John, Chapter 6, leads us into another of Jesus' deep, insightful
discourses, designed to draw us closer to Him and to a clearer
understanding of His kingdom.
The setting for this discourse is two-fold: The feeding of the 5000, and Jesus and the storm.
The Feeding of the 5000: We know many details about this miracle, because the incident is recorded in all four of the gospels, and each one gives us slightly different insight into the story. We know from Matthew that John the Baptist has just been beheaded, and Jesus, feeling a bit upset by this, goes off by Himself to grieve and pray: "And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison...When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart..." (Matt 14:10)
We know from Mark and Luke that it was meant to be a "private" thing... "And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida." (Luke 9:10) (See also Mark 5:32)
We know from all four gospels that great crowds followed them, and that when He saw the crowds, Jesus was moved by compassion because they were hungry and there was nowhere for them to find food. So Jesus multiplied what they had, two small barley loaves and five small fish, and it was enough to feed five thousand men, plus women and children, with 12 baskets of leftovers.
Jesus and the Storm: Following the feeding of the 5000, Jesus went up into a private place to pray: "Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone." (John 6:15 NKJV), and His disciples left by boat. While they were in the middle of the lake, a mighty storm came up, and just when the disciples thought they would perish, Jesus came by, walking on the water. Jesus then got into the boat, and immediately they were at their destination! "Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going." (John 6:21 NKJV)
It's interesting that though Jesus had calmed another storm, this time His response to the trouble is different: He simply "warps" the boat across the lake and into the harbor they were heading for!
The Bread of Life Discourse: It is actually the day after these two big miracles that our discourse begins. The people realize as soon as the sun rises that Jesus is no longer there, but since they didn’t see Him leave with His disciples, they set out to find Him. And they do find Him, on the other side of the lake!
Is it surprising that they should then ask, "Rabbi, when did You come here?" (John 6:25)
Typical to His style, Jesus doesn't give them the answer they are looking for: "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled." (John 6:26 NKJV)
Why didn't He just answer their question?
Because Jesus wanted them to learn an important lesson.
You see, the people were focused on one thing: Jesus had fed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 small fish. Meanwhile, the disciples were focused on another: Jesus had walked on water, and then they suddenly found themselves, not in the middle of the lake, but in a safe harbor! The lesson that each of these people carried in this hearts was this: Jesus always takes care of our needs! We cannot predict how He will resolve our problems. He doesn't always use conventional ways. He doesn't always use the same ways. But He doesn't abandon us to our problems!
Important lessons to learn? Absolutely.
Vital teachings for us today? You bet.
But as important as these lessons are, they are shallow as compared to the instruction He was preparing to give them. You see, Jesus wanted to take them deeper, and to do so, He needed them to understand that they were seeking Him for the wrong reasons.
This is a call, friends, to examine our own motivation for seeking Jesus. Do we do so because we want a healing? Because we are afraid of going to hell? Because we don't have any food to put on the table? Because we're in trouble?
Or do we seek Jesus for the right reason? "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life ..." (John 6:27a NKJV)
Jesus calls us to seek Him not just for the flashy miracle that makes our lives on earth more comfortable, but instead, we are to seek Him for the food that endures to everlasting life with God!
Wait a minute. Is Jesus doing it again? Answering our questions with vague statements that only leave us with more questions?
Join us next week for Bread of Life, Part 2: What Jesus really has to offer.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.
(To access the rest of the "Bread of Life, a Study on True Christianity" mini-series, please click here.)