REV. ROGER KARBAN
Our Sacred Authors can't understand why so many people settle for what they have in life when with a little faith, they could have so much more. Based on their experience, real fulfillment comes only to those who dare step beyond the security this world offers into the unprecedented security which unfolds after they give themselves to God.
Perhaps so few take that step because biblical faith entails more than just an act of the will; it involves a new way of seeing and experiencing life.
Wandering exhausted and hungry in the wilderness, the Israelites thought they could achieve fulfillment only by returning to Egypt (Ex 16:2-4, 12-15). As bad as things were before this crazy Moses came out of the Sinai and talked them into the Exodus, they were better than this. But these grumblers had forgotten that the same step of faith which took them dry-shod across the sea had also created a whole new world for them. The slave-security of Egypt was nothing compared to the new security Yahweh would give them outside of Egypt.
"I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites," Yahweh assures Moses. "Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, Yahweh, am your God." The very land which was threatening to kill them would eventually give them life.
In the same way, Paul reminds his community in Ephesus of the implications of their faith in Jesus (Eph 4:17, 20-24). They aren't called to believe just in the historical Jesus, the Galilean carpenter. That Jesus was limited by race, social status and gender. Because He was a male Palestinian Jew of the first third of the first century, He, for instance, could only be in one place at one time.
That's not who appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. That Jesus demanded to know, "Why do you persecute me?" He was the risen Jesus, the person who broke through the bounds of race, social status and gender, the Jesus who has no limits. That's why the Apostle encourages the Ephesians "to put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth."
This echoes Paul's well-known words in Galatians. For those who have "clothed themselves with Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." We achieve the deepest longing of the human race -- we break through the limits of our humanity -- by mirroring the risen Jesus. Those who started their faith journey by simply following a Galilean carpenter eventually discovered a whole new road in front of them.
John's Jesus leads His followers down a similar path. Hoping He's someone who'll satisfy their physical needs, the crowd's convinced their dream has come true when Jesus multiplies the bread and fish (Jn 6:24-35). They follow Jesus to the other side of the lake because they've "eaten their fill of the loaves."
At this point, Jesus tells them that there's something beyond their limited ideas of satisfaction. The multiplication is a sign of the "food which remains unto life eternal, food which the Son of Man will give you."
This kind of feeding not only goes far beyond anything Moses accomplished in the wilderness, it's a completely new kind of food. They're not going to eat something; they're going to eat someone. "I myself am the bread of life," Jesus tells them. "No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry; no one who believes in me shall thirst again."
Those who willingly give themselves to God eventually find that God does much more than just give them "stuff." God routes them into a whole new way of looking at everything around them, a whole new way of understanding security, a whole new way of seeing life. Though we think we have it all together in the beginning, we really have no idea where faith is taking us.
The person with whom we related is constantly inviting us to throw off our limits and enter the new, unlimited world which faith offers.