Scripture: John 6:24-35
Adam is in a slump. He enters the office knowing what everyone expects, success. To Adam he feels pressure to perform miracles, yet today he would be happy just to make it through the day. Success is defined in many ways, but often in our culture it is defined in only one way. That is the amount of money he can bring into the company. He like everyone else in business puts in long hours often without adequate pay just to ensure a project or sale is complete. His family fixes a plate and leaves it in the refrigerator like countless other people across the nation. Today, he looks at the clock wishing only that the time would fly so that he could move on to things that seem more important.
It seems that everyone is looking for success or miracles. Athletes want to set the world record so their names will go down in history. Businesses want to achieve the highest profit. Stockholders hope they are able to read the markets well enough to get the greatest options. Farms hope the weather and seed will produce the greatest yield. Everyone is doing all they can and praying for just a bit of luck.
This is really where the masses in this passage are. If we were to read a few verses prior, which would have happened around one day prior they would have just been fed by the miraculous hand of God. They look around them and see that Jesus and the disciple have left the area, they search for them but the only option is that they have sailed across the sea. So the multitude loads up as many boats as they can find and they set off to find their hope for the future. What are their hopes? They are like many of our own hopes; they want freedom, their needs met without excessive amounts of work, and hope. Like I said it is like most of us. They are slightly confused though, how did Jesus get to this place? They saw the disciples sail away but Jesus they watched go off into the desolate place in which he often went. When they went to find the rabbi in the morning he was gone. So when they came to the shore and saw Jesus with the disciples they were confused. They searched for him because in their mind if they follow Jesus one of their items on their list could be crossed off. They ate their fill in his presence.
Jesus looked at them and called them out saying you aren’t here because of the signs and wonders but because you ate your fill of bread. Guilty as charged. These people followed or sought after Jesus because they believed He was the path of least resistance. Investing their time in Him would provide their family with the most basic of needs so that everything else they earn from their labors could be used for luxuries. We do the same today. We take jobs and/or promotions because of the potential for personal gain, in the form of income or benefits. I am not saying that this is wrong it is just how our minds work. We strive to make more per unit of time thinking that we will be better off, but at what cost?
Jesus says you follow because you ate your fill of bread. He continues to say do not work for things that are perishing but for the food that endures. With every promotion or new client something happens. We lose time. As we rise in the leaves of a corporation we tend to sacrifice time spent elsewhere. If we add a client to our schedule something else has to give. It’s perishing, we are stretched to thin and our families and lifestyles are threatened because of it.
What is something that is not perishing? What is the food that ensures eternal life? Believe! Believe is a loaded term. Today belief is equated to knowledge, and it often stops there. In ancient times believe went beyond knowledge it also included action. If you said that you believed then you would live that belief in your life and act accordingly. This is why they immediately respond by saying what must we do? Jesus said that the eternal food comes from belief, but not belief in the metaphysical like some much of our contemporary spirituality points to. Belief must be grounded in something. To gain eternal food we need to believe and follow the one sent from God. It sounds simplistic, almost as if Jesus is poking fun at these people. They know that the eternal can only come from God.
This causes confusion among the people. Jesus is claiming not only to be a prophet, but also to be the greatest prophet. He’s claiming to be a prophet even greater than the lawgiver, Moses. One with a claim of this magnitude should be willing and demanded to prove it. Of every sign Moses participated in, things like the plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, bringing water out of a rock, they focus on one that speaks to the base needs of humanity. Food. The feeding of the nation for forty years is the greatest miracle of their history. God took care of His people, He lead his people provided for their needs and ensured their future. They were looking for a new Exodus, a new campaign into the Promised Land and they were not about to follow someone that could not prove to handle the task.
Those in power often get credit for what happens during their reign. Moses received credit for manna, because he was in power, but there were factors outside of himself. In our contemporary history presidents gain credit for both positive and negative aspects of our nation, unfortunately like Moses they contribute very little to the larger picture. Factors beyond a single person caused things like the Great depression. Things like extreme draught in the agricultural centers, inflated property values, and rampant speculation all contributed to the greatest economic tragedy, yet President Hoover was blamed. One of the greatest periods of economic growth in our nation occurred during the 1990’s and many credit President Clinton with it, yet again several factors played into this mainly the exploitation of emerging technologies in a way never before seen in the world market. Moses was in charge while God Himself provided the substance of continued existence and humanity credits Moses. What will Jesus do to prove Himself?
Where is eternal bread found? What sign will Jesus provide? Both revolve around a single thing belief. I mentioned before belief is knowledge and action. The food providing eternal life is found in discipleship. Discipleship is knowing and living a life with God in relationship. It is built on knowing what is said in scripture, it is built on knowing the context in which those words were spoken, and it is also built on the actions that proceed out of that knowledge. Jesus told them Moses did not provide the bread that fed the children of Israel, but God. The bread came down from heaven and sustained life. He then says, “I am the bread of life.” With this one statement Jesus claims not only to be equal to Moses but also equal to God the Father. Just as the manna came from heaven so does He. So those that want to feast on the bead of eternal life, must believe, follow, or become disciples of Him. They must participate in His life and in His lifestyle.
To participate in this eternal feast we believe. We engage with God in scripture seeking not only knowledge of what is written but why. We engage in the life of Christ through prayer. Prayer is the place where we commune and relate with the divine. Just as Jesus withdrew to the desolate place we too should withdraw to these places to relate with God. We participate in the eternal feast when we act as Jesus would act.
Oddly this sounds like an easy task, yet we have divisions throughout the Church. Each group claims to have the answer, each group claims to be the right way. We read scripture and try to harmonize every aspect and it raises questions. How can we claim that God wants us to live in peace, yet also commands a conquest? How can we trust a God that commands us to stone the adulterous yet through Christ forgives the one commanded to die? Belief. Not just knowledge but following and reflecting the lifestyle and relational aspect of Jesus. These people wanted a sign to follow Jesus; a sign that they themselves had already participated in yet failed to see. They wanted a political leader; a leader that would provide for their base needs so they would not have to labor in a perishing quest. Jesus is claiming that all this comes through belief. Teaching, encouraging one person at a time, to disciple them to become the people God created them to be, and encouraging them to do the same. His command to us is to Go Make Disciples. He does not command us to teach classes in universities, or to take on political roles, but to make disciples. Developing disciples who also develop disciples.
The rest of the story is that the followers of Jesus did conquer the Roman overlords of Israel. They conquered not by weapons of war, but by making disciples. These disciples have spread around the world and across the span of time yet there are still many that have yet been given the opportunity to truly believe. Even today in our own communities there are people that are starving. They yearn for bread to satisfy their base physical needs, and they yearn to be known and to be loved by God. Are you willing to share your feast, are we willing to invest our time and energy to walk along side someone, as they become disciples of Jesus? Are we willing participate in a conquest and adventure to spread the love of God to those around us?
As we enter into this time of open worship. I encourage each of us to consider what type of bread we are seeking, are they eternal or perishing, diminishing or expanding? I also ask are we willing to join Christ in the journey of belief as we become a community Loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit, and Living the love of Christ with others.