What kind of Bread do we seek?
(What do we hope to Gain?)
© 2022 C. O. Bishop
John 6:22-27; John 6:28, 29; Colossians 2:6; 1st Peter 1:23; Ephesians 2:10; Galatians 5:16
We have arrived at an important transition in John chapter 6. We already saw how Jesus fed the five thousand men along with their wives and children. We already saw that some of those men were so stirred up that they wanted to take Jesus by force and pronounce Him to be King. But Jesus eluded them and eventually left with His disciples. But the people caught up with him near Capernaum, and asked, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” That’s where we are today: verse 26.
26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
As we read through this (or any) passage, we do well to consider the context in which the verses are found. In this particular context, obviously, the people to whom Jesus is speaking are the ones whom, on the previous day, He had miraculously fed with the five loaves and two fishes, given by that young boy in the story. So, if all of them had caught up with Him, He again had an audience of over five thousand people. However, Jesus ignored their questions, and only pointed out why they had really come: He revealed their motives. (“You just want more free food!”)
And He reminded them of a passage from Isaiah 55:1-3, where God spoke through Isaiah to tell the people of Judah that their motives were flawed…that they were putting all their efforts toward things that had no eternal value. He told them, effectively, that they were wasting their lives! No one really likes to hear such a rebuke, even if it is given in love and gentleness, but that is what they were hearing from Jesus, in this passage, here in John’s Gospel.
Compare The Isaiah Passage:
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
Remember two things, here:
- The people to whom Jesus spoke were Jews: they all were familiar with the words of Isaiah. This was not an obscure idea to them: they knew the passage to which He alluded.
- Jesus is the Author of the writings of Isaiah. He is the “Lord” whom Isaiah saw on the throne, in the vision of Isaiah 6:1, and whose “train filled the temple.”So, for Him to “springboard” from the Isaiah 55 passage to their time, making it directly applicable to the lives of His audience, was entirely within His authority and completely appropriate.
“What shall we do, to Work the Works of God?”
The people evidently understood that Jesus was citing that passage: So, they immediately asked, “What shall we do, to work the works of God?” They apparently assumed that they could earn God’s Favor. This is the World’s error: and the idea is prevalent in all World religions. Each religion has collections of “things a person can do to win God’s approval.” That list varies, slightly, from one religion to another, but there are usually a lot of similarities; at least in regard to how you are required to treat your fellow believer, and how you are to approach God.
Religions are NOT all the same.
From the World’s perspective, most religions are OK to live by…but from God’s perspective, they are Hell to die by! The people with the bumper stickers that call all the worlds religions to just peacefully “Co-exist” are either ignorant of (or are denying) the fact that several of those religions are mutually exclusive, and that at least one of them demands the extermination of all others who do not submit themselves to it. And the adherents of that religion are the ones called to do the extermination! So, they can’t very well just “Co-exist!” And they do not “all lead to God.”
When we examine all the world’s religions, we can see a lot of similarities in the “nice” parts of each religion, and three major groupings as to how they deal with Sin:
- Some claim that there is no such thing as sin: that all such ideas of “right and wrong” are strictly of human origin, and that the impersonal “Force” or “Deity,” in which they believe, has no interest in such things…we are to pursue a denial of self and ego, in order to be united with this impersonal force, or deity.
This teaching is not at all common: it usually “rings false” to people, because we all have an inborn sense that “there is such a thing as right and wrong!” And we at least recognize it when someone has wronged us!
- Some religions agree that sin exists, but they claim that God is so high above, and so kindly disposed toward humans, and so loving, that he is not concerned with such things, and certainly intends no judgment of sin. He simply pleads with us to “be nice to each other,” and that we will “all get to heaven by and by.” (Along with this, they usually claim that “all paths lead to the same God,” so all will eventually be reunited with God.)
This one is more common, but still “rings false:” We also have an inborn sense of justice, calling for retribution. We believe that sin calls for punishment; that “wrongs should be made right,” so it is difficult tor us to believe that God does not share this opinion.
- Far more common…(almost universal, in fact,) is the teaching that “Sin is very real, and God hates sin, so you had better do lots and lots of good things to counteract the effect of all the bad things you have done (and continue to do….)” Most religions teach this idea.
This belief completely fits our views as humans, and is exactly where Jesus’s audience was coming from. They hoped to earn God’s favor through good works of some sort.
But Jesus alerted them to a fourth perspective—the one belonging to the Living God:
- “There is such a thing as Sin, and God hates sin, and there is nothing you can do to counteract your guilt!”
25 years ago, I shared with a young man at work these four views of what to do with sin, and he listened carefully: then he asked, “So, where does ‘Jesus dying on the Cross’ come in?” (I was delighted!) I said, “I’m glad you asked that!” Then I shared with him the Gospel: the message of “Salvation by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ.” (Grace is unearned Favor.) There truly is nothing you can do to save yourself. God has to do it for you! (Shortly thereafter, that man moved away to the east coast of the United States, so I have no idea what his ultimate response might have been. But I do know he heard and understood the Gospel: if he wants to know the Savior, he knows how to approach Him!)
And that is where Jesus found His audience: they wanted to know “how to know God.” More specifically, they wanted to know how to earn God’s approval. They asked, “What shall we do to work the works of God?”
Jesus responded with the very clear statement, that faith in the Messiah is what God wants from us: He said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”
Today, those of us who have already received the Lord might say, “Well that is how I was saved, yes! but how do I work the works of God after salvation? What shall I do, now?”
What shall We do?
This is where Jesus’s earlier admonition seems to fit in: He said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”
Let me assume for the moment that we already have received eternal life through the promise of Jesus (which we read in the previous chapter, in John 5:24.) Is there application, here, to the eternal aspect of the “food” we gain or the “wages” we hope for, in working according to God’s standard today? Yes! Jesus teaches that our labor for God has Eternal rewards: He is an Eternal God, who has given to us Eternal life, and has commanded us to “lay up treasure” for ourselves in Heaven…so there has to be an “Eternal value” to our works.
But, does our “faith” begin and end at the Cross? When I was a brand-new believer, I had an older Christian woman tell me, “Well, you are saved by faith, but you are kept by works!” What a crippling lie to tell a new believer! She was effectively saying, “You have been born into this family, but if you aren’t good enough, your Father will disown you!” That is a lie from the pit!
What does God say about our new birth?
He says, you were born again by faith: John 1:12, 13 promises, “But to as many as received Him, gave He power (Greek, “exousia”…authority) to become (Greek “gennesthe” …to be born) the sons (Greek “teknoi”…the offspring…literally, “born-ones”) of God, even to them that believe on His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” You are born of God! You got that way by believing in His Name! You placed your faith in Him! And as a new believer, you are His legitimate child! He will never “kick you out!” He will never disown you! He is your real Father!
1st Peter 1:23 says, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
You were born again by the Word of God. This applies to the written and spoken Word of God, whereby you heard the Gospel and believed, (thus fulfilling John 5:24) and to the Living Word, who shed His blood for you and who lives today, in you! And it says, He lives and abides forever! So, if the One who lives in you lives forever, and abides in you forever, I’d say you are pretty secure in His promises!
But: How do we Work for Him?
Colossians 2:6 says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.”
How did you receive Christ? By faith! That is what we just read in John 1:12 and 1st Peter 1:23. We are now called to Walk in Him by faith.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” God prepared the works for us already: all we have to do is walk in them: Do what he leads us to do…be obedient to His Word and His Spirit. Walk by faith!
Galatians 5:16 says, “This I say, then, walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh,” We have pointed out in the past that the Christian life is not “difficult:” It is impossible, apart from the Holy Spirit living through us. In John 15:5, Jesus said “Apart from me ye can do nothing!” We don’t like to hear that, because our flesh wants to believe that we can do things on our own to please God. But Jesus says we cannot.
That is exactly where these people were, whom Jesus was admonishing to change their aim in life. To stop the “self-effort treadmill,” wherein, regardless of how hard you try, no matter how well you run, you can never gain any eternal value. He wanted them to take up His yoke and serve with Him. The “yoke” in Matthew 11:29 (where Jesus said, “take my yoke upon you and learn of me”) is a yoke worn by two workers, or by two oxen. Jesus is asking us to “join Him in double harness,” and so to learn from Him. He invites us to labor with Him, and learn from Him, not just work for Him.
Ephesians 1:14; 4:29 each make it clear that we have been sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit, until the day of redemption: But the scriptures we read today ask that we serve with Him. He has work for us to do: He says so. But we have to voluntarily “show up” to do the job for which He has already chosen us. Romans 12:1, 2 makes it clear that we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, as an act of worship. That is always a voluntary sacrifice, even though He has ordained the work for us to do before we were born.
We still have to choose to walk with Him…by faith!
Lord Jesus, we ask that by Your Word and by Your Spirit, you would turn our hearts to follow You in cheerful, faithful obedience. Transform us by the renewing of our minds, by Your Holy Spirit, to be the men and women you have called us to be.