Therefore they said to Him, “What are we to do, so that we may accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:28-29 NASB)
Please review the entire text of John 6:1-41 HERE.
John packs much drama into the sixth chapter of his Gospel. Jesus feeds thousands on a hillside with five barley loaves and two fish. He then withdraws from the crowd and His disciples, leaving in the night, only to rejoin them by walking across the sea to the boat. While this movement at first confuses the crowd, they make their way back across the Sea of Galilee to Jesus. This is not because they want Jesus for who He was, but because they want more miraculous bread.
As elsewhere in John, these signs are supposed to point to a greater reality beyond the mere phenomenon. Like any signpost on a road, the sign points to an impending reality – say, “Curve in Road,” or flashing stop signs at a railroad crossing. But the people just do not get it. And let’s be honest – would we be any faster on the draw?
Jesus explains the situation to them plainly:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate some of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” (John 6:26-27, NASB)
Knowing they have missed the meaning of the sign, Jesus tries again to teach them. And it seems at first that they get it, until they ask Jesus their question - one we all ask when faced with a God beyond our imaginings: “What must we DO?” How hard it is for us to receive the gift of grace and not DO anything, but simply believe.
How hard it is for us to come as we truly are – as “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), or literally “with empty pockets?” And yet when we do, Jesus says we are “Blessed and ours is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
In this case, Jesus replied, in effect, “If you must have something to do, let it be this: believe in Him whom God has sent.” In other words, “ Believing in Me is your work. Work at that.”
And what is their response to this simple directive? It is almost comical. They ignore Jesus and ask for yet another sign!
So they said to Him, “What then are You doing as a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? (John 6:30, NASB)
If there was ever a time for an eye-roll, this is it. Seriously, they have already received the sign of the feeding of the 5,000 (probably closer to 12,000 including women and children); they have seen Jesus travel across the Sea of Galilee at record-breaking speed; and He has given them an explanation of the sign’s meaning. What more could He give them?
This would be hilarious if it wasn’t something we also do. Doesn’t God answer our prayers and provide for us, only to have us turn around and question His love and care at a new crisis? I know I catch myself doing this all the time.
All the while, we are utterly missing the real point – that what we need is not temporary bread, but the Bread of Life… Jesus Himself.
All Necessary Objects Point to our Greatest Longing
“…it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; the one who comes to Me will not be hungry, and the one who believes in Me will never be thirsty. (John 6:32b-35, NASB)
Throughout chapters 6-11 of John, Jesus will appeal directly to a wide array of organic metaphors and festival ceremonies deeply imbedded in the worship life of Israel’s Messianic longings to re-direct people away from their false notions of who He is and invite them to see Him for who He truly is: the Messiah, the Son of God and God in the flesh.
Just as in our own lives – the best things we experience are not yet eternal fullness which we find only in Christ, but are mere hints, leftover clues, a sort of present-day nostalgia for what could become a reality only in relationship with God in Christ.
Never Hunger, Never Thirst
If you pray the Lord’s Prayer daily, when you get to the part where you pray “give us this day our daily bread” I encourage you to expand the meaning of this and to connect it to the earlier “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
Why? Well simply because what is taking place between your initial encounter with the Living “Bread of Life” and the final consummation of all things in the creation of a new Heaven and a new Earth and all of us being transformed into Christ’s likeness is the active in-breaking of the Kingdom of God on Earth through the Gospel. It is His will being done in me and you a little more each day here on Earth as it is in Heaven. This can only happen as an active daily disciple. But that is our joy and the meaning of our lives. As we behold and meditate on His glory we are changed. He is our sustenance.