Detective Carter just assumes that Detective Inspector Lee won’t speak English, or, as he puts it, “American.” Carter makes a fool of himself because he gets played by Lee, who speaks English fluently. Carter’s famous line, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” This comedic scene sets up the give and take between Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in Rush Hour.
This scenario will come full circle towards the end of the film. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVKxTKljoo8
How many times have we had experiences like this? Someone says something to us in our native language but we could swear it wasn’t!
If you’re a parent I’m sure you’ve had it. You’ve said something to your children, you’ve given them a chore or task, but they haven no clue what you mean!
It is typically Johannine to have folks misunderstand Jesus. Here’s just a short list; Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the disciples (perpetually), and, now, the crowd. John’s brilliant apophatic methodology helps the reader understand who the Christ is by revealing who he isn’t.
This week’s pericope builds off of last week’s. It really shouldn’t be preached apart from John 6:1-21. To grasp the revelation of Christ on this side of the sea, we need to know what happened back on the other side. Jesus performs a sign. (Note: in John they’re not miracles they’re signs. They aren’t the point, but point to something, or someone.) This sign mirrors the wilderness of Israel; the seemingly inexplicable feeding of a multitude with bread.
Once in Capernaum the crowd asks Jesus when he left them. Jesus knows their intent, “You followed me because you’re still hungry! You missed the point of that sign. Don’t work for that type of bread, but for the bread of God!”
The crowd is still dense, “What does that work look like!”
One could imagine Jesus retorting, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH?”
The crowd just can’t get it together. Their imagination is so (mal)formed by Second Temple theology that they can’t see what it is Christ is doing. Perhaps the most damning of their statements, “Sir, give us this break always.” The problem with this statement is twofold:
The Wilderness narrative teaches us that people never tire of eating the same bread over and over and over again, right?
More seriously, they want Jesus to be a commodity that satisfies a particular need or desire perpetually. Jesus doesn’t feed them “always.” He feeds them once and for all!
This is the scandal of particularity. Once one has eaten, one doesn’t need to eat again!
Perhaps it is in exhaustion that Jesus makes his Christological claim. Ego Eimi! I AM! Jesus gives himself the divine title of YHWH.
Too often we’re like Detective Carter. We ask other people if they understand what is really happening. We assume we know what’s really going down and think other people need to get on our level.
Too often we’re like Detective Carter; we’re the ones who don’t understand. Too often we’re like the crowd. The Christ is revealing himself to us in our midst; but we clamor for perishable food. We cling to temporary goods.
This week the Pastor may want to identify her congregation not with Christ, but with the crowd. We may need to reflect on the ways we’ve misunderstood what God is doing among us and for us and through us. Pastor, can you name the perishable things that serve as signs? What things happen to us and through us that we think are the point, when they actually point us to Christ?
In what ways do we continue to demand signs?
What are the works we seek to perform in order to obtain the grace of Christ?
I believe that Christ is still revealing himself to us as he did to this crowd. Will we have the eyes to see how he is at work or will we demand that he fit our imagination of what the Christ should be?