John 6 is one of my favorite chapters in the gospels. I’ll explain why, but, it would be great if you went over and read it before continuing to read this article.
In that chapter, we see Jesus perform one of his most popular miracles – feeding the 5,000.
It’s one of our favorites from the time we are kids. Many of us probably grew up seeing that story taught on a flannel-graph. If you don’t know what flannel-graph is, then you missed out.
After Jesus feeds the 5,000, the disciples get in a boat and start rowing to the other side, Jesus strolls out on the water and meets them.
The next morning, everyone who had eaten the bread saw that Jesus and His disciples were gone, so when some boats arrived, they got in them and went looking.
Jesus teaches. And his teaching gets more difficult.
“Anyone who wants to come after me must eat my flesh and drink my blood.” When I hear Jesus teaching this, my mind immediately goes to the Walking Dead. Especially the scene a few seasons back where people were becoming cannibals. And since they didn’t have refrigeration, they had to keep their victims alive to preserve the meat. And that epic line: “You taste good, Bob.” Sorry.
What was their response? “This is a hard teaching, who can accept it.” Ya think. What in the world was Jesus getting at here?
It’s no wonder people left. We probably would have left too.
What was Jesus getting at here? This is the thrust of what Jesus was getting at:
“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
In his retelling of this story, John uses the word believe 10 times. What does it mean to “believe in the one he has sent”?
Belief in the New Testament is not just intellectual. In reality, neither is belief today.
There are many who claim to have beliefs, but when you look at their lives they don’t live out those beliefs. We all understand this to mean that they don’t really believe what they say they believe.
The kind of believe that Jesus (and John) are talking about is this, the kind of belief that when you believe it, you reorder your entire life around it. This is how belief is understood in the New Testament. If you believe something, it will be seen by your actions. The is true for the word hear in the Old Testament. If you’ve truly heard God speak, you will do what He says. “Hear, O Israel, The Lord your God is one…Love the lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” If you’ve heard God speak, then you will do what He says.
That’s what Jesus was getting at here. The work God requires is to reorder our entire lives around Jesus.
What were the people of the crowd doing? They were following Jesus for what they could get from him. They got some good bread and wanted more. They weren’t following Jesus because they believed he was the holy one sent from God. They were following Jesus for a freebie. They liked the handouts.
This is a very important point and question for us to ask as followers of Jesus:
What is your motive for coming to Jesus?
Why do we come to Christ? Is it because we, like Peter, believe that he has the words of eternal life? Or, are we like the crowd, and we just want Jesus to give us free stuff?
Too many of us, myself included, have come to Christ for what we can get from Him. When what we really need to do is come to Christ to give ourselves wholly over to Him.
We treat God like a genie in the sky whose primary existence is giving us the stuff we want in life.
We can see this fleshed out in our prayer lives. How much time to spend seeking God’s face compared to how much time you ask for his hand? How much time do you spend seeking to know God, to hear God, to understand God, to learn what His voice sounds like, to get to know your heavenly father who created you in his own image and loves you more than any other created thing? Contrast that with how much time we spend asking God to give us this thing we really want, or this job we really need, or to change this person so they won’t annoy me so much or to resolve this situation so I won’t have to deal with conflict, or to make me rich so I don’t have to worry about money and can just focus all my time on loving people.
Isn’t that what most of us do? Don’t most of us come to God because we want bread to fill our stomaches when what we really need is the bread that can fill our souls? No wonder we’re so messed up! We’re trying to fill our souls with something what was only meant to fill our stomach.
We allow the drive to fulfill the desires of our mortal flesh to supersede the need of our immortal soul.
How do we know when our motive has shifted from fulfilling our desires to belief in the one God sent?
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
We know our motives have shifted when we stop being consumed with doing our own will and become consumed with doing the will of the Father.
When it seems as though the world around us is falling away from God…when it appears that so many people who were once followed Jesus, but have since stopped…when person after person seems to drift away and never return…what do you think is happening?
What’s happening is, people aren’t getting what they wanted from Jesus, so they go somewhere else to find it. The call of Christ is not simply one of association with him. Were there people who hung out with Jesus? Sure. But that was never his point or mission. His mission wasn’t just to amass a crowd. This story is the proof of that. He didn’t want social media stats to prove he was the bizznezz, he wanted people who would follow Him no matter the cost.
There will always be a cost to following Jesus. In fact, the requirement of following Him is for us to lay down our selfish motives and agendas, and daily pick up his mission and mandate for us.
So many of those in our modern era who appear to have “fallen away” were likely never “in Christ.” They were merely associating with Him to get what they wanted from Him. And when the call of Christ on their life became to great, and they weren’t getting their own personal dreams and desires met from Christ, they walked away. Just like the crowd here.
What will your response be to the call of Christ on your life?
My prayer for me is that my response will be like Peter:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
There is no where else I can go, Jesus. You’re the only true source of life. You’re the only true bread of life. The pull of everyone and everything else is death. The pull of the desires of this life are fruitless. The hunger of this world can never be filled by the darkness of it. There is no where else I can go. I not only know intellectually that you are the Holy One of God, but I believe that you are the holy one of God. I believe to the point that I’m willing to reorder my entire life around your will.
This is where I want to be. This is where I long for you to be as well.
What is your response?