If you are following Jesus, why are you following him? This week on the blog, starting here, we’ve been studying Jesus’ interaction with a crowd of people whom he had miraculously fed a free meal (aka “The Feeding of the 5,000”). We examined that miracle last week here. The next day, the crowd wants Jesus to do it again. But this time, when he doesn’t do what they want, things get testy. Through his interaction with crowd, I believe Jesus invites us to examine our motivations for following him. Keep reading as we learn how.
As we learned in the previous post, Jesus confronts the religious elite, and as he did so, I bet the crowd gets silent. Now that he has everyone’s attention, he continues teaching in John 6, verses 44-51,
“‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: “They will all be taught by God.” Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’.”
Jesus himself is the bread of the life. His actual body he will give for the world. Just not how they expect. Why? Because the way he talks about it is admittedly odd. If anyone said to me, “Here, eat my flesh and you’ll live forever,” I’d say that person is out of their mind. Certainly Jesus isn’t referring to self-cannibalism, is he?
If I were in the crowd that day, I would feel disappointment growing up inside me. The day before was glorious. All that free food. The people all had our fill. It was a miracle right before their eyes.
I suspect many in the crowd were thinking, “Why not just keep it going, Jesus? But now this. And whatever this is, it is getting weird. This isn’t what I came all this way for. Why can’t you just feed us again? It can’t be difficult for you, can it? You made it look so easy yesterday. There was nothing to it. So why are you wasting our time saying you are the Bread of life, and the bread is your flesh and anyone who eats this bread will live? That’s gross and disgusting. That’s wrong.”
Jesus now sounds wrong to those people who were fixated on what Jesus could do for them. Jesus sounds wrong because he’s not performing for them. Worse yet, he’s about to turn it up a notch, meaning that if you thought eating his flesh was disgusting, he will get even more disgusting. But we’ll get to that next week.
For now, I invite you to think about your motivations. If you are interested in Jesus, why are you interested in Jesus? Are you interested in Jesus simply because of what he can do for you? Are you interested in Jesus because of what you can get out of him? In John 6, the people in Galilee wanted Jesus to start a bread and fish store that they could come to every day and get free food. They didn’t really want to hear Jesus when he started talking about anything that might require something of them. Are you and I so different?
Let me tell you something that is going to happen in a couple weeks. I’m going to India in March on a mission trip to teach our denomination’s seminary there. But about a week or two before, I’m going to start to get cold feet. I know it. It always happens when I go on a trip like that. Why? Because going to India will require something of me. New people, new places, new food, new teaching, new class, a whole lot of new. Some of the newness will be incredibly joyful. Some of it will be difficult. And I won’t want to do it. I’ll start thinking, “Why did I say Yes to this?” It will be taking me out of my comfort zone.
But for me, following Jesus means going to India in March. It is a small way I can figuratively find energy in the Bread of Life. I will need to depend on him and his vitality for abundant life as I seek to teach Indian seminary students. (And I am looking forward to what they will teach me!)
What about you? What will it look like for you to eat the Bread of Life, not for what you will get out of it, but to serve Jesus, to give your life to him?
Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash