As I mentioned when introducing this Gospel, John loved to use physical phenomena to illustrate spiritual truths. This chapter’s description of the feeding of 5,000 and the discussion after it is exhibit A of this. Out of his mercy and compassion, he provided food for all these people, and their reaction was to try to make him king by force. This miracle is found in all four Gospels, but the other three don’t have Jesus’ commentary about it, which we see here.
They came to him, asking how he'd gotten there, since they hadn’t seen him enter any boats (he actually walked on the water, but we’ve already talked about that). As he did with Nicodemus in chapter 3, he completely ignored what someone was saying/asking and instead answered to the needs of the speaker’s heart. He knew that they weren’t even searching for a circus-like miracle anymore, which would be bad enough. No, all they cared about was that he'd provided them with all the food they could eat. As any homeless shelter volunteer can tell you, if you start passing out free food, you’re sure to be popular.
But here we get to the crux of the matter: Jesus was trying to get them past simply looking at physical food to much more important sustenance. Just like with the woman at the well on the subject of physical water, he was using the physical food to show something about himself. He was offering them bread that wouldn’t spoil, and would completely satisfy once and for all.
Being raised in a legalistic approach to God, they asked the obvious question: “What does God want us to do to earn this?” What was Jesus’ answer? “Nothing. Just believe in the one whom the Father has sent, namely
” In order to appropriate this “bread,” all you have to do is trust in me, utterly. me.
Here we begin the comparison/contrast with Moses and his work. Moses had promised that God would send
a prophet like himself, and they were warned to listen to what he had to say. Now that prophet “like Moses” had come, but they were skeptical. Jesus had only fed about 5,000 men one time, while Moses had fed millions for 40 years. Israel
Here’s where it’s really important to pay attention. First off, it was through Moses that God had supplied the Manna. Moses was a man; yes, he was a man who was amazingly used by the Lord, but he was just a man. By himself, Moses could've done nothing. Second, as wonderful as the Manna was, it wasn't able to really give life. It could stave off death by starvation, but every one of those Israelites who ate it eventually died. But if you eat this new bread that he was offering, you'd live forever. Of course, he’s talking about spiritual life, since even believers die physically.
But that really gets to the heart of the issue, doesn’t it? The Manna certainly didn’t change their hearts or restore their relationship with their Creator, did it? You know how rebellious they were, and how it kept them out of the Promised Land. But this new Bread will change everything. Yes, we’ll still die eventually, but death has lost its sting for us. And we'll live forever. Not just exist forever (everyone’s going to do that), but live forever. We’ll be forever in the immediate presence of Life himself.
All that, just by believing in him. If you’ve “eaten” this “Bread,” if you have his Life within you, then how about some gratitude?
Lord Jesus, thank you. How can I show my gratitude? I’m sure you can think of something.
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