Jesus is One with the Father and The Spirit. Not flesh. His words are spirit and His words are life. It’s not about life in the flesh, not about carnal living. They sought after Him in their flesh for their flesh. No profit for the flesh, even though He healed and fed bodies. It was for the work of the Spirit of truth and life. For life eternal.
Jesus knew the people who surrounded and followed Him. He knew who was true and who was not. Leaders have all kinds of followers. He knew His betrayer. It was OK, all part of the plan. The Father drew them all for a purpose. When things are made clear, people choose. Jesus lost many numbers that day, but He lost no true followers.
- What attracts me to Jesus?
- Who holds me there? Jesus.
- Did it bother Jesus that the numbers shrunk?
Not at all. It was a winnowing of truth. Jesus confronted His disciples with an opportunity to leave, to bow out gracefully. None of the 12 left. Not even Judas Iscariot. Peter speaks for them all. No place else to go as it is Jesus alone who has the words of eternal life. They understand enough to follow Him.
I don’t always understand, but Jesus, I have no place else to go. You alone are life and I shall walk this life with You, wherever that leads me, regardless of those around me who may one day fail me, fail You as well. It is You alone who has the words of life. You alone are worth my time, You the author and the finisher of time.
Jesus in Capernaum, has confounded the miracle-enthused crowd with truth about who He is, where He is from, why He is here and what they must do to have eternal life. Plus, He revealed all this in the place of authority, the synagogue. They did not like it. They fount it “difficult”, and hard to ‘listen’ to. “Harsh, violent, stern, offensive, intolerable ” is the literal meaning of the Greek. From a root word, among the meanings are: when something goes cross-ways and thwarts a movement. Another is a military word meaning to retreat with your face toward the enemy. The root word is used by John referring to the legs of the crucified and Jesus legs not being broken. So this reference to difficulty by those who followed Jesus into the wilderness and ate the bread and fish, witnessed many miracles and wanted to king Him, is a violently repulsive thought to them. That is how they hear it. We can too. I am not into blood drinking. It is hard to comprehend what Jesus is meaning.
So they grumbled. They muttered and complained. Yup. That’s what I do. I mutter and complain when I do not understand. Yet we still have a choice. We can choose to keep on trying to understand, to keep on following after the truth even when we do not understand. Don’t let my grumbling stick around, trust Him anyway.
Why did they grumble? Doubt. Doubt either the truth of what they were hearing or thinking it meant. Doubt in their own ability to follow? Jesus directed His next question to that. They don’t believe because they know his parents. So He asks if they would believe if they saw Jesus ascending to where He came from before. Note, according to Luke, some did see this eventually.
- What will it take for me to believe without grumbling, without complaining?
- What will it take for me to trust Him without the doubt?
I have had enough experiences, yet when I am tired and stressed, I slip into that muttering mode that serves to do nothing but lead me toward anger, bitterness and resentment. Lord save me. Remind me of the truth that I can trust you even in my lack of understanding. I can follow you in my exhaustion and rest in my stress, from my stress. You got it handled. I can do this by following you, plodding forward in trust, inviting you in the boat and we are there already.
I’m a grumbler. I confess. I have this terrible habit of grumbling my way through my most difficult and stressful situations. It’s from a lack of confidence. Misplaced confidence. I see it in this chapter as Jesus has just spoken the most clear and emphatic truths, eternal truth about Himself. To the hungry crowds He tells them He is the Bread of Life. Come to Him and never be hungry. Believe in Him and never thirst. He shall never reject those who come. He does the will of God His Father who sent Him. That will is to lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. What is the will of God? “This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” ! Wow, now that’s a mouthful. Jesus clearly reveals Himself to them and what must be done to have eternal life and who He is. How do they respond?
Grumbling – because of bread. Because they knew His parents and it did not make sense. Because Jesus called Himself ‘Bread from Heaven’. Jesus, who just miraculously fed them bread in the wilderness. They did not understand. They did not believe. They doubted His word, on the simple first part and thus rejected the entire message.
Their grumbling indicated they may not be among those who are drawn by the Father to Him. You have to both hear and learn. You can hear something and not learn it. You can sit in church and not learn.
Jesus does not back down. He continues to declare the message they cannot grasp. He is stirring up their emotions. They are feeling cut out. They want the free food but they don’t want to believe. They want the miracles but not the beliefs. Just like the ancestors who ate manna in the dessert died, if they reject the Bread of Life (reject Jesus) they will die.
There is no lack of clarity here. This is the day Jesus comes out. He tells the whole truth. “I am the bread of life.” “The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh”
He gets specific. “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”
Communion with God. Abiding in God. Jesus lives as the living Father sent Him so we live because of abiding in Jesus.
Stop grumbling and eat.
It’s an earthy crowd. In their desire for more for themselves they have put together that Jesus must have gone further away and are seeking Him. They find Him surprisingly in Capernaum. They don’t know how nor when He got there. And they ask. But Jesus does not answer the question they asked, rather He answers what they really want. They want food for their stomachs. It must have been some good tasting fish and bread!
Jesus teaches them.
He has given time and distance between the miracle and the teaching. He tells them what to work for. Imperishable food. The food only He can give them. This food is sealed and marked by God the Father. This remark leads to a question about works. What to do?
Believe Jesus is sent by God the Father.
When people want more signs, more miracles, more works of healing and change, Jesus says it is time to believe.
- Has God done a miracle I my life?
- Do I believe?
- Believing is an action, a verb, a doing thing. Believing is work. What work of believing am I doing?
This next event has got to be one of the craziest situations in the book so far. First is to remember that some of these men may have had zealot tendencies, as the crowds did, wanting to make Jesus King. Jesus had left them and they seemed to have expected His return, yet also to have left without Him, indicating either a plan, or a feeling of abandonment. Perhaps they were raked with doubts. Here it had seemed that the moment and timing and support were all in place to solve the Jewish problems with Rome and rid themselves of their oppressor. They did not understand the real oppression, it’s size and scope. Yet now, instead of taking power at His fingertips, Jesus has left them and gone off alone. So they are in the boat, struggling against the common storms that come and make for a dangerous crossing. Picture this: seasoned sailors rowing three or four miles off shore, in the dark. Stormy dark in windy, choppy seas. If something was floating in the seas around them it would be rolling and tossing. Just like them. Somehow, Jesus shows up walking on top of all this.
- What storms what efforts do I struggle with?
- What am I expert at that can be challenged at this level of challenge so that I am straining and pulling, doing my best effort yet making slow progress no matter how hard I pull at my oars?
- Jesus is there. Will I let Him into my circumstances?
- The disciples were specifically willing to let Him into their boat, into their situation. Am I willing to let Him in?
- Am I inviting Him in?
- What will happen when I do?
Just as amazingly and humanly impossibly, we too shall find ourselves immediately at the place we need to be. In the same sentence as the willingness of the disciples to let Jesus into their boat, they were ashore. It’s about 6 miles, they were barely half way to their destination, and now, they are all the way there.
Lord, I need you in all my situations, in all my circumstances. I have one or two now. Yes, I am willing for you to be in my circumstance and take me where you will have me go. Thank you for walking in my storms to me.
Jesus realized that the people intended to take him by force and make him king. So he returned to the mountain by himself.
Just one verse.
- How did the crowds who had followed Jesus perceive Him?
- What was the audience response?
- Encore! Encore?
- How sincere were they in their desire for more?
They had followed Him away from their original holiday plans and been fed by Him like their ancestors before them. The symbolism was not lost on them. They were thrilled. They were elated. They did not want it to end.
Why should it?
Let’s have more!
Make Him King!
That would solve all their problems, not just their personal and physical ones, but their political ones as well! Isn’t that the plan? I can simply imagine the emotion and big dreams and possibilities filling the minds.
Jesus understood more than we realize. Jesus was being offered, by man, the temporary power of a king. This was a temptation. Just like the three temptations in the wilderness as He prepared for His ministry, Satan was not done tempting. The temptations tried to get at Jesus through the physical, (hunger and thirst), through power and through pride. Jesus was thirsty and hungry at the well, and chose Gods plan instead. The peoples physical needs have been met. Now comes the offer of power.
- Is there not a chance for pride to enter here?
- How does Jesus respond to the challenge of changing ever so slightly from Gods plan for Him to a more comfortable plan?
He walks away. He puts distance between Himself and His audience. The performer leaves the stage. He leaves even His own disciples. I want to be alone.
Perhaps here Jesus had to recommit to the vision of obedience in His human flesh. Jesus, as man and the Son of Man, in order to understand us fully, had to live the same battles of temptation, but yet He lived without sin. He went on the mountaintop alone to do battle with the enemy of our souls. He went to do battle for us all. To win was the power of God over the power of Satan. Jesus fought a battle on that mountaintop, flesh against the will of God. God wins. And the battle is a real one.
Jesus has won my battle. Does that mean I won’t have temptation or that there is no danger? No, my example is in following Christ. He has accomplished the work. If I find myself tempted like this to be called off course by the appeal of the crowd, the demand of the audience, the lure of success and powerful influence, get alone and get away. Spend focused time with Jesus. Clear my mind of worldly things and seek His will and plan for me. Strength will come as I turn to Him. With Him is refreshment and assurance from the only source worthy of my focus.
- What is Jesus bringing to my attention?
- Am I willing to do something about it?
- Am I listening for His possibility?
Andrew did not know what Jesus could do or would do. But he was willing to speak up with a basic appraisal of the situation. We have a handful, a basic dismal provision, how could this be enough ? Without the blessing of Jesus- it is not enough! But with God…all things are possible. Andrew and all the disciples were taught by this great sign, that Jesus, who had led a multitude out of the city, was able to feed them.
- What does Jesus need from me?
Like Andrew, just enough to barely meet my own needs and like a child, being willing to share and give it to Him for His blessing for all.
- What little do I have today?
- Will I share with Him when asked for?
- Will I remember His blessing and trust Him with what I have to do his purposes?
Jesus, you looked and saw all the people who were drawn to you out of Jerusalem at Passover, drawn to follow you on this journey into the wilderness. You used a question to prepare your disciples for a lesson. What was their reaction when you called to their attention the problem? How are all these people to eat? Here they have come unprepared, not knowing where Jesus was going, yet willing anyway to follow Him.
- Am I so willing?
- Will my Lord provide?
- Did the people wonder as well?
- Did they worry as they traveled, or were they so certain they had no need to worry that they followed?
- Or did they even give that a thought?
- Was their excitement and desire that much greater than their practical physical nature that they took no thought of where they were headed and how they were to meet their needs?
- Was it like Moses leading His people out of slavery into the wilderness where God provided for them?
Yes, it was Passover.
Jesus anticipated the need and always had a plan, before He even brought it to the attention of His disciples. Lord, when I follow You, I never need to worry about my needs being met. You already have a plan. At times I may be so ignorant of my own need that You may confront me with questions. Questions not meant for me to answer, but rather meant to provoke me and point out my need so that I can receive what you have prepared in advance for me.
I pray now for those in need in my family, among my friends and acquaintances and beyond, that we all will hear You ask the questions and listen to You as You point out first our neediness so that all of us may turn to You confidently and expectantly for our daily bread.
“After these things” John finds it important to note the context of the time frame. So I will recap. Jesus has been in Jerusalem. It is prior to Passover yet he has left the area. He has just confronted Jewish authority with His own authority (he who IS the author of it all). He arrived into the gathering Passover crowds with healing, having recently made rounds through Galilee and Samaria. He has now gone north again only this time He has crossed from Tiberius over the sea into an area which is modern day Syria.
He does not go alone. Crowds have followed Him. He has drawn away from the city, just when the Passover is at hand, crowds of people. These people may have traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover, but now, they with their tourist and worshiper’s money, have left the city and followed Jesus. I don’t suppose that made the merchants in Jerusalem very pleased. They had prepared for crowds who were not at the normal level at this time of year. But because of the signs Jesus was doing, these seekers had followed Jesus. Those who had taken a journey already, seeking The Lord in His temple in Jerusalem, were ready to continue to seek Him when Jesus led them to a different place. They were seeing the signs of healing so they followed.
Jesus has led them to a place away from the noise of the city to a mountain area. He can sit down and teach them. The mountainside is his lecture hall. His voice will be heard.
- How do I follow Jesus now?
- Am I willing to go where He is, to a place without the distractions of daily life, even church related business, so that I can sit and listen and learn from Him.
- Where is that place for me?
- I sit here now, out of consistency, in the place that has become my place of rest in my home, as part of my routine to sit and read His word and learn from Him, reflect on His word. But, is there perhaps a time that I need to break away from my routine and find a different place, more physically separated so I am not distracted by routine and expectations?
- Where do I need to go to be still and know, to read, listen and learn?