Posts Tagged With: Bread of Life Discourse

Why We Seek Jesus—John 6:26–27

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

John 6:26–27, ESV

Lambert Lombard 001

“The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes,” by Lambert Lombard (1505/06–1566)

Only two miracles are mentioned in all four Gospels. Jesus’ is one of them. The other is the feeding of the multitude with five loaves and two fish. The fact that these two miracles share that distinction shows that they are both very significant. In John’s Gospel, the miraculous multiplication of a meal precedes Jesus’ in-depth teaching the following day about the bread of life.

Jesus had spent an entire day teaching the multitude. After a long day in the wilderness, the crowd was hungry, and Jesus did not want to send them home like that. Having only five loaves of bread and two fishes available, He multiplied the food to feed the entire crowd, leaving more leftovers than they began with. Then, He dismissed the crowd, sent the disciples off by boat to the other side of the lake, spent several hours in prayer, and walked on the water to catch up with His disciples.

The next day, the crowd searched for Jesus. They eventually found Him on the other side of the lake, and asked Him how got there. This led to Jesus’ response, which we see in the verses above.

They asked him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” They had seen the disciples leave in the boat without Him. How could He get to the other side of the lake so quickly without a boat? Jesus did not directly answer their question. He knew they were only mildly curious about that. He went straight to what they really wanted to know. Jesus knew why they were really there.

Throughout His ministry, many people sought Jesus because He performed miraculous signs. It must have been amazing when Jesus came to town. The sick would be healed. The lame would stand up and walk. People who had been blind for years would suddenly be able to see. Then, as now, people would be impressed with showmanship, drama, and extravagance. Sudden, dramatic, and unusual displays of indescribable power will always draw a curious audience.

Jesus performed signs and wonders to display God’s love, not to entertain. He often criticized those who came to Him seeking miraculous signs. On at least two occasions, He said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4; cf. Matthew 12:39).

At least the present did not seem as interested in the miracle itself. They may have noticed that He used such a small amount of food to feed them. They might have been impressed if Jesus told them how He crossed the lake overnight (by suspending the laws of physics so that He could walk across the lake during a violent storm). But apparently, they were more interested in the fact that Jesus actually fed them. Perhaps people thought, “He did not actually have to feed us. He only had one meal. Isn’t it wonderful that He cared enough to share a meal with us?”

Jesus thought this was a step in the right direction, but He urged them to move to the next level in their pursuit of Him. It was great that they were not seeking signs and wonders, and were grateful to Him for meeting their earthly needs. However, all of this merely points to His desire to meet their eternal spiritual needs.

Even today, many ministries settle for second best. Some “healing ministries” make dramatic healing the center of their mission. They are satisfied only if people are instantaneously healed of physical ailments or delivered from life-controlling addictions. It must be dramatic and exciting: something that will work on television. Some ministries do not want God to begin to gradually remove an illness, or to guide an addict to a recovery ministry. It has to be instantaneous, so that the crowd can be impressed with how God is working in the ministry.

Others emphasize that God meets our worldly needs. Some claim that Jesus died so that we can enjoy material prosperity. Some churches and ministries preach about how we can be free from depression, discouragement, and despair, or how Jesus can give us purpose and meaning in life. While all of these have some truth—Jesus will answer our prayers for bless our finances, or to give us joy and peace—there is something more that He wants us to seek.

“Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” We want earthly blessings. Jesus offers us eternal blessings. We want daily bread to fill our bellies. Jesus offers us that, but He also offers us the bread of heaven to nourish our souls and the living water of His Holy Spirit to well up to eternal life.

Some seek miracles; others seek Jesus because He meets a worldly need. He rejoices when we seek Him because He offers life. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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Faith or Provision

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which to Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal'” (John 6:26-27, ESV).

This passage begins the “bread of life” discourse in John 6. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus had performed one of only two miracles that are reported in all four Gospels (His resurrection being the other one). He fed a crowd of 5000 men, plus women and children, with only five loaves (probably more like biscuits) and two small fish; despite the small amount of food, His disciples still gathered 12 baskets full of leftovers. The crowd followed Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus would give a discourse relating His miraculous multiplication of a meal with His Father’s miraculous provision of manna to the Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea. He would identify Himself as the Bread of Life. By the end of the discourse, instead of gaining more disciples, Jesus would see many of His followers turn away.

This discourse is a hard lesson to swallow, because there is a lot to chew on. The lesson starts easily enough. If Jesus had been into numbers, like many ministries today, He would probably have ended the message quickly. Things start well.

I have preached several sermons on John 6 over the years. It is a great passage to return to. Here, I would like to focus on verses 26 and 27. Here, Jesus commends His listeners for getting off to a good start on the journey of faith.

“You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Jesus often criticized His hearers for seeking signs. Twice in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Matt. 16:4; see also Matt. 12:39). This crowd had gathered initially because of the signs He performed (John 6:2). However, something else drew them now.

“You ate your fill of the loaves.” Jesus had satisfied a need in their lives. It may have been a minor need. In the past, He had healed people of life-threatening illnesses. Hunger can lead to problems, but the greatest threat at this point was that they might faint on the way to buy food. Nevertheless, Jesus had met a need in their lives. It was not so much that He performed a miracle; He had given them something that they needed. He had proven that He could be their provider.

Yet, Jesus now calls them to something more. He exhorts them, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.” The physical is good, but it is more important to seek the spiritual bread that He provides.

Far too often, we seek what Jesus can give us. Entire churches focus their preaching and ministry around what God can do for us. Sermons focus on a prosperity gospel or divine healing. People focus on what God can do for them; they treat Him like their galactic bell boy, not their Lord.

Before pointing at “those churches” (the ones that seem only slightly less wild than the snake-handling congregations we read about), we should take a close look at our own hearts. Much of what passes for Christianity today is little more than a “what have you done for me lately” theology. In the book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, authors Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, summarized an emerging worldview among American youths which they defined as moralistic therapeutic deism (MTD). Central to this worldview are the following ideas (I have copied this summary directly from the Wikipedia article about this topic):

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

While the authors describe this as a worldview that is very popular among today’s teenagers, it very accurately reflects the views of many American adults as well, including people who claim to be religious or spiritual. I hate to say it, but I occasionally even speak to professed born-again Christians who speak the language of MTD. It grows out of the ideologies of other recent generations: “If it feels good, do it” (as long as you don’t hurt anybody in the process); “follow your heart”; and so on.

Essentially, many Christians have chosen to follow Jesus for whatever benefit they can coax out of Him. Do you suffer from depression? Jesus will heal you. Is alcoholism destroying your life? Jesus is the Perfect Higher Power for your Twelve Step program of recovery. Is your marriage falling apart? Perhaps you and your spouse should come to church. These are all great blessings, and I have more respect for the Christian who is seeking such emotional and spiritual blessings from God than those who are naming and claiming a new car. But, they have stopped short of genuine faith in God. Yes, faith in God offers these emotional blessings. But, it also demands repentance and relationship with Him on His terms. MTD, along with its pseudo-Christian variants, focuses on what the believer wants from God, not what God wants to do in the believer’s life.

Jesus calls His hearers beyond seeking what He can give them in this world, to seeking the life He offers. Later, He says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). He calls us to relationship with Him, a relationship on His terms. Are we willing to follow Him, or use Him?

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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