Be the sign not the sigh – 17th Sunday in ordinary time – John 6: 1- 15

Each of the four Gospels narrate the multiplication of the loaves and fish and while the synoptics tell it as a miracle story the Gospel of John wraps it up in greater theological meaning. The Gospel of John is the only Gospel that tells us that this ‘sign’ (remember that the Gospel of John has signs and not miracles) takes place close to the celebration of the Passover and that Jesus leads the people not into a ‘deserted place’ as in the synoptics but up a mountain. Why would John give us these details if not to pique our interest?

So, in order to understand today’s text, you need to read the closing verses of the previous chapter 5:39-47. Jesus gets into a verbal spat with the Jewish religious leaders. He pointedly accuses them of a failure to see in the scriptures they read the very message pertaining to himself as the source of life. He clearly tells them that they do not have the love of God in them and that it is Moses whom they revere, who will be their accuser. It is here that our text begins with these little clues. The very word Moses would jog one’s mind to the Passover and now St John tells us that the Passover was at hand.

St John’s Gospel has seven signs, not miracles. A sign always points to a greater reality and so in the feeding of the five thousand we are called to see the greater reality. The focus therefore is not the multiplication in itself but the person of Jesus who is responsible for it and on his divine nature. Thus, Jesus is presented as the new Moses. So, let’s see the similarities and comparisons in the text.

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