by Jerry Goebel
[Jn 6:24] So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.  When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”
 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”  Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?  “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ “  Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.  “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”  Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. (NAS)
[Jn 6:24] So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.  When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?” (NAS)
“Rabbi, when did You get here?”
Imagine the surprise of these people when they saw Jesus arriving in one of the disciple’s boats. They had seen Jesus send the disciples out to sea even before the crowd dispersed. They had seen Jesus remain until the crowd was all gone and the food gathered. While the crowd ran ahead to Jesus’ next destination, the Lord had stayed behind to pray. No wonder they gasped when they saw him and said in wonder; “Rabbi, when did You get here?”
Have you sought the Lord on an unfamiliar shore? Have you found yourself at a port that you felt Jesus could not possibly be found? Then take hope from this reading; Jesus will beat you there. He is waiting and will welcome you to shores unfamiliar and situations that seem impossible.
 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”  Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
The food which endures
Our Christ draws an interesting line in the sand in this reading. He fed the crowd once in compassion but admonishes them when they come back for more handouts. His primary point is similar to saying; “You wait for the bucket to come to you but you won’t go to the well yourself.”
There is something much deeper that Christ seeks to offer these people than mere physical sustenance; he wants to give them dignity! A person with dignity is never powerless; they will never be anyone’s slave or prisoner. A person with dignity has the power to reform their world. A person with dignity has the power of hope and can give dignity to others. Christ tells us that God has given him the authority and power to grant that dignity to his people; for what dignity could we ever have as dependent victims of our basic needs?
God “set His seal [GSN4972 sphragizo]” on Jesus, the authoritative title and letterhead to sign all and any contracts on God’s behalf. Jesus longs to set his seal on us. It says; “This one is mine and death cannot steal him.”
Yet, these followers only wanted food. They wanted the bucket of water brought to them; they didn’t want to walk to the source.
Jesus cautions them vigorously to seek the source of life; a purpose and not just a living. He makes a distinction between two types of nourishment:
1. The food which perishes [GSN622 apollumi];
This term is used more often in the New Testament as “destroys” than “perishes” and it means utter destruction. What kind of food brings utter destruction?
Food that is unused rots and water that is without movement turns stagnant. Anything that’s left static begins to decay. The muscle that is not stressed atrophies; and research even shows that the brain that is unchallenged loses the ability to perform critical thinking skills. But am I exercising my spirit? If faith were a competition would I be a couch potato or an endurance athlete?
When Jesus warns us about the food that perishes/destroys; he means that we should be guarded against living the unchallenged life. He is telling us to quit living like a spoiled child who constantly whines, “gimme, gimme, gimme.” Never once applyin’ what the Lord has been supplyin’.
2. Yet there is another way to live says our Lord; to seek the food that endures [GSN3306 meno] eternally [GSN166 aionios].
Can you think of meals that will last forever? Here’s a hint, think more about the fellowship than the food.
I remember special meals with my family, Christmas meals serving dinner at the homeless shelter, or lunch with a friend just released from jail. I don’t remember the particulars—the breads, salads, or even the desserts—but I remember the joy, how much better it felt to give rather than get.
This is food eternal, the food of compassion, community and Christ.
The work of God
The crowd’s response to Jesus is simple; “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Whether it was spoken in earnest or just to get Jesus to serve up more bread is something we can only answer by placing ourselves in the situation.
Do we go to Christ to just be fed or also to be sent? It isn’t hard to tell if I just use a church to meet my social needs or if I accept nothing less than a church that will push me to take part in Christ’s Great Commission.
Our Lord has a surprising answer for those who seek his eternal food and ask; “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”
He tells us that our work [GSN2041 ergon] is to believe [GSN4100 pisteuo] whom God has sent [GSN649 apostello].
Literally, this translates into; “Do the deeds (or labor [GSN2041 ergon]) of those who believe (or entrust [GSN4100 pisteuo]) themselves to Jesus (upon whom God set his seal [GSN4972 sphragizo]).”
To define it further, the root of “to believe” [GSN4100 pisteuo] is pistis [GSN4102] which not only means faith but also to pledge or to “give evidence.”
So what is the most accurate description of what Christ asks of us? To prove our faith by doing the deeds that Christ sends us forth to do. And what are these deeds?
[Mk 16:15] And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.  “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;  they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?  “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ “ (NAS)
“What then do You do for a sign?”
The heart of the crowd was laid bare at this point. It becomes clear that what they really wanted was an easy life and furthermore, for Jesus to provide it. They basically say; “If you give us forty years of free manna like Moses gave the Israelites; then we promise to follow you around and eat it.”
Feeding the five thousand wasn’t enough; “What are you going to do for us today?”
How woefully familiar this sounds to me; “Lord, I’ll follow you—but you have to give me a sign first.” Then, I sit back to see what he is going to do for me.
How sad my faith can be, indoctrinated by this entertainment generation. Expecting God to entertain me, wondering what signs he’s going to use to affirm my infantile faith and never once examining the scriptures to see that God responds to his people after they take a leap of faith.
In the second chapter of John, Mary asks for wine and Jesus emphatically replies, “No!”
In the third chapter of Joshua, the priests are told that the Jordan won’t part until they stand in the waters:
[Jos 3:13] “It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap.” [NAS]
In Judges, chapter six, even Gideon does not receive his sign until after he prepares his sacrifice to the Lord.
Our “signs” come in the doing of God’s will not in waiting for God’s signs. As we continue serving, God continues affirming. He constantly guides us as we take each step: But he can’t guide those who are standing still. That’s like trying to turn a car that isn’t moving!
If we provide the momentum, God will provide the direction.
 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.  “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”  Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
The true bread of heaven
The people want the manna of Moses and totally miss the man of God. Why is it that we want only the “perishable” gifts of this world? We want the bread of the day but not the field where the grain spouts. Jesus is the grain field! He is the rich soil, he plants the seeds and provides the water that bears life, but we must provide the labor. Unfortunately, for these people who were following Christ 2,000 years ago (and for some of us today) that was the catch. We just want to be fed—not led—but the Kingdom simply doesn’t work like that.
Through Jesus Christ we are given the true [GSN228 alethinos] bread. It literally means “the one true” bread. The word for true actually comes from to Greek words, A [GSN1] and lanthano [GSN2990] which means “to escape notice.”
Jesus, the true bread, will easily escape our notice if we are only focused on the “bread” of this world.
 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (NAS)
He who comes to Me
Here is one of the richest terms in scripture for one of the richest verses in history. Whatever you hunger for, whatever you thirst for, whether is it hope, love, acceptance or peace—Jesus can give it. Jesus says; “Come [GSN2064 erchomai] to me.” He hungers to meet our needs.
Erchomai [GSN2064] is one of the most frequently used verbs in the New Testament. It is used for:
3. Fall on me;
4. Expect me;
5. Go to him;
6. He is coming;
7. And, turn to me.
How many ways can Jesus invite us into love and into life?
Yet, how he gives us the invitation is a corollary of the example of the bread and the field. We have all we need to plant grain—we should not expect to be hand fed. If we hunger for hope then we must give it to others. If we hunger for love then we must start by loving others. If we thirst for acceptance or peace then we must first accept others.
We can never receive a crop that we do not plant.
Copyright © 2003 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.
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