Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs – and for free.” - John 6:26
This is one of the more interesting things Jesus says after performing a miracle. In John’s gospel, Jesus says this when the crowds follow him after he has fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish from a small boy. He has satisfied their hunger, and so they follow him.
Yet, in this version you can sense some snarkiness from Jesus. “You’re not here because you believe God did this for you; you’re here because you were hungry and I gave you some free food.” Hmmmmmm…..and? Isn’t that a start? And sometimes, isn’t that enough?
In the full understanding that John writes this story as a means to bring people to follow Jesus as Messiah, would Jesus really get annoyed with the poor and hungry for seeking him out because he fed them even if they didn’t believe he was the Messiah? Isn’t God’s grace free? Can’t we all receive it whether we believe or not?
Or, are there sacred conditions?
I’m not going to answer that question for you; it's one we all need to muddle through and come up with our own answer. As you consider your answer, consider being the one on the receiving end. When you are among the “poor and hungry” do you seek help? Whom do you seek when you need that kind of help? Do they offer you their help freely or with conditions, and is the answer to that part of why you seek those particular people out in the first place?
On the flip-side, when the “poor and hungry” seek you out for help, do you offer yourself freely or with conditions, as well? Does your grace and mercy come with a cost, or do you simply give it away for free?
If we believe that God’s grace is freely given so that we might freely receive, what does that truly mean, and what does that call upon each of us to be in turn?
The answer to that might truly change the world.
God Of Grace, may we receive what you so freely give and give of ourselves to our neighbors in like turn so we might be co-creators with you in building your realm.