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What's Your Interest in Jesus? (John 6:16-35)

August 22, 2021 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: John and the Seven Signs of Jesus

Topic: One Lord: So Great a Salvation Passage: John 6:16–6:35

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I. Have an Interest?

Do you have any interest in Jesus? People all over the world have for almost 2000 years. Whether he's known as Jesus, Jezui, Yesu, Isa, Jisu, Jesu, Jesús, Gesus, Iosa, Yeso, or Yeshua, this man is arguably the most important figure in all human history. Not only did his birth shape the calendar used globally today, but the instrument of his death is one of the most recognizable symbols in all history.

But others are interested in Jesus precisely because he is so well-known. If you can show that Jesus is on your side, if you can present Jesus as a champion of your cause, if you can convince people that you speak for Jesus, you are far more likely to succeed. This has been the case with religious, political, and social movements throughout history. It's also helped with selling books, movie tickets, and many other 'Christian' commodities.

Still others are interested in Jesus, not because of his historical importance or impact, or because they want to make him their 'poster boy', but because of the claims made about him: he can change your life, he can cleanse your heart, he can give you peace, and because he rose from the dead, he can give you hope in the face of death. As a once popular bumper sticker put it, “No matter the question, the answer is Jesus.”

Do you have any interest in Jesus? If so, what's driving that interest?

I'd like to share a relevant (and hopefully helpful) passage with you this morning from the New Testament (NT), specifically from the Gospel of John. The NT is a collection of writings from the First Century A.D. (or C.E.) that provide us with the earliest accounts of Jesus' life and words, and the movement he began.

 

II. The Passage: “Do Not Work for the Food that Perishes” (6:1-15)

Let me read to you from John chapter 6, verses 16-35. To understand the flow here, I think it's helpful to break this passage down into a few parts. So let me read that first part: verses 16-21...

 

1. Trampling the Waves of the Sea (6:16-21)

When evening came, his [Jesus'] disciples went down to the sea, [17] got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. [18] The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. [19] When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. [20] But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” [21] Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

So clearly this is an astounding account. In fact, the phrase or idea of “walking on water” comes from this very story. But is it true? Did it really happen? It's important to understand that this story, along with all the stories about Jesus in the NT are presented as eyewitness accounts, not literary fictions or fantastical embellishments (notice this is not set in a world of unicorns or hobbits—this is our world, where people are scared when they see a man walking on water). So if we take this account at face value, then our next question should be “why”? Why did Jesus walk on water in order to join his disciples, instead of just getting in the boat with them earlier?

Well, the writer of this Gospel is clear about why he's collected these accounts: he wants to present powerful signs that confirm the radically unique identity of Jesus. Now, no matter the culture or period in history, walking on water is a powerful sign. But for the Jewish men in this boat, this astounding event would have pointed them to passages from the Hebrew Bible, passages like Job 9:8 which describes how it is God “who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea”. Surely this man, Jesus, was more than just a miracle worker.

 

2. A Transition from Sign to Sight (6:22-24)

But look at where the passage takes us next. Verse 22...

On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. [23] Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. [24] So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

The “crowd” mentioned here are just some of the thousands that Jesus miraculously fed with bread in the opening verses of this chapter. This seems likely, since it's unlikely that the “other boats” mentioned in verse 23 were numerous enough to transport all those people. Now there's no need to linger on this passage. It really just serves to connect the first part of this passage with the third part. That's not to downplay its importance. It's critical we understand how John is tying the sign in verses 16-21 with the 'sight' Jesus provides in the last section, verses 25-35.

 

3. Questioning the Answer (6:25-35)

So as we look at this third part, I want you to notice how John has shaped the account around three questions the crowd puts to Jesus. I also want you to keep in mind the first question I asked you this morning: “Do you have an interest in Jesus?”. Listen as I read, starting in v. 25...

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” [26] Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you [I think that means something like, “pay attention to my words; you can be sure of this...”], you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. [27] 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.” [28] Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” [29] Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” [30] So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? [31] Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” [32] 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. [33] For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” [34] They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” [35] Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Do you see how Jesus ignores their first question and, right away, points out the problem with their motives. What was their interest in Jesus? Well according to Jesus, their interest was driven by their stomachs: (v. 26) ...you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Having an interest in Jesus, seeking him out, wanting to be with him is, in and of itself, not enough. Why? Because you may be coming for all the wrong reasons, but even worse, leaving with all the wrong conclusions.

Jesus does not want that to happen here. So he challenges this crowd to expend their energies on lasting nourishment, not temporary pleasures: (v. 27) Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life... Where will this forever-kind of food come from? ...which the Son of Man will give to you. Why look to Jesus for this nourishment? For on him God the Father has set his seal.” That is, Jesus has been distinguished as God's fully-authorized representative. According to the previous chapter, the miracles of Jesus, the Hebrew Bible, and God himself all testify to this fact.

Now, if this crowd is anything, they are practical. So they ask, (v. 28) “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Expecting some list of good works, some outline toward moral reformation, Jesus' answer here undoubtedly tripped them up: (v. 29) “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” They wanted precepts and practices. Instead, Jesus called them to faith and faith alone; to simply place their trust in him as the one God had sent.

But here's where the crowd seems to get a little presumptuous. Even though they had enjoyed the bread that Jesus had miraculously multiplied in the opening verses of this chapter, they press Jesus for even more: (v. 30) “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” Yes, they ate bread. But their ancestors ate bread from heaven. If Jesus really was the Prophet like Moses that God had promised (see verse 14 of this chapter), then he should be able to give them, not just bread, but heavenly manna like the Israelites enjoyed in Exodus 16.

How does Jesus respond to this stipulation? He offers them not just “bread from heaven” like that manna in the desert, but “true bread from heaven”. What is this bread? Verse 33: it “is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” As Jesus declares in verse 35, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

 

III. When the Signs Give Sight

Do you have any interest in Jesus? If so, what's driving that interest?

The corrective Jesus offers the crowd here is a corrective for us as well: “If you're coming to me in order to get anything less than eternal life, if you're coming because you see me as some heavenly means to accomplish your earthly ends, if you're coming to me and ultimately seeking something other than... me, then you need to 'check yourself before you wreck yourself'.

We are, sadly, the kinds of creatures who so often prefer a full stomach (that is, a comfortable, successful, enjoyable physical/material life) in the here and now, over a full heart through faith, in light of the age to come. Thus, there are many today who are coming (or who have come) to Jesus because [they] ate [their] fill of the loaves; that is, because Jesus provided them with a solid, moral compass, or they felt emotionally stirred, or because a church helped them repair a damaged marriage, or because religion reconnected them with family or family traditions or an earlier, easier chapter of their life, or because a church made them feel good about themselves and they liked the music, or because they found community, or intellectual stimulation, or they simply felt good about adding a box to their checklist, a box labeled 'spirituality'.

Can we find Jesus through such things? Of course. But in many cases we simply go to such things, not through them. Tragically, these good things become destinations rather than doorways. Please know this: without fail, those who are looking for a Messiah to fill their stomachs will be ultimately disappointed with the One who ultimately came to fill our hearts.

And yet the words of Jesus still ring down through the centuries, asking us today, “Why would you settle for what cannot truly fill you and what will not truly last, when abundant, eternal life is offered to you, from me... and in me?”

Remember how Jesus worded his corrective in v. 26: ...you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. You see, these profound and powerful signs were meant to reveal something profound and powerful about the One who performed them. Think about it: this crowd crossed the lake in boats in order to get some kind of earthly fullness from the One who crossed the lake by... walking on the water. In light of that stunning truth, how could any of us not be driven by the who in this passage instead of the what? In awe of him, not simply the sign. Gripped by Jesus himself, not simply what we can get from Jesus.

Are you hungry today? I mean really hungry... with a deep, spiritual hunger that nothing in this world could ever satisfy? If you are, then hear again the words of Jesus: I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” And this declaration by Jesus is just the first of seven similar statements, each one equally profound and powerful: “I am the bread of life” (6:35), “I am the light of the world” (8:12), “I am the door” (10:9), “I am the good shepherd” (10:11), “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “I am the way and the truth and the life” (14:6), “I am the vine” (15:1,5).

No one has ever spoken like this. No one has done what Jesus has done. And the seven signs preserved and explained in the Gospel of John were only the beginning. The book famously concludes with Jesus offering up his life on a Roman cross, and then on the third day, rising again from the dead. The bread of life broken, that each of us might be fed. Raised to life that we might truly live. As another NT writer explained it: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God... (I Peter 3:18a)

When you begin to understand all this, it's not surprising that this one life has made such an incomparable impact on countless lives, throughout history and around the world.

So... what's your interest in Jesus? He is calling you to come, not so you can bring your list, but so you can be nourished by his life; so that you can know him, and love him, and follow him. What can you do? What should you do? “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” It's time to turn from that 'stomach-driven', 'stomach-defined' life and bring your deepest hunger to the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. Won't you trust him today?

 

More in John and the Seven Signs of Jesus

September 19, 2021

Savoring His Certainty (John 7:25-36)

September 12, 2021

Things as They 'Should' Be (John 7:1-24)

September 5, 2021

Cannibals and Vampires for Jesus? (John 6:51-71)