Following Jesus for All the Wrong Reasons
Two of the great signs performed by Jesus in the Gospel of John are the feeding of the multitude (John 6:1-15) and walking on the water (John 6:16-21). I’ve read and taught on those passages multiple times. However, I must admit that I’ve taken very little time to consider what happened the next day in Jesus’ life. Take a moment and read John 6:22-29.
22 The next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw there had been only one boat. They also saw that Jesus had not boarded the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone off alone. 23 Some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set his seal of approval on him.”
28 “What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked.
29 Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the one he has sent.”
Now, the story does not end at verse 29 but let’s pause there for the moment.
The crowd pursues Jesus across the water but Jesus knows that they are following Him for all of the wrong reasons. Their motivations are nothing more than curiosity and cravings. They want to know how He got across the sea and if they can get their bellies filled again. Just the day before, He broke the laws of nature and physics to miraculously feed them and walk across the water in a raging storm. But all they have in mind is getting more bread.
They are asking all of the wrong questions. In their mind, the logistics of what time He arrived is more pressing that the presence of the Messiah in their midst. The cravings of their stomachs is overriding the fact that the Bread of Life is standing before them. Plus, they want to know how they can perform the “works of God.”
It reveals a deep brokenness in their lives.. and in our own. For this crowd that personally benefited from Christ’s miracles, they have gone on an adventure in missing the point. It is a journey we can painfully identify with having traveled.
Jesus gave two answers in the first half of this next-day encounter that will solve much in our lives. First, He calls them to a better motive. Knowing that they only want to fill their bellies, He calls them away from the fleshly motivation. They wanted the gifts more than the Giver. We want the healing more than the Healer. We want the blessing more than the One who blesses. We want strength more than the Strong One. We want the forgiveness more than the Forgiver. We want salvation more than the Savior. What is your motivation?
Jesus also leads them to better understand how to live in His kingdom. They asked about personally performing the works of God (verse 28). It is a bit egotistical and arrogant. In the presence of the One who miraculously fed them and walked across the stormy sea, they suddenly wan to figure out what they can personally do to add to God’s works in the world. Their question was about what they could possess for God. Jesus answered with a statement that stand singularly in His ministry. Read it again.
Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the one he has sent.”
He moved them from a noun of possession – works– to the verb of surrender – believe. You and I are not called to add to God’s accomplishments. We are called to surrender in belief to the Savior. Rather than curiosity about how Jesus got across the sea or craving for a full belly again, we need to cast our faith upon Him and be faithful to believe in Him no matter the circumstance.
It is a moment of surrender to which we are called. It is the recognition that the stuff of this world is just the stale loaf of off-brand bread. This is the point where we cry out, “Jesus is enough.”