4. Jesus offers people the choice, "Accept or Reject!" (John 6:22-59)
22 On the next day, the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except the one in which his disciples had embarked, and that Jesus hadn’t entered with his disciples into the boat, but his disciples had gone away alone. 23 However boats from Tiberias came near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 When the multitude therefore saw that Jesus wasn’t there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats, and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
When the crowds realized that Jesus had not sailed away in the boat, they were surprised that he had managed to evade them. He had slipped away by night under cover.
Thousands returned to Capernaum relaying the news of the bread freely offered. People marveled and were envious wishing to share in this bounty. The crowds rushed searching for Jesus in the homes of his disciples till they found him among them. They began to see the truth of a Christian principle, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst."
Those anxious for miracles were aware of a new wonder. They asked, "How and when did you arrive here?" Jesus did not answer that question but instead with spiritual concern he clarified the meaning of faith, seeking to draw the sincere folk among the enthusiasts to his love, and show up the deceit of his foes. Jesus disliked the lukewarm condition and he separated the circle of believers from the masses of superficially religious people.
26 Jesus answered them, “Most certainly I tell you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Don’t work for the food which perishes, but for the food which remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has sealed him.”
Jesus clearly warned the crowds: You do not love or seek me for myself, nor do you think right thoughts of God, but you think of your stomachs and bread. You did not understand the sign for my purpose was not just to satisfy your hunger with bread, it was rather to make you know me in my power. You seek the gift but ignore the giver. You discuss worldly matters, but do not believe in my deity.
Do not labor all day just for food and drink, but give thought for the power of God. Do not be like beasts that live to eat, but draw near to God who is Spirit. He is ready to give to you His eternal life.
Jesus further explained: I came to the world, to give you God’s great gift. I am not just a mere man of flesh and blood. But I bear God’s gift in myself for your blessing. God has sealed me with His Holy Spirit to impart spiritual life and revive you with heavenly power.
With this statement Jesus proclaimed the great secret, that God cares for all, nourishes mankind and loves them. He is not the angry deity who insists on the keeping of Law before blessing. He blesses the righteous and the wicked, and causes His sun to shine on all without distinction, even atheists and blasphemers. God is love, and Christ sought to free the multitude from their materialistic thoughts, and bring them back to trust in God the Father. So he affirmed that His Kingdom was not worldly, based on food, wealth and domination, but a spiritual Kingdom abounding in divine life, coming to them in the Person of Christ who gives the Spirit to all who ask him.
28 They said therefore to him, “What must we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
The crowds failed to grasp Jesus’ teachings clearly, but realized that he was offering a great gift from God, and all wished to receive this eternal life. They were ready to do something for this gift. They were willing to observe the Law, to sacrifice, to fast, pray and go on pilgrimage to earn God’s gift by works. Here we see their blindness. They are all legalists, anxious to gain salvation by their own efforts. They did not realize that this was impossible, since they were guilty and lost. They proudly thought of doing God’s work, assuming they had the holiness and power to do this. Man is blind to the extent that he cannot see the true condition of his heart, but regards himself as a mini-god, and expects God to be pleased with him.
Jesus showed them that it was not required from them to offer any duties or deeds. They were being called to faith by him in person. God does not ask for effort or energy, but wishes that we yield to Jesus and trust him. These words were a stumbling block to the people; thus began the split between Jesus and the multitude. He further explained that God’s work was that they believe in him. "If you open your souls to the Holy Spirit, you will know my authority, aims and love. Then you will realize that I am not just a prophet, but the Creator, the Son sent by the Father to you. You will change from your worldly concerns to become the children of God."
To believe in Jesus is to hold on to him, and allow him to act in your lives, accept his leading and receive eternal life through his might. Faith is bonding with Jesus in time and eternity. This is God’s work, who binds the believers to His Son, that sin may vanish from their lives and that they may abide with him for ever.
30 They said therefore to him, “What then do you do for a sign, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness. As it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus therefore said to them, “Most certainly, I tell you, it wasn’t Moses who gave you the bread out of heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
Jesus’ demand for full surrender on the part of the crowd came as a rude shock. They felt that Jesus had demanded something from them that could be offered only to God. So they asked him for a text to justify his claim. As if they were saying, "Give us proof of your deity, Moses gave bread (the Manna) to the people in the wilderness, daily renewed. But you have given us bread just once. Moses gave bread to hundreds of thousands, you gave to a mere five thousand. Show us a further miracle and then we shall believe." This is the human malady. Man refuses to yield to Jesus’ love unconditionally, but insists on proofs first. But Jesus says, "Blessed are those who believe and have not seen. Those are the ones who honor me with their trust."
Jesus is the supreme guide who led his hearers step by step from legalistic thinking to a clear faith in him. He freed men from a craving for food and illumined them; he is himself God’s great gift.
As part of this gradual clarification Jesus freed them from their false fancies on the meaning of Scripture, as if it had been Moses who had given them the Manna. It was God, in truth who had done this, the giver of all bounty. He brought them to a standstill to realize that God gives them the finer bread and the heavenly food that never perishes. By paying attention they would perceive that Jesus was proclaiming himself the Son of God, for he called God his Father. The crowds, however, continued to think of material food coming down from heaven by Moses’ hand.
Jesus lifted their perceptions to understand that God’s bread was not one to be swallowed into the stomach, but was the Person of Christ who satisfies man’s hunger for truth and abundant life. The One who bestows has come down from heaven loaded with God’s blessings and much power. God’s bread is not material and perishing, but spiritual and abiding. It did not spring from the ground as did the Manna, but came from God, enough for all mankind throughout the ages. It is not limited to Abraham’s seed for God the Father cares for the whole world.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, keep us from selfish activity. Create in us a humble faith, to listen to what you will have us do, and work in us by your power. Impel us to full union with you. Satisfy the hunger of our hearts by your presence in us. Preserve us to life eternal. We thank you, Father, for coming to us, granting us power and blessing.
- How did Jesus lead people from a desire for bread to faith in himself?