Jesus is sent by the Father on a mission to redeem a people from the curse of sin and restore creation back to its original and sinless state. He is confronting the darkness of sin with the light of God’s glory as he performs signs and wonders, heals, and proclaims the good news of his reign.
As we enter chapter 6, John records Jesus’ fourth sign of feeding five thousand men besides women and children, and his first of seven“I AM” statements that explicitly proclaims his identity as the God of the old testament, draws a line in the sand on who will follow him and who will not, and takes us farther into the conflict with the dark powers that want to keep the Light of the World in darkness.
So, Jesus and his guys head across Lake Galilee, and when they arrive crowds are following them. The crowds have come a long way, and it’s supper time and there is no food. Jesus asks Philip where they are going to get enough food for everyone in order to test him.
The disciples just don’t know, and rightfully so. They are learning, and this test will show them more of Jesus’ glory and provide them with a framework to trust him more. They saw Jesus turn water into wine, and that was cool, but this is a huge crowd, likely pushing ten thousand people or more, and there’s this kid with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Bada bing. Bada boom. Jesus multiplies the meal and feeds them all, and they have twelve baskets full of leftovers.
My goodness, there is so much there, but the focus of John 6 is not the feeding so much as what the feeding uncovers in the hearts of sinful people.
The disciples take off across the lake again, and Jesus has withdrawn in order to avoid the crowd trying to make him king by a forceful rebellion. In the night Jesus comes walking on water to the disciples as they are struggling against the wind. When they take him on board, bam! They are at their destination. That’s super cool too, and I imagine the disciples’ faith is growing, and they are going to need it.
This same crowd Jesus just fed follows them somehow by land and meets Jesus and the twelve disciples on the other side of the lake. Jesus gets frank with them and tells them the reason they worked so hard to find them, and here it is:
John 6:26-35 (CSB) Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set his seal of approval on him.”
28 “What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked.
29 Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the one he has sent.”
30 “What sign, then, are you going to do so that we may see and believe you?” they asked. “What are you going to perform? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
32 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 Then they said, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again.
I’d like to think that if I was in the large crowd and witnessed what I witnessed when Jesus said he was the bread of life, I’d bow down in worship.
But Jesus knows their condition. All the way back in John 2, these folks and folks like them, “believed in his name”, and John tells us that Jesus did not entrust himself to them because he knows all men. So, their belief was rooted not in Jesus’ identity and mission but in the cool stuff he did.
Jesus flat out confronts their issue. Verse 36 is clear, “…you do not believe.” They simply wanted the miracle, the flash, the show, and the food.
Belief rooted in cool stuff not in the person of Jesus is never real.
Jesus now makes the statement that the none given to him from the Father would ever fail to come to him or ever be lost by him, and in fact, he would raise them up to life. Jesus has just told them he is the bread from heaven that the mana in the wilderness was pointing to. That’s a big deal. Jesus just informed them of the greater purpose for the mana!
The crowd begins to grumble at Jesus, and wonder at how the kid of Joseph and Mary can be anything like that, despite the fact that he has turned water into wine and fed thousands miraculously.
Why? They do not believe. They are blind. They are under the curse of sin. The Father has given the Son a people, and they will only see and believe and come if they are that people. These grumblers who ate his food now don’t trust him. Sound familiar?
The people Yhwh brought through the Red Sea on dry ground turn and complain about the mana and then reject God’s way into the promised land. No wonder Jesus chooses to speak to them from that passage because they are just like their ancestors…dead in sin and refusing to trust the Lord.
Who believed? Joshua and Caleb. Two of twelve. Who believes here? Twelve of some ten thousand.
My friends, Jesus is speaking from the correct passage because the problem for Moses is Jesus’ same challenge now, unbelieving people.
Thus Jesus says, John 6:43-46 (CSB) 3 Jesus answered them, “Stop grumbling among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God. He has seen the Father.
Jesus tells the crowd they have to feast on him, and this statement is misunderstood by the crowd because they are not his, and they don’t believe.
We learn in verse 66 that many of the disciples in the crowd turned back and no longer accompanied him. They left him.
So, Jesus says to the twelve faithful, who will become apostles, “Do you want to go too?”.
I love Peter’s response. “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
We see the line in the sand: Follow Jesus at all costs or don’t follow at all. Jesus is either who he says he is or he is not. Get in the boat or get out.
John 6 is a turning point. The conflict gets more intense as darkness tries to hide the Light. The true food, the Bread of Life, has come, and the curse is in chaos, and unbelief wants to fight back, and it will.
Who do you say Jesus is? Is he God, the one who brings Light, or just a curious miracle worker? Is Jesus worth coming after in himself or because of what he can feed us? His cross and Resurrection will prove who he is, and it will be the test of who will truly follow him.