Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”… Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Read the whole thing)
Five Loaves and Two fish. They just ate the five loaves and two fish that Jesus turned into such abundance, into so much for the crowd of 5000 that there was still 12 baskets left over. Yet, the crowds that have been following Jesus still want more bread. They want something more for their stomachs, something more for their hunger.
It has only been a week since we heard again the story of the miracle of the five loaves and two fish, and for the crowds wanting more bread today, it has only been moments since this miracle. Following the grand feast on the mountain, Jesus escaped to be by himself. The disciples, tried to cross back over the lake, only to be met by Jesus walking the water. And the whole way, the crowd has been stalking Jesus and the disciples. The crowds are looking for more.
Jesus tries to show the crowd a different way, he tries to show them true bread from heaven, but the crowd wants more bread. Bread that can be eaten, bread that fills their bellies. Last week the crowds were given bread and fish to eat, they were given a sign of God’s work and power right in front of their eyes. Yet today, they want more, they want more miracles, more manna like from Moses, more power to be shown and they want it for themselves. Jesus tries to turn their attention to what he is doing and what he is offering right in front of their eyes but they can only imagine God’s work on their terms. They might not exactly be certain what they want from Jesus, their Bread King, but they know they want something big, flashy, exciting and low risk.
Like the crowds who followed Jesus, we also can get caught up in a particular vision of what God’s work looks like in the world. “What must we do to perform the works of God?” the crowds ask Jesus. We like to ask our own versions of that question. What is God’s plan for my life? How can we attract people to our church? When will my prayers be answered? What can we do to make our church grow? Why is God letting this happen to me?
There are 3 things that the crowds are said to be looking for in this passage:
At first, John says they are looking for a Jesus… for a king. Someone to protect and care for them, someone to provide and entertain them.
And then Jesus accuses the crowds of looking to full their bellies. They are seeking instant gratification, to have some kind of emptiness they carry filled in the short term.
And then the crowds themselves say they are looking to do the works of God. They are looking for God on their terms, they are looking for easy access to God, some sign, some work that shows them they have found the right person to follow. They are looking for assurance.
We know what it is like to look for kings, for instant gratification, for God on our terms. We are about to enter into a election season, and we will be bombarded by political leaders saying all the things they think we want to hear. They will present themselves as benevolent leaders, seeking only what is best for us… or what is the best way to get our vote.
We know what it is like to seek instant gratification. Fast food, the latest gadgets, short line ups, speedy customer service. We want things and we want them now.
And we know what it is like to want God on our terms. As people of faith we genuinely want to be faithful… but only up to the point where it is isn’t too inconvenient, or risky or uncertain. God can ask to be disciples, as long we can do it in a couple hours a week.
As we are standing with those crowds… seeking God on our terms, seeking to have our bellies filled…
We are confronted with Jesus’ words about life. Jesus offers and then gives to us something different than that what we want. We want the Kings who say what we want to hear, the satisfaction of full bellies, we want God who is powerful yet tame.
And we want all of these things with the crowds, while we haven’t the slightest clue that, Jesus, that God in flesh, that God’s greatest work made visible in the world is standing right there before the crowds, before us.
God is right there, before us, offering himself, and would rather find a God that fits our vision, than see God’s work right before our eyes.
And yet, despite our search God in our image, Christ stands there in our midst, offering himself to us. Offering us grace, love, mercy and compassion.
Its normal and human to want what the crowds want. It is in our nature to want a God that fits our expectations.
The crowds want a king, but we get a saviour nailed to a cross.
The crowds want bread to fill their bellies, but God gives us the Bread of life to fill our souls.
The crowds want God on their terms, but God comes to us and meets us on God terms. God meets in flesh, God meets us in Jesus.
The crowds don’t really know what they are looking for. And we so often, don’t know what to look for when it comes to finding God in our world.
But today, Jesus comes to us and helps us discover that God is right here, standing among us, pointing to the true works of the divine, to the works of God in our midst. God is not found in Kings or politicians, in fast food bread that fills us only for a moment. God is not a God of our invention. God is a God of love and mercy, a God of words of hope and promise. A God of water that quenches our thirst. A God of bread and wine that truly fill that emptiness inside of us.
Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” We want bread, and God satisfies our hunger and thirst with body and blood, bread and wine. We want to do the works of God, and God gives us Jesus the Christ, God with us in the flesh. And despite our efforts to look for God in all the wrong places, God gives us – for free and without condition – the bread of life.