11 May 2019
The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.
Peter visited one place after another and eventually came to the saints living down in Lydda. There he found a man called Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ cures you: get up and fold up your sleeping mat.’ Aeneas got up immediately; everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they were all converted to the Lord.
At Jaffa there was a woman disciple called Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek, who never tired of doing good or giving in charity. But the time came when she got ill and died, and they washed her and laid her out in a room upstairs. Lydda is not far from Jaffa, so when the disciples heard that Peter was there, they sent two men with an urgent message for him, ‘Come and visit us as soon as possible.’
Peter went back with them straightaway, and on his arrival they took him to the upstairs room, where all the widows stood round him in tears, showing him tunics and other clothes Dorcas had made when she was with them. Peter sent them all out of the room and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to the dead woman and said, ‘Tabitha, stand up.’ She opened her eyes, looked at Peter and sat up. Peter helped her to her feet, then he called in the saints and widows and showed them she was alive. The whole of Jaffa heard about it and many believed in the Lord.
After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?
‘It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit
and they are life.
‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.
Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’
“Do you also want to leave?”
Do you remember watching the film Jerry Maguire back in the 90s? A heart-warming story of sports agent Jerry Maguire (played by Tom Cruise) who gets dismissed because he wrote a mission statement about his views on the sports management business which he felt was dishonest, and his aspiration to change that. Remember the part where he leaves, and no one initially follows him? Jerry feels terribly embarrassed and gutted at being abandoned, even by his personal assistant whom he assumed would leave with him. In the end, Renée Zellweger, who plays Dorothy ends up being the only person (besides the fish) who goes with him.
In today’s reading, Jesus was trying to explain to his disciples about the Bread of Life, that he is that Bread of Life given by God, sent from heaven. He tried to explain that if they partook in his body and blood, they would be saved and have eternal life. Some of his disciples couldn’t understand it, perplexed at how an ‘ordinary’ carpenter’s son could be sent from heaven. Earlier in the reading from John 6, they had asked Jesus to perform a sign so that they could believe in him (John 6:30). They were hoping for something along the lines that their ancestors had seen, i.e. manna falling from heaven, but little did they realise that the miracle, the manna they were looking for, was actually sitting in front of them. Because they couldn’t accept what Jesus was trying to explain to them, only wanting a sign in the form that they had in their minds, they decided to abandon Jesus, and went back to their old ways. At this point Jesus asks the Twelve Apostles, “Do you also want to leave?”
Contrast this with the first reading from the Acts, where Peter travels to Lydda and Sharon and Joppa, where he cures Aeneas who was paralysed, and brings Tabitha back from the dead. On both occasions, it is said that the inhabitants of the said towns heard about the miracles he performed and turned to the Lord.
In my humble opinion, the question that arises for me in today’s reading is this: are we sometimes fixated by a certain idea of how our prayers to God should be manifested if and when answered, that we become blind to the true promise that Jesus gives us, which could be in another form that is least expected? And if that petition of ours does not come to pass, do we feel disappointed that it didn’t happen how we wanted it to happen and therefore think that God isn’t fair? Do we then abandon God altogether, or do we try to understand why and what else might God be trying to tell us? Are we, like the disciples, looking for a sign or miracle before we dig in our heels of faith, or are we like Peter who says, “To whom shall we go?” because there is no one else besides Jesus who is the truth? If not the truth, then where else?
Jesus tried to explain that he is the Bread of Life, and the disciples couldn’t understand it, so they left him. Instead of abandoning him, perhaps it would have helped to ask for wisdom to understand rather than a sign. Just because we don’t ‘get it’ the first time, doesn’t mean that it is silly or doesn’t make sense, and then abandon it altogether. Like doing a math problem or reading a text, if we give up so easily because we didn’t understand it the first time, then we are at risk of missing out the worlds that could be open to us if we had stuck to it, or the sense of fulfillment that comes with sticking with it and understanding it at the end.
If our lives currently feel like riddles, perhaps we should ask God for wisdom to unravel the message that lies within. The solution is not abandonment. The solution is to ask.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for wisdom to understand what you have in store for us, even if it doesn’t turn out how we might have expected it. At the end of the day, your will be done.
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for not leaving us, even though sometimes we might have left you. Thank you for believing in us and supporting us in your gentle way.