questions that a throng of people posed to Jesus, as recorded in this Gospel reading from John chapter 6.
Jesus, it appears, was trying to put some distance between Himself and the crowd that was pursuing Him, and so as darkness fell after the great feeding miracle, He withdrew quietly into the hills and, while the crowd slept, He crossed the lake.
The crowd though, it seems, outsmart Him and track Him down. They find Him and ask, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus responds with sarcasm, "You guys are only here for another feed!"
Admittedly, that’s my translation of John 6:26. Your Bible probably reads: "Truly, truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were completely satisfied." but I think it amounts to much the same thing.
"You’re here because you ate your fill!", says Jesus - the implication being that they are looking for another free lunch, or, possibly, the other way of interpreting this being that they’d come back not so much for food as such but rather to see another fantastic miracle of a similar standard. Either way, it seems that Jesus treats their return with some degree of contempt!
This is not the Jesus we are used to, is it? The Jesus we are more familiar with is the Jesus who speaks of the Kingdom of God as being like one great big party to which everybody is invited - the rich, the poor, the slave, the free, blacks, whites, Jews, Greeks, males, females, gays, straights, the good, the bad and the ugly! But not here! ’What are you doing here’, Jesus says. ’It seems that you’re just here for the show!’
Admittedly, of course, Jesus did have the best show in town. If you were a rural peasant living out in the backwoods of Galilee, you wouldn’t get many opportunities to see something like that! Jesus was the best show in town!
That’s part of our problem for us, of course. We, the church, are no longer the best show in town - not for 21st Century Sydney-siders at any rate. There was a time when the Sunday service at the local village church, with all its pageantry and colour, was the best show in town, but nowadays we cannot compete, and that despite our excellent musical team (and first-class preachers )..
Our Pentecostal sisters and brothers tend to do a little better than us in this regard of course - putting on a slightly more dynamic show. Even so, it is hard in this day and age to compete with the level of entertainment that can be streamed directly into your living-room, let alone with the standards of performance available at the theatre, and maybe that’s a good thing, as it seems that Jesus really wasn’t interested in functioning as an entertainer.
’You guys are only here for another feed’. It’s a harsh response to what seems to be a rather innocent question, but it’s the position of the questioner that is important here - the fragestellung. The answers they get from Jesus will depend on the questions they ask, and the problem is that they are asking the wrong questions because they are there for all the wrong reasons.
Now, as I say, I think we have to assume some level of sarcasm on the part of Jesus, as I’m sure that not all those people were all there only for the sake of getting another free feed. Indeed, I imagine that most of them were there principally because their friends were there.