23. Prayer

Short Meditations in John 6:  23. Prayer

Jn 6:23   Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.

What a strange verse! The next verse will show us that some of the crowd at least went off in these boats back across the lake to Capernaum, the rest of the crowd of five thousand presumably walked back round the Lake. If they were going to Capernaum they had a long walk. But why does John mention this detail? He wasn’t there, he was with Jesus back across the lake. The answer simply has to be that he later heard what had happened when these boats with some of the crowd came back across the lake. It simply happened; it is not something you would bother to make up.

But note also John’s description. These boats, however many there were, however big or small they were, landed on the shore in the close vicinity of the place where Jesus had been teaching and then feeding the crowd the previous day but John gives quite a different and almost strange description: the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks”. He doesn’t say, “the place where Jesus had performed the miracle,” for it seems he has something else in mind. He doesn’t even say “where Jesus had broken the bread and fed the crowd.”

The strange words that almost seem out of place are “after the Lord had given thanks.” Before a meal the head of the family would have given thanks for the food. John doesn’t record the Last Supper words about bread and wine (the other three Gospels have covered it adequately). Luke includes that (Lk 22:17,19) but also the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and it was only when Jesus gave thanks and broke bread that they realised who he was. It almost seems as if there is something significant about the way Jesus gave thanks. What could it be?

Well, I have taken to watching how leaders, for example, pray at the beginning of some Christian activity. There are those – the most sadly – who just instantly plough in with words, and that is all they are, and ‘pray’. There are others who pause to acknowledge the presence of God, the One to whom they are speaking and only then do they speak. There is far more of a personal sense, a sense of intimacy, of relationship with this latter group and I think, in that, they emulate Jesus. Prayer was not formality for Jesus, it was a time when he spoke personally, intimately with his Father in heaven. Giving thanks was no mere formula, it was a sacred act of Son to Father, the Son of God to the Almighty One, ruler of heaven and earth, on whom he was as much reliant as we are. May we pray similarly.

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