Why do people come to Jesus? If you believe this scripture it’s because they want something from him. It’s a quid pro quo arrangement. They come to Jesus because they believe he will give them something in return for their asking (or presence). In this case, it is food. Before you go off all half cocked and judge these people for wanting more free bread, free something, free anything from Jesus; let’s examine our own motives. We all want something from Jesus. We all come here seeking something in return for our presence. Call it salvation, call it peace, call it understanding, or even the bread of life. We all want something from Jesus.
The people who’ve approached Jesus don’t understand what they want or for what they’re asking. They simply see Jesus as a means to an end. He can deliver them from an immediate human need: hunger. To them, it doesn’t matter who he is, where he comes from, where he was born, or where he’s headed. What’s important is this: what can Jesus do for them at this moment. Jesus is a means to an end, a tool, a device, nothing more and nothing less.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not attacking the hungry. I’ve established food banks. I know hungry people fall through the cracks when we think everyone has enough to eat. Food security, as the aid agencies say, is one of the major issues in our world today. Hungry people facing drought and shortages are the cause of major humanitarian crises around the world. People aren’t themselves when they’re hungry, either physically or spiritually. This is the larger point Jesus is trying to make. These people who Jesus has encountered, people who have been physically fed, are not themselves. How do I know this? Because they see Jesus as a means to an end; because their belief in Jesus is contingent upon what Jesus will do for them. If Jesus’ actions, if his “doing” doesn’t meet their standards, they will not believe. They back up this demand by quoting scripture, “do it like Moses did, prove to us God’s presence in the same way Moses proved God’s presence in the wilderness.”
Did you catch that? They manipulated the Bible, the word of God, to fit their own vision of the world. Can you believe people would do such a thing? Here’s the point where I want to scream, “It’s a trap, Jesus!” Jesus knows it’s a trap. He’s a pretty smart guy. He knows when people are trying to twist scripture and trap him into doing something. They’re saying to Jesus, “the Bible makes a point Jesus, this is identical to what we want you to do for us right now.” The clear implication they’re making is, “Jesus, you wouldn’t want to contradict the Bible.” So be a machine Jesus, give us what we want without any thought to whom you really are or what you’re really trying to teach us. You see, we don’t care about that stuff any way. Just give us what we want. Can you imagine people saying that kind of thing today or wanting to use Jesus as some kind of spiritual vending machine? I don’t know about you, but that’s an easy leap for me to make.
Jesus’ response to the people who’ve approached him is clear and direct. An encounter with him is not a one sided, zero sum game. Instead, it is akin to a relationship. I hate to even use that word. “Relationship” as a term has been done to death in movies, books, and in Christianity. It’s lost a great deal of its impact because our culture uses the term so loosely these days. We have relationships with our cell phone providers, car dealers, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What Jesus describes in John 6 is the incarnation, far more than any relationship or any term used to describe how you talk about your friendship with your hairdresser. He’s saying God isn’t providing in a one way manner as God did through Moses in the desert.
Jesus is saying, God is providing in the flesh, present, not from a distance, but from right here, right now. In the fullness of God’s right here, right now is all of your hunger, thirst, sorrow, sadness, joy, hope, and love. You don’t need to ask for a thing. Every emotion, every feeling, is present in the fullness of Jesus the Christ.
You don’t have to ask for signs any longer. You need not come to Jesus seeking miracles for your own self-satisfaction. The defining miracle is the bread. The definitive wonder is in the cup. The sign you seek is an empty tomb.
Jesus is here at this table to feed you spiritually and physically. Will that be enough?