Summary: Do you follow Jesus for what He can do for you so that you can have a great life?
Jesus or Maslow?
July 3, 2011 John 6
How many of you learned Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs in some psychology course somewhere along the lines of your educational journey? Maslow was an American psychologist who studied human motivation, and boiled it all down into a hierarchy of needs, proposing that we need the bottom needs met before we can move on to the higher needs.
Sound familiar? Now, a more important question, do you buy it? It makes sense, but is it true? The answer is no, not really… at least not if you are a follower of Jesus.
Word has gotten out, there is a new man in town. Rumor has it he is something special – he caused a scene in Jerusalem lately, healing a paralyzed man and then getting into an argument with the religious leaders. Some say he even claimed to be the Son of God. Now he is back near his home, crowds are gathering, he is healing the sick, and more and more people are coming to see for themselves. Now they are all around, out on a hillside, probably 15 000 or so (enough to fill Rexall place), and they didn’t come prepared, they probably just got all caught up in the excitement and joined the massive crowd and ended up out in the countryside. Jesus could have sent them all home at dinner time, but He has a better idea. You know the story – a boy, 5 little barley buns and a couple small sardines, the prayer, and then they are passed around and everyone has enough to eat, with leftovers to spare (and note that Jesus is quick to send His disciples around to collect these, so that nothing is wasted (Jn 6:12). The result of this miracle? When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting! (Jn 6:14).
So how do you think Jesus and the disciples should follow up this incredible day? 15 000 (or so) eager people, having seen the miraculous power of God, ready to make Jesus their King? Nowadays, we’d knuckle down and get to work, organizing these people and trying to find ways to capitalize on their enthusiasm, leverage this momentum, draw them in and keep it going, plan the next big gathering to keep it going and growing. Well, if you are Jesus, you get confrontational, you get confusing, you talk about cannibalism, and you offend.
Confrontational Jesus: Jn 6
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the far shore saw that the disciples had taken the only boat, and they realized Jesus had not gone with them. 23 Several boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the Lord had blessed the bread and the people had eaten. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. 25 They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, Rabbi, when did you get here?
26 Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.
I don’t think Miss Manners would approve. The crowd just begins a conversation, when did you get here?, and Jesus ignores the question and confronts their motives. They have come a long way, they have searched for him, they have left behind other things that they could have been doing, and Jesus immediately confronts their motivation for following Him.
There is a confrontation here for us as well. Why do you follow Jesus? Is it for what He can do for you? Is it because you think that following Jesus will make your life better? Jesus response begins, You want to be with me because…, and it begs the question for us today. Why do we want to be with Jesus; is it because of what He can do for us? If so, we stand with the crowd and are confronted. Jesus says, spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. The crowd, and perhaps us, have been seeking something else – some need or desire for today, some part of our lives right now that we want Jesus to fix or to feed. We go back to Maslow’s hierarchy, identify our need today, and expect that Jesus’ job is to meet that need so we can have a great life.