After feeding a great crowd of people, as recorded in John 6, Jesus sends His disciples away and enters into prayer. As the disciples head across the Sea of Galilee, a great storm whips up. Jesus, taking the unorthodox route of walking on water, meets them halfway across the lake during the night, calms the storm, and they proceed together across the lake. As the sun rises the next day, the crowd realizes Jesus has gone across the lake and they rush after him. They want more of Jesus.
When the people finally find Jesus, they ask Him a question: “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (6:25) Jesus isn’t much interested in giving them an answer to that question. They knew He was across the lake yesterday and now was on this side of the lake today. The timing wasn’t all that important.
So Jesus answers them: “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (6:26-27).
Jesus knew what the people were after. They wanted more bread. They wanted more of what Jesus could give to them.
Now, in one sense, it wasn’t bad for the crowd to want bread. They needed food. We all do! Every day we feel the hunger pangs that remind us that we need to have bread in order to live. But our hunger should also remind us that we are incessently hungry at deeper levels of our lives. We hunger to be satisfied in our souls…but we often settle for stuff, like bread, in an attempt to find satisfaction that can only be grasped deeper.
Jesus saw right through to the motivations of the crowd. They wanted Him to keep on doing the miraculous. They wanted Jesus to provide for their every want and to do it when they wanted. They wanted a Messiah who would meet their desires. That’s the kind of Messiah they would like to make king.
In the middle of that, Jesus confronts them about their motivation in pursuing Him. They are looking for Him because they ate bread until they were full. But Jesus tells them to pursue “not the food that spoils, but food the endures to eternal life” (6:27).
What are we looking for when we come to Jesus? Are we looking for Him to thrill us with miracle bread? Are we looking for special treatment from a God who will give us whatever we want? Or are we coming to Him because of who He is?
Are we looking to Him not for our desires but for the deepest need of our souls – the true food that satisfies eternally?
Jesus knows what we seek when we come to Him. But what a gift that He doesn’t always give us what we seek, but instead offers what we truly need. That greatest gift is Him: “the bread of life.”