6 July 2020John 6:16-29
'Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you.' (v. 27)
Psalm: Psalm 70
This passage in John 6 comes directly after the feeding of the 5000 – where the theme of bread is central. The rest of the chapter is concerned with the topic of bread – the physical food and bread as spiritual nourishment. The Bread of Life will be at the heart of our considerations for the rest of this week.
Jesus is concerned that the crowd who followed him from one side of the lake to the other had completely the wrong motivation, a utilitarian desire for a perpetual free lunch. He tells them, "You are looking for me for all the wrong reasons."
But there is another level to this story that would not have escaped the notice of those who first heard it. It is the parallel with the Exodus and the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea, here represented by the Sea of Galilee. The crowd are looking for economic and political liberation like their forefathers, but Jesus, cast as a new Moses, is offering something much deeper. He tells them that life is more than eating and until people understand that they will not understand what Jesus is about.
Jesus explains to the people that his compassionate actions – the feeding of the people and the curing of the people are not lasting unless they are seen as signs – symbols pointing to Jesus as God’s gift to them. What matters is not what Jesus can do for people, rather what matters is who Jesus is for people.
- The disciples caught in the storm on the lake were frightened out of their wits. When they saw someone coming towards them on the lake (how soon did they recognise the figure as Jesus?) they were equally frightened. In troubled times in our lives when we become aware of a presence is that presence troubling or comforting or both?
- The crowds around the lake had thoroughly this-worldly preoccupations – their own physical wellbeing. Are we often more occupied with our material wellbeing, the perishable, rather than seeking the imperishable?