25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi,when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, 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. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
(John 6:25-34 NIV)
As John continues his story, it’s the day after Jesus has fed the masses (estimated twenty thousand people) from a little boy’s lunch of five cracker-sized biscuits and two sardine-sized fish.
A subset of the massive crowd stayed over and was seeking Jesus. They can’t find either Jesus or His disciples, so they charter some boats and head across the lake toward Capernaum, which is Jesus’ home base.
As expected, the smaller crowd finds Jesus in Capernaum. They knew Jesus’ disciples had gotten into a boat and left at dusk the night before without Jesus, and Jesus had disappeared into the wilderness.
The first thing the crowd wanted to know was when Jesus arrived in Capernaum. The group could not figure out how Jesus had gotten there ahead of them if He was on foot.
Notice that Jesus completely ignores their questions around what, how, where, and when and goes directly to the most important question of the moment: why.
Why were these people still seeking out and tracking down Jesus? Jesus answers the why? question without asking them or waiting for their response, jumping straight to their motivation for finding Him.
The answer? To get another free meal.
Jesus knows their selfish hearts and calls them out for it. But He does not stop there and offers something far better that will last beyond this earthly existence: eternal life.
Jesus packs in several key teachings in verse 27:
- They have to work for their food. They are no longer lost and wandering in the desert, dependent on God for their meals of manna. The Israelites are in the land God promised them, the land flowing with milk and honey.
- Physical food is essential, but their spiritual, supernatural food is more important than natural food.
- Jesus is offering them this spiritual, supernatural food.
- Jesus lets the crowd know that the Father had reviewed, approved, and blessed the spiritual food Jesus is offering them, just as a priest inspected the family’s food before they prepared it (to be sure it was “kosher,” as we would say today).
In verse 28, the crowd is all over the work part of Jesus’ teaching. They still think Jesus is talking about real bread, and want to know how they can work and earn this kind of food for themselves. They were still thinking Moses and manna; Jesus was talking about belief and eternal life.
In verse 29, Jesus tells the group to believe in Him. In verse 30, the crowd asks for another sign, like sending manna from heaven again. They were still stuck on real bread and filling their stomachs.
In verse 32, Jesus gets serious with the group. He begins his response with “Very truly I tell you…” (KJV – “Verily, verily, I say unto you…”, Greek – “Amen, amen…”). Jesus reminds them that God the Father gave their ancestors manna in the desert, not Moses.
Jesus was also reminding the crowd of Moses’ words to the Israelites that “… man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3), and was offering them Himself, the Bread of Life, in person.
The group still was expecting manna. They still misunderstood Jesus.
How often does Jesus offer us something far better and we dismiss it or completely miss it, looking for something else?
- Do we focus on the “do”, when Jesus calls us to “be”?
- Do we worry, when He calls us to trust?
- Do we wait for a solution, when He calls us to take a step of faith?
- Do we wear ourselves out trying to work a solution, when He asks us to give the issue to Him in humility and prayer?
May we be sensitive to God’s spiritual leading, offer, and priorities, and learn His better way of life that benefits not only this life but the one to come.