John 6:22 – The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with His disciples, but that they had gone away alone.
23 – Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.
24 – Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
25 – When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”
26 – Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for Me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.
27 – Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.”
28 – Then they asked Him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 – Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”
30 – So they asked Him, “What miraculous sign then will You give that we may see it and believe You? What will You do?
31 – Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 – Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father Who 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.”
I want to begin this morning by playing a clip from one of my favorite comedy routines. It’s a classic so I imagine it is a favorite for many of you as well.
CLIP FROM WHO’S ON FIRST Show #1 — from 2:05 until 3:26
People have chucked at that skit for many decades—but have you ever felt like Abbot in this clip? Can you think of a time when you had trouble getting your point across?
- Maybe there was a time when you were trying to communicate with your spouse and try as you might you couldn’t get a shared meaning.
- Maybe you are thinking of a recent conversation with your teenager when you felt like you were speaking different languages or something.
- Maybe you’re a teenager thinking of the same conversation…and from your perspective it seemed like your PARENTS were speaking a different language.
But do you know what I’m talking about? Are you familiar with the frustration that comes from misconceptions? And—of course—if we’re not careful misconceptions can be MORE than frustrating. They can warp our perceptions and damage or destroy relationships.
In our text for this morning Jesus had a lengthy conversation with some people who were part of the multitude that He had miraculously fed with a little boy’s lunch. Their response to both the miracle and the things our Lord said afterwards—as recorded in our text—their response shows they didn’t get it. Jesus’ message went right over their heads. The things they said indicate that they embraced misconceptions…and ironically they are the same kind of faulty thinking we see in our day and age—thinking that can warp our understanding of God…and hinder or even halt our spiritual growth.
With that in mind, today I want to share Scriptural CORRECTIONS to these MISCONCEPTIONS…but first let me give you a little BACKGROUND. You should remember from last week that, according to the gospels of Matthew and Mark, after what is referred to as the FEEDING OF THE 5000…Jesus had sent the disciples ahead to Capernaum while He dispersed the crowd. But a contingent of that no-longer-hungry multitude stuck around—and tried to find out where Jesus went.
They had seen the Twelve sail off without Jesus, and because no other boat remained, they assumed our Lord was still enjoying solitude somewhere in the surrounding hill country. Eventually though they realized He was no longer in the area, so they hitched a ride on some small boats moored nearby—boats that had come from Tiberius…a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. They had apparently heard the Lord’s instructions to the disciples telling them to go to Capernaum so they headed in that direction hoping for news as to where Jesus could be found. When they arrived and found Jesus Himself already there, they expressed surprise in finding Him so far from where He was last seen—in so short a time. I mean, according to verse 25 they asked Jesus, WHEN He got there but actually they were wondering HOW. And I can’t help but wonder what they would have said if Jesus had actually told them.
Think of it. What would they have done if He said, “How did I get here? Well, I walked…I walked three and a half miles across the lake surface, got in the boat with the disciples, calmed the storm, and instantly transported us all—boat included—here—to this shore.” By the way, a few years ago, I read that officials in Israel were building a submerged bridge in the Sea of Galilee so that pilgrims could actually “walk” on the water like Jesus did.
In any case, based on Jesus’ response, this crowd wondered HOW He had eluded them but that wasn’t the main thing that was on their minds. No—Jesus knew what they were focused on so He said, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for Me, not because you saw miraculous signs 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. On Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.”
And this leads to the first misconception found in this lengthy conversation between Jesus and the people.
(1) I’m referring to the belief both then and now that PHYSICAL food…physical things…will satisfy the hungers of life.
We see this flawed mind set in Jesus’ words. For example, the word we translate as “saw” in verse 26 means “to see with perception.” Jesus was telling them that they SAW the loaves but they didn’t PERCEIVE the meaning behind it all. They failed to see the true nature of Jesus. All they did was eat the food. A physical meal is all they got out of the miracle on the hillside. Further proof of their misconception is seen in the word “filled.” It’s a Greek word that was used to describe a COW receiving food. Perhaps because they have four of them, cows think primarily with their stomachs. They don’t thank the farmer who fed them or ask the purpose of the food. They are just a four-footed eating machine. To them life is just a string of days where they focus on filling their tummies.
So Jesus was saying that these people were acting like a herd of cows. The message of the sign failed to penetrate their understanding. They thought only of their material needs. They sought Jesus only because they were hungry again. To them the PHYSICAL—the TEMPORARY—was all that mattered—and because of that they saw the miracle—but the MESSAGE behind it went right over their heads.
And—we mustn’t be too critical of these people because physical FOOD is a priority in all of our lives even today. We all eat roughly 20-25 times every week. There’s a good chance you’ve already eaten today—some of you twice! You had breakfast at home and then enjoyed a donut or three before worship…[or before Sunday School.] We’ll all eat two or three times before we hit the pillow tonight. In fact, as I speak you may already be formulating plans for where to eat lunch. I mean, think of it.
- We include eating in almost every festive activity.
- Our cable providers have at least two channels devoted to nothing but cooking and eating.
Another thing—our 21st century abundance of food makes it hard to fully appreciate the perspective of these people struggling to survive in first-century Galilee. As I said a couple weeks back, the full stomachs these people had experienced because of Jesus’ miracle was probably a rare thing for them—perhaps a first. So don’t be too down on them. They woke up the day after the miracle hungry. That motivated them to hop a ride on these boats to find their meal ticket once again.
And note—Jesus didn’t really criticize them for coming to Him for more food. He just took that teachable moment to tell them that He had come to do far more than fill their bellies. He was using their physical hunger as a springboard to address their spiritual hunger. He was trying to help them understand that the things of this world…do not satisfy the longing we all have for God.
This is a message we need to hear as well because you can be as rich as Bill Gates and still be hungry for more—you can have everything this world has to offer…and still be unsatisfied. As Ravi Zacharias has put it, “With all our ingesting and consumption, our hungers are still many and our fulfillments are few.”
In the first century the luxury of the upper class of the Roman Empire was unparalleled. Maybe you remember reading in your history books that it was during this time that the Romans served feasts of things like peacock brains and nightingale tongues. They even took something to induce vomiting between courses so that they could eat more. Meals like this that cost tens of thousands of today’s dollars were common place. And there was a reason for all this indulgence. There was a deep dissatisfaction…a hunger that they were trying in vain to satisfy. These Romans sought for anything that would give a new thrill and a new taste in life. I mean, like many people in our day and age, they were appallingly rich but at the same time appallingly hungry.
So, don’t miss Jesus’ point here! Our Lord was saying that it is foolish to focus on PHYSICAL satisfaction because there are far more important hungers in life—and they can only be satisfied by Him—the BREAD of LIFE.
- There is the hunger for TRUTH and JESUS IS THE TRUTH…the answer to all of life’s questions.
- There is the hunger for LIFE and JESUS ALONE CAN GIVE US LIFE—ABUNDANT, ETERNAL LIFE.
- There is the hunger for LOVE and JESUS ALONE CAN GIVE PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME A LOVE THAT OUTLASTS even DEATH.
- There is the hunger for GOD. Only through Jesus can we come into relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Christ alone can satisfy the insatiable hunger of the human heart and soul. It’s a misconception—it’s flawed thinking to look for satisfaction anywhere else.
Why is this so? Why can Jesus alone satisfy these hungers? Because according to verse 27 He alone has the seal of God the Father. It’s almost like food in GIANT that has the FDA stamp of approval that says “This is good. This is pure.” Jesus is the only way to satisfy this inborn inner longing we all have because He alone has God’s stamp of approval. He alone is the BREAD OF LIFE.
You know, bread is a staple food in our pantries but it was even more so back then. It was necessary for life. In our culture, when we go to a restaurant, we generally focus on what kind of entree we’re going to order and the basket of bread on the table is usually secondary. But in Jesus’ day, it was just the opposite. Meat was a side dish and bread represented the major part of the meal. Without bread the people of His day would starve. So, Jesus was saying, “You want bread? Do you want what is TRULY ESSENTIAL for life? Well I am the Bread of Life! My body will be broken…My blood shed …so that Your hunger for God can be satisfied. You need the forgiveness that I will make possible just as desperately as you do your daily bread. I am what you are looking for. In the same way you can’t survive without bread—you can’t do without Me. I have come to satisfy your inner longings.”
Ravi Zacharias puts it like this, “Jesus intended to lift the listeners from their barren, food-dominated existence to the recognition of the supreme hunger of life that could only be filled by a different bread.” But tragically those people didn’t get it. The way to satisfy their true hunger was standing right there in front of them but they wouldn’t see…and because of that they continued to hunger.
In his best selling book, INTO THIN AIR, Jon Krakauer relates the hazards that plagued some climbers as they attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Andy Harris, one of the expedition leaders stayed at the peak too long and on his descent, he became in dire need of oxygen. Harris radioed the base camp and told them about his predicament. He mentioned that he had come across a cache of oxygen canisters left by the other climbers but they were all empty. The climbers who already passed the canisters on their own descent knew they were not empty, but full. They pleaded with him on the radio to make use of them but it was to no avail. Harris was starved for oxygen but he continued to argue that the canisters were empty. The problem was that the lack of what he needed had so disoriented his mind that though he was surrounded by something that would give him life, he continued to complain of its absence. Ironically, the very thing he held in his hand was absent in his brain. The lack of oxygen had ravaged his capacity to recognize what was right in front of him. Friends, what oxygen is to the body, Jesus—the Bread of Life—is to the soul. Many people are suffocating and starving and they don’t even know it. Jesus is offering abundant, meaningful life while they run around trying to appease their appetites with things that don’t provide lasting satisfaction. We think we’re hungry for popularity or money or power or success or prestige or physical intimacy….but our REAL hunger is for “food” that lasts. Our real hunger is for God! And that kind of hunger can only be satisfied in relationship with Jesus Christ. Listen! The “bread” of the world spoils. It doesn’t last. Just like the bread we buy at Giant it has an expiration date. The only thing that lasts is Jesus…the Bread of Life.
Well, as I said, this crowd didn’t get this. They refused to listen and Jesus’ message went right over their heads. What’s worse is the fact that their response to Jesus’ teaching showed that they embraced ANOTHER misconception—a flawed way of thinking that is still popular even today.
(2) I’m referring to the belief that our WORKS—our good deeds—can somehow earn us this relationship with God that we all hunger for.
Look at what they say in verse 28, “What must we DO to DO the WORKS God requires? To get this special ‘bread of life’ there must be something we have to DO. Surely bread that doesn’t spoil—bread this filling—this satisfying…surely bread this good isn’t free. So…tell us. What does it cost? What do we have to do to get it?” Jesus said, “The ‘work’ of God is this: to BELIEVE in the One He has sent.” In other words, “You’ve got it all wrong people. Your thinking is flawed. There is no work required. It’s all grace. You just have to Believe in Me.”
Like Costello’s response to Abbot’s telling him WHO was on first, once again they misunderstood. In verse 27 Jesus had plainly said, that He would GIVE them the “food that endures to eternal life.” But they took the word “give,” deleted it, and inserted the word “work.”
Many of us are just as dense. I remember back in my youth ministry days, I would ask my teens to write out their testimony, telling me how they came to faith in Christ. And almost every time they would begin by saying, “I walked the aisle one Sunday…” In clarifying statements like this I realized that to a teen, getting eternal life…enjoying a personal relationship with God…having your sins forgiven…well this was just too good to be a GIFT. They had to DO something to earn it—and the hardest thing they could think of—the most difficult WORK they could conceive would be to walk the aisle in front of a bunch of people…especially if that congregation included any of their peers. Standing up for Jesus like that publically—that was the hardest WORK they could imagine—so in their minds it must some how be tied to their salvation and that’s why they began their testimonies like that. Well, it is hard to stand up in front of people. I will vouch for that! And, it’s hard to say you’re a sinner who has decided to follow Jesus…but even that “work” as good as it is…gets you no closer to God. The Bible doesn’t say, “For God so loved the world that whosoever STANDETH UP IN FRONT OF A LOT OF PEOPLE should not perish but have everlasting life.” It doesn’t say, “For God so loved the world that whosoever DOETH GOOD WORKS should not perish but have everlasting life.” No—says that eternal life is a GIFT…that comes from our simple BELIEF that Jesus is Who He says He is and that He did what the Bible says He did—died on the cross in your place.
Make sure you hear me on this. The belief that we can DO something to work ourselves into being worthy of God’s love is a hugely DANGEROUS misconception. It’s like believing we could pay for a house with monopoly money because our works—our deeds—no matter HOW good they are—aren’t worth the “paper” they are printed on. Our salvation—and the abundant, eternal life that comes with it—it’s ALL God’s grace. Our works have nothing to do with getting us into Heaven. The only thing that can do that is our belief…our FAITH in Jesus’ redemptive WORK. And, while we’re on the subject, let me remind you that our understanding of God’s GRACE is the thing that sets Christianity apart from all world religions. Every other religion is based on WORKS—on people DOING something. Adherents to other belief systems struggle to somehow earn the favor of God. Some religions teach that people have to use a Tibetan prayer wheel, or they have to go on pilgrimages or they have to give alms to the poor, or they have to avoid eating certain foods, or they have to perform a certain number of unspecified good deeds, or they have to pray at a certain time in a certain position each day, or they have to go through a cycle of reincarnations, OR WHATEVER. Other religious systems are essentially DO-IT-YOURSELF propositions. Follow this way of life, they say, and you stand a good chance of gaining favor with God and eventually achieving salvation. In short, other faiths are attempts by people to reach out to God. But Christianity teaches that in Jesus Christ God reached out to us. And let me just correct another MISCONCEPTION at this point. All religions are not the same.
Only Christianity is based on grace and not works. It teaches that God reached down to us because we were incapable of reaching up to Him. As it says in 1 John 4:10, “It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us in sending His Son to be the way to take away our sins.”
This week I learned that my uncle, a pastor in Tennessee, is retiring. In looking at the face book pictures of his retirement celebration I saw a shot of his church’s marquee and noticed that he had copied our purpose statement, “A grace-driven church for a grace-needing world.” That prompted me to do a quick google search to see if any other church had done that. In just five minutes Sue and I found five churches across the country who, without asking permission, had copied us. One had even taken the our acronym of the word GRACE. At first I thought, “HEY!!!!” But then I thought, “Hey…” I mean, not only is it a compliment to us…but it is a compliment to God. It’s an indication of how much we all value God’s grace. It’s a reflection of the fact that some believers don’t embrace this misconception. We realize that works are worthless when it comes to our salvation. No matter how many good things you may do, they cannot merit one second of the life Jesus offers to all believers in Him. As the old song lyric puts it, “Nothing in my hand I bring—simply to the Cross I cling.”
Well, as we move on in our text we see that the people’s response to Jesus’ teaching on the grace of God indicated that they embraced a third popular misconception.
(3) …the belief that MIRACLES always lead people to deeper faith in God.
And I have to say—I think the crowd’s response in verse 30 would be humorous were it not so serious. I mean, ignoring the miracle they had seen and TASTED less than 24 hours earlier to say nothing of all the other miracles they had seen Jesus do—miracles that had compelled them to hike nine miles around the top of the Sea of Galilee to be with Him. In spite of all this, they said, “What miraculous sign then will You give that we may see it and believe You?” (John 6:30)
I’m reminded of the old story about two men who were talking about a mutual friend. One of the men became very critical of their mutual chum. The other expressed surprise at his critical words and reminded him that their friend had repeatedly helped him. For example, he’d given him the down payment on his first home; He’d given him a job when he was laid off. He even gave him a kidney years earlier. “Yes,” the man replied, “but he hasn’t done anything lately.”
That’s the problem with miracles. We forget them so easily—and we see this form of amnesia in this crowd. Apparently the impression of the miraculous way Jesus multiplied those five loaves and two fishes the day before perished with the food they ate. Yesterday they were ready to acclaim Him as being greater than Moses but now they threw Moses in His face saying, “Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert—EVERY DAY! Can you top that?”
That’s another problem with miracles. They are like an addictive drug. You always need another one the next morning. These people were saying, “Show us something ELSE, and when we see IT we will believe.” But as I pointed out a few weeks back—things don’t always work that way. Seeing doesn’t necessarily lead to believing.
Remember in Elijah’s day when God performed the miracle on Mt. Carmel when He sent fire down from heaven to consume the bull Elijah had soaked in water? In answer to Elijah’s prayer, God zapped that soggy bull to ashes but this sign of power had no long-term effect on the Israelites. No wild-fire revivals broke out—and after the briefest flurry of religious fervor, the nation settled back into its long, steady slide away from God. King Ahab, himself a spectator at Mt. Carmel, left a legacy as Israel’s wickedest King. And apparently the fireball on Mt. Carmel had no lasting impact on Elijah either. After he heard of Queen Jezebel’s threat on his life, he ran, doubted God, and fell into a deep depression.
Well, Jesus knew that in a fallen world miracles don’t foster strong belief. He knew the shallow effect of miracles in Moses’ day and Elijah’s. Sure—they attracted crowds but they rarely encouraged long-term faithfulness. The miracles did just what Jesus had predicted. To those who chose to believe Him, they gave even more reason to believe. But for those determined to deny Him, the miracles made little difference. Some things just have to be believed to be seen. Here’s a fourth misconception we see in this text.
(4) …the belief that God CHOOSES to reach out in love to some people and rejects the rest.
These people thought that as Jews they were chosen—chosen to rule the world. Remember, they wanted Jesus to be a political Messiah and change Israel from a conquered nation to the leading world power. Like many Jews of their day they forgot that God had called them—chosen their nation—to be a kingdom of priests…a nation that would share His great love with all nations.
Well, today there are people who embrace the same kind of warped thinking…especially in the increasingly popular reformed movement. They quote passages like John 6:37 where Jesus says, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me…” and verse 44 where He says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him…” They cite these verses to underscore their conviction that God chooses to love some and rejects others…their belief that all people are predestined by God to spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell. In their minds our eternal destiny is not our choice. God has already decided.
Well, I do not believe a systematic study of the Bible supports this kind of thinking. I believe this IS a MISCONCEPTION. Yes—God DOES know everything so of course He knows who will accept and who will reject Him…but I believe the Bible teaches that in His Sovereignty God still gives every man free will…free will to choose to accept or reject Jesus.
There are several passages that support this.
- Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever will call on the name of the Lord—whoever CHOOSES to call on Jesus—will be saved.”
- In John 3:16 Jesus says,“For God so loved the world that WHOSOEVER believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
- 2nd Peter 3:9 says, “God is not willing for ANYONE to perish but for EVERYONE to come to repentance.”
- 1st John 2:2 says that “Jesus is the atoning Sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD.”
- And—even in this text God in the flesh is standing there literally reaching out to people who will reject Him saying, “I am the Bread of Life! I am what you are looking for!”
- And what about the text in Matthew where Jesus stands looking over Jerusalem, full of people who would nail Him to a cross and says,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
Do these verses sound like God’s love is selective? I don’t think so!
Of course I’m not alone in this belief. Harry Ironsides said, “Nowhere in the Bible are we told that God has pre-determined before a person is born, that he will be lost or saved.” J. B. Phillips said, “Whatever is to be said about the sovereignty of God in human salvation, God never sets up arbitrary, impossible, and wholly unattainable terms for our coming to Christ.” Herschel Hobbs said, “The idea that God predestines some for Heaven and others for Hell…such an idea contradicts the vast body of biblical teaching on the free will of man.”
Here is how to correct this age-old misconception. Here’s how to straighten this twisted teaching. In His sovereignty God has elected a way of salvation…a plan. That plan centers on Christ. All who are IN CHRIST…all who believe and receive Him shall be saved…all others will be lost. In other words, it’s up to us. Man is free to ACCEPT or REJECT God’s sovereign offer. However, man is responsible for his choice. Yes, Jesus says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him.” But I believe the Bible teaches that God draws all men—even those who reject Him….like the people in this crowd. As Paul reminded us in Romans 1, even people who have never heard the gospel story can look at creation and “hear” God calling to them. I believe all people have this inborn yearning to fill that God-shaped hole that is in their hearts—and it is how they respond to this yearning that determines their eternal destiny. In fact, I believe that if you are here and are not a Christ follower…right now God is reaching out to you. He’s making you uncomfortable with your life as it is. He’s helping you see that things need to change. You need His forgiveness. You need Jesus. You feel “hungry” for more—and the only way to satisfy your hunger is to accept the Bread of Life.
Well, the crowd didn’t take too kindly to everything Jesus said that day. In fact, if we read the rest of this chapter we see that there were three basic responses to Jesus’ teaching.
A. First there was open DEFECTION.
Verse 66 says, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”
B. Then there was firm DETERMINATION.
In verses 67-69 Jesus asked the twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” And Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God!” Peter didn’t pretend to understand it all but he tenaciously held on to his Master. He said in effect, “Lord we have no other options. You have the words of eternal life, even if we can’t understand them fully.” He got the order right. Belief first…understanding later.
C. The final response to all this was SUBTLE DECEPTION.
In verse 70-71 Jesus said, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil! He means Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, thought one of the Twelve, was later to betray Him.”
What is your response? Will you do as many did that day and REJECT Jesus—thinking, “This is too hard of a teaching. If I believe Jesus is the only way, I’ll stand out too much. I’ll look for something easier—something more popular.” Or—will you be like Peter—and hang on to your faith—even though you may not understand everything.
LET US PRAY