For an introduction to this series, click here.
April 24, 2007This is a terribly rich chapter of the Bible. It starts off with the feeding of the 5,000, which I shall skip because it has been commented on before, except for some comments added by John at the end of the story: "When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, 'This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!' Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (6:14-15) This seems more like a comment from Mark, but here we find it in John, and none of the other three Gospels mentions it. Of course John is setting up the discourse he is about to record, but it also gives proof of Jesus' deity. He is omniscient, and He knew what the people were wanting to do.
Next we have the story of Jesus walking on the water and calming the storm, although John curiously does not mention that Jesus actually calmed the storm, nor does he mention that Peter walked on the water toward Jesus.
John records a very funny observation next. The people saw the disciples get into the boat, but they knew Jesus did not get into the boat, the only boat at the dock that night. So they went looking for Jesus around the area where they had seen Him last night, but they didn't find Him. They went across the Sea, and found Jesus at Capernaum with the disciples. The community around the Sea of Galilee must have been a lot like the town I grew up in: Piedmont, Mo. In Piedmont everybody knows everybody else's vehicles. People wave to each other as they meet on the roads. You can drive by the grocery store and know at least half the cars in the parking lot. If you've never experienced small-town life, you probably won't understand that. But these people must have been like that. They saw Jesus staying while the disciples got in the boat, so they figured Jesus would still be there or somewhere close. There are numerous accounts in the Gospels of people seeing Jesus coming into town or seeing Him pass by from one place to another. People knew His boat, much like people know others' cars today.
Back to the story. The people who followed Jesus around to the other side were not interested in hearing or knowing Jesus. Most of them were there for the free food. If people figure they can get something for free, they will always line up at the trough to get more. Jesus confronts their hypocrisy: "'Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.' Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.' So they said to him, 'Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, "He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" (6:26-31)
The people thought they could have it made if they kept following Jesus. After all, they thought, Moses gave the people food from heaven for 40 years. Jesus provided us one meal yesterday. If this man says he is better than Moses, then he ought to give us food for longer.
Jesus then said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.'" (6:26-33, ESV)
The people's lack of faith is demonstrated by their misquoting of scripture. The ESV marginal note refers the reader back to Nehemiah 9:15, while another source I have here says the people were quoting Psalm 78:24. The passage from Nehemiah is closer, and is a public prayer which acknowledged God's power in providing the manna, and Psalm 78 also attributes the manna to God, not Moses. Whichever one they were thinking of, the people misquoted the scripture, twisting it to say that Moses gave the manna. Jesus quickly corrects them, and tells them there is something more miraculous than providing food for a day. What could that be? Come back here tomorrow, hopefully, if my meeting doesn't go too long.