Summary: 1. We want a god we can control. 2. We want a god we can understand. 3. We want a god who will not make demands.
Bread & Expectations
I was watching TV not long ago — just sitting back on the couch and relaxing. I had eaten a great dinner Sue had prepared. I probably ate too much. But as I was watching a television program, I saw a guy eating a sandwich, and suddenly I had an urge for a sandwich. Just a little later a group of people were eating popcorn. I started to feel like I couldn’t go on if I didn’t have some popcorn. Not long afterward someone on TV was enjoying a bowl of ice cream way too much, and. . . well, you get the idea. Enough is never enough.
The story today is about well-fed people who kept wanting and expecting more. It takes place the day after Jesus had miraculously fed these same people. And John says that even though there were thousands of people, they all had enough to eat with plenty left over. The Gospel of Matthew tells the same story and states: “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Matthew 14:20). They have had their fill and were satisfied, but the very next day the crowds are wanting more from Jesus. Yesterday’s bread was not enough. In fact, yesterday’s miracle bread brought new expectations for today. They have come looking for Jesus, but he says to them, “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” (John 6:26). It is amazing how Jesus always confronted people with the truth. The people came rushing up to him as though they were excited about him, but he told them the truth that all they wanted was more free bread.
Jesus redirected their thinking to the things of real importance. He said, “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” (John 6:27). But when Jesus asked them to work for food that endures to eternal life, he was speaking to people who were used to thinking of concrete, religious works they could do to inherit eternal life: “Give us things to do and rules to obey.” But Jesus tells them that their work is to believe: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). This is strange to them, but they see an opportunity here. In a roundabout way of asking for more bread, they say, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:30-31). Expectations.
Jesus has asked them to believe in him as the One sent by God. But they demand a sign if they are going to believe, and they cannot think of a better one than the miracle of Moses continually providing manna for the people in the wilderness. In other words, “How about it Jesus. If you want us to believe in you, how about doing what Moses did — constantly give us bread in this desert just like Moses did for our ancestors in the Sinai desert. Be our Deliverer and Provider as Moses was theirs. Show us that you are a part of the prophetic line. We want more miracles which result in more bread. Do that and we will believe.”
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. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33). But the bread Jesus was talking about was not what they had in mind. They were stuck thinking of literal bread that would give them physical life. “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” But they missed an important word in Jesus’ message to them. Jesus did not say, “The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven,” he said, “The bread of God is HE who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” He was referring to himself. They wanted bread and he was offering them a body. God the Father was wanting to give them something that would sustain them eternally, and this sustenance was in the form of his Son.
Finally, Jesus has to tell them outright: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). This amazing claim, that he is indeed the Bread of Life, threw the people into tumult, for the Scripture says, “At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven”’?’” (John 6:41-42). This all takes place in the region where Jesus grew up and was known from childhood. They know Jesus’ family. He has brothers and sisters. And they have heard the rumors about his suspicious birth. Some said that his mother had been unfaithful to Joseph. Others said a Roman soldier was to blame. How could a prophet come from those kinds of circumstances, let alone the Bread of Life? How could he say that he came down from heaven? They began to realize that Jesus was not going to meet their expectations, and they started to be offended by him.