Scripture: John 6:25-34
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
We return, today, for entry number two of Jesus’ interaction with this strangely persistent crowd. I call them persistent for a couple of reasons. The first has to do with our introduction to this story from my last post. The crowd has grabbed boats and crossed a sea in order to find Jesus. And at the beginning of this passage, we see that they’ve finally tracked him down. Second, though, is their persistence in trying to figure out a way to get Jesus to feed them again. They like the idea of having a leader who can multiply a small lunch into enough food for 5,000 people. Jesus shows pretty quickly that he’s aware of their motives when he tells them, “You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Jesus then goes on to talk about the eternally nonperishable food (himself) which they should be seeking. But like in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, they don’t understand what Jesus is getting at.
Or maybe, the crowd is just so hungry that they can’t stop thinking about anything other than those loaves and fish. There were twelve baskets full of leftovers you might recall. So, they persist in their attempts to sway Jesus into some breakfast. They ask, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” In other words, “What do we have to do in order to get a little something to eat?” Apparently they don’t like Jesus’ answer to just believe. And so the crowd gets crafty. They reach back into the pages of history, and they ask for another sign. Moses was a great prophet, they say, and he gave the people food. Prove to us you can do that, too. I read this as them saying, “Oh if you’ll just give me what I’m wanting from you – that is breakfast – then I’ll believe anything you want.”
Such a circumstantial and fleeting faith exists in abundance in this world. Likely, it even pops up from time to time in our own lives. It’s an easy pattern to fall into – that is this idea that God will earn our love and faith after God comes through for us in some way. When I was younger, it was the whole “God, help me get this A and I’ll be eternally yours.” The good news that Jesus tells us at the end of our passage, though, is that he’s more than a wish granter. God is too persistent in redeeming us to be bribed for a shallow taste of our affection. Our God is bigger than that. God can look past and forgive those times when our faith is fleeting because our God is working on something much bigger for us. He’s working to reconcile the whole world to himself. When I remember this, I’m thankful for the kind “no” I get from God when I get a little petty.
When my faith is myopic and unimaginative, remind me of the scope of your work. Teach me to expect more from you; for, God, you expect more from me. Amen.
Thought for the Day:
Offering the Bread of Life is God’s job. Offering the bread for empty bellies is the Christian’s job.