John 6 Bread Lines

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Questions: What do the crowds want from Jesus? What does he want for the crowds? How should the disciples cope with their limited resources? How can we know what God wants from us? Why does Jesus give us what we need? Is it worth sticking around for?”Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.John 6:1-71

After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is [the sea] of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.

So, we begin our scene with a miracle-hungry crowd stalking Jesus. Rather than being annoyed, though, Jesus is concerned:

When Jesus then lifted up [his] eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

Clearly a trick question, which Philip (like I would) takes too literally:

Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

Unlike Andrew:

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

Intriguingly, Andrew responds with a question. He’s not sure what’s going on, but at least he’s smart enough to throw it back in Jesus lap — and give him whatever he’s got. Which, apparently, is enough:

And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

Actually, more than enough:

When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered [them] together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

Which is so impressive, the crowd gets carried away:

Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

Like they say, no good deed ever goes unpunished. The more the crowd loves you, the more alone you become. Even his disciples leave him for a while:

And when even was [now] come, his disciples went down unto the sea, And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.

Though Jesus comes back to them, when they least expect it:

And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.

Who can blame them? Though they quiet readily enough at his words:

But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

I wonder how often Jesus comes to us in the midst of storms, but we are too afraid to receive him. Conversely, how often do we lose Jesus when he moves in ways we don’t expect?

The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but [that] his disciples were gone away alone; (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?

You have to give them points for persistence! Though, Jesus doesn’t:

Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

Ouch. Perhaps stung by the rebuke, they try to follow his lead:

Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Though, they quickly revert to type:

They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

Jesus does his best to straighten them out, and point them back to the Father — and Himself:

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

And they cooperate by giving him the appropriate straight line:

Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

To which he responds:

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

Sweet! Though, there’s an edge to his comment:

But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

But also a comfort:

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Why?

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

Intriguing. Jesus compassion doesn’t stand on its own, but out of a recognition that it is ultimately God his Father who is bringing those people to him.

Doh! Of course. That is why he fed the multitudes — and knew he could. Because he knew that this crisis was part of God’s plan (unlike, say, when they tried to crown him), and therefore there must be a solution that would glorify God.

Not just now, but forever:

And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Mind-blowing. In fact, the Jewish elders had their minds blown several verses back:

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

Which bothers Jesus not at all:

Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

It really does all come down to Father inspiring people to come to him — not Jesus having to draw people by his own power (a lesson I need to remember!). Though, they still must come:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Which really freaks them out:

The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

Heck, that sort of gruesome imagery would freak anybody out, no matter how encouraging:

As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

— especially in church!

These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.

Which even his disciples realize is bad PR:

Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard [this], said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

To which Jesus replies, ‘If you think that was bad…”

When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? [What] and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?

Huh?

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

Clearly, the kingdom Jesus is bringing is totally out there, and not everyone has the stomach for it:

From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

Ouch. Yet despite all this, there are some who remain. Why?

Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

Bold — even comforting — words. But even here, there is a fly in the ointment:

Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot [the son] of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

Prayer

God, following Jesus is harder that it looks; just when I think I’ve figured him out, he throws me a curve. Lord, teach me to seek after you, that I may recognize Jesus. Fill me with a holy hunger, that refuses to be satisfied with lesser bread. Humble me, that I may submit to Jesus shocking command to feed only on him. Hold, that I never fall away from the words of eternal life. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

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