the meal that matters | John 6.25-29
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “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 work 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.” John 6.25-29 | ESV
And, eureka! they found him. Right there on the other side of the lake…but…wait…how did he…
They run up to him enthusiastically shouting, “Rabbi! When did you get over here?”
Breathing deeply, Jesus begins laying it on the line with them: “I’m going to give this to you straight – very straight: You’re not tracking me down because you saw miraculous signs and learned from them, you’re here because yesterday you stuffed yourselves with food and you’re after another meal. Stop! Stop pouring all this time, energy, and effort into finding your next meal which is here one moment and gone the next – and start focusing all that same time, energy, and effort into the one meal that really matters, the one that will actually stick with you not just through the day but forever, the one meal leading to life, life and more life – it’s the one meal the Son of Man will serve you, and he’s the only One with God’s seal of approval.”
The crowd responds eagerly, licking their lips, “We’re all over that, what do we have to do to get reservations for that table – we’ll do whatever God wants!”
“You want to be on his list?” Jesus replied, “There’s only one thing required: Trust. Trust the One he’s sent. Period.” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
One of the greatest challenges we face is placing ourselves right there on the shore of Capernaum, right there in the streets, in the synagogue, and really sense what the crowd is feeling, thinking and then connect with how Jesus responds to them; and then, having done that, to cross back over this contextualizing bridge right here so we can hear what Jesus is saying through all this to us now.
First off, as I survey the pursuing crowd in this scene, I don’t see the five, ten, twenty thousand people that Jesus had fed the day before. Somehow I don’t see ten thousand people rowing across the Sea of Galilee in rowboats. I would imagine they have thinned a bit since the disappointing day before.
Jesus had so built up all their expectations, only to knock all the messianic wind out of them when he abruptly turned away from their move to orchestrate a coronation on the spot. I imagine the crowd dispersing, the show’s over!, people going home, pilgrims resuming their journey to Jerusalem.
It was all just a big dud.
But there’s a sizeable group of die hard disciples and disciple wannabes that do come looking, do commandeer that little flotilla of boats, and do find him on the shores of Capernaum.
The “bread of life” discourse John now records for us was perhaps a series of interactions on the shore, through the streets, and finally in the synagogue itself as evening came and the Sabbath began.
And this is about much more than bread.
Bread is the outward symbol of a much more pressing feast with which they were obsessed – a feast of their own tangible, political, economic, social, and cultural expectations and aspirations they looked for him to fulfill. But Jesus points away to another table, another feast altogether – to the real meal that matters.
But how hard it is for us to surrender the menu of our expectations…
…and how difficult to “do” the one thing that seats us at that table:
What immediate, pressing needs are you expecting God to take care of? What would you say is the key to getting beyond the tyranny of urgent needs and hungers to what really matters most – and what would you say does really matter most?
Lord, lift my eyes beyond the pressing crowd of immediate needs and emergencies to see and embrace what really matters most right here, right now. Stir within me a hunger for the meal that really matters, and let me be content with nothing less. Through Jesus.