So the Bachelor ended this week. I’ll forgive you if you were distracted by other things and missed the finale, you’ll be shocked to know, I’m sure, that he did not find love. But maybe, but probably not. But an interesting thing happened this year, if you remember back in January I mentioned the beginning of the season and the idea that drives the show about “being there for the right reasons,” which means focusing on finding love, not getting followers on Instagram or finding opportunities to keep being on TV or any of that. And one of the ways that manifests itself is you often hear the lead of the show talking about how “this isn’t a game, this isn’t a show, this is real life. This is about finding my wife/husband.” Well this year, one of the girls questioned part of the format of the show, one of the things that happens at a set time every year, I know most of y’all don’t care about this trash tv I watch so I won’t bore you with details, but the response, both from the show and from fans, was “she went on this show, she should have known better.” And she was making an argument from a place of “if we’re going to get engaged then I need x.y, and z to happen for me to be ready for that.” She was treating it like real life and people were acting like she was crazy. All of a sudden, it seems to me, the show was confronted by someone who was there for the right reasons and they had no idea how to handle it.
Our text this morning deals with issues of “right reasons” as well, because one of the things we see happens when people meet Jesus is that their priorities, their reasons, are revealed. Our text the last scene of a larger story this morning, one that begins right after we left off last week. The crowd that Jesus fed miraculously doesn’t, for the most part, leave. They’ve seen something impressive and they want to see more. The next day they wake up and Jesus is gone (that’s actually the time where he walks on water), so they all cross the Sea of Galilee trying to find him. And eventually they do and they stick with him because the show is good and food is free. I have gone to a lot of events in my life for the promise of good show and free meal. And sometimes a t-shirt. But the crowd is big and they’re following Jesus and eventually he calls them out, he says “hey, I know y’all are just here for the food. Don’t worry about food that is perishable, don’t spend your time and your energy on that, you should be worried about food that will last, food that will lead to eternal life.” They ask how to get that food, Jesus says they need to believe in the one God has sent, they tell him to show them a sign so they know he’s the one God has sent. Food and a show, that’s what they’re here for. And they go back and forth, this is where Jesus say “I am the bread of life,” and if you read through it you can tell Jesus is getting fed up, that he knows this crowd isn’t here for the right reasons, and finally he says “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you.”
Now we come from a tradition that understands communion as eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ and theoretically we’ve wrapped our heads around that so the statement doesn’t completely shock us like it could, but the crowd is taken aback by this. Now what we assume Jesus is doing here is making a reference to several Old Testament passages that talk about feasting on and drinking the word and wisdom of God. Consuming it, making it your focus, that is the way you gain wisdom or faith or anything else. And so Jesus is saying that “if you want life you have to feast on me. You have to eat my flesh and drink my blood and completely consume me. Make me your focus. Don’t worry about the show. Don’t worry about the food. Trust that in me you’ll find everything you need, for this life and the next.” And in response to that…almost everyone leaves.
“So…there’s not gonna be free food at every stop? On second thought I was supposed to do that thing today, good luck with that.” Most of them leave. Because all they wanted was free food and a good show. It was never about Jesus.
But the disciples stay. And when Jesus asks if they want to leave too Peter says “where would we go? Who else would we listen to? You have the words of eternal life.” The disciples, who you’ll remember first believed in Jesus because of the show too, they followed him because he turned water into wine, have started to figure it out. They’ve gotten their priorities right. They’re in it for Jesus, for the words that give life, not for the show.
What are our priorities? Why are we following Jesus? Is it because of what we think we’ll get out of it? Is it the social aspect? Is it for the show that we get to come here each week and get to see? Or is it because we’ve found the words of life, and there’s nothing else we can go to now? Maybe we need to pray about that.