Would you be surprised to learn that some people weren’t buying what Jesus was selling? I’m not talking about the religious leaders who often confronted him. I’m talking about the crowds of people who followed him. As we continue studying John 6, the people who just the day before wanted to make him king, now seem to be a bit suspicious.
Look at verses 30-31,
“So they asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat”.’”
Do you see the irony in this? It’s only 24 hours after the astounding feeding of the 5000, where 5 loaves and 2 fish fed everyone to their fill, and there were 12 baskets full of leftover pieces of bread. Now they are asking him to do a sign? He just did a massive sign the day before when he fed them all!!! Now they are quoting the story of the manna in the wilderness? Just the day before, Jesus basically did that very same miracle! Now they’re asking for another one??? Shouldn’t they be satisfied with that one miracle?
What is going on inside them? How could they ask him to do it again? It goes back to verse 26, which we talked about here. In verse 26 Jesus had already said to them, “People, you’re just eager to be with me for what you can get out of me.” The people want more of Jesus, but only in the sense of what he can do for them. They don’t want more of Jesus in the sense of giving their lives to serve him.
Does that in any way define us? How much of our relationship with Jesus is about what we can get from him? It would be very easy to think, “No…I don’t view my relationship with Jesus selfishly.” But if we take a closer look, maybe we do. Think about your motivations.
How do you view worship gatherings? As places and times where you should receive something? A common understanding is that Christians come to worship to be fed the nourishment of God’s word. We come to worship to have our hearts and minds lifted up. We come to hear a particular kind of music. We want a sermon that speaks to us. Notice how all those statements are rooted in what we can get out of it. Have we crossed the line into selfishness?
We can view church this way too. The church should care for us. We should be loved. We should be invited over to people’s houses. We should have people we can be friends with. The church should have programs that meet our needs, and our kids’ needs. Quality programs. The church should doctrinal and social peoples that agree with us. Notice how all those statements are rooted in what we can get out of church.
This is so often how we American Christians think. We can be like the people in the crowd saying, “Jesus, do it again! Feed me again. Show yourself to be true Jesus! I’m not sure I can keep believing in you unless you feed me again. I’m not sure I can believe you unless you pay my bills, help my kids, take care of my problems, make me feel better.”
I wonder if Jesus felt even a small twinge of temptation to do another miracle. He could easily grow the crowd bigger. Just keep doing miracles. Feeding them, healing them. Jesus response, though, shows that if he was tempted to indulge them, he wasn’t giving in to that temptation. Look at verses 32-33,
“Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’.”
Huh? God gave them bread from heaven, and that bread was a person who gives life to the world? What is Jesus talking about? Jesus fed them bread, like Moses through whom God fed their ancestors with manna, or bread, from heaven. Both situations are about actual bread. Now Jesus has turned the conversation in a different direction, saying that Father God has sent a person from heaven to give life to the world. Did this confuse the people? Did they know who he was talking about?
They respond in verse 34, and it doesn’t seem like they understand him. They say, “Sir, from now on, give us this bread.”
Maybe they are being genuine here. Maybe they know Jesus is sharing a deeply spiritual principle that they need. Or maybe they are just hungry for lunch, and they want him to do another miracle like he’d done the day before. Jesus clears it up. Look at verses 35-40,
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day’.”
This is one of Jesus’ famous “I AM” statements. “I am the bread of life.” Jesus is saying that his miracle from the day before wasn’t supposed to be the beginning of a food ministry. The miracle was a signpost that pointed to him, because the people really need him. Just as bread is a source of energy for human bodies, we need Jesus for the life that is really life, both abundant life now and eternal life in heaven. When we consume bread, its calories fuel us, giving our bodies the ability to keep functioning. In the same way, Jesus is saying that he is the bread of life, not in the physical, material or nutritional way, but he is the food that gives people the ability to experience abundant life now and eternal life. By “ingesting” Jesus people will never be hungry or thirsty again.
Remember that Jesus is speaking using symbolism here. Figures of speech. Sadly some people in the crowd that day, didn’t recognize Jesus’ figures of speech, and they start to have a bad reaction to Jesus’ teaching. Who are they? What was their reaction? How will Jesus handle them? We’ll find out in the next post.
Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash