Summary: Like Jesus' followers of old, we sometimes fall in love with the gift and forget the giver.
Remember that old country western song, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”? The song was about a down and out cowboy, looking for love in bars and shallow relationships. “Looking for love in all the wrong places”.
Today we have a text that might go by a similar title, only instead of “love”, people were “Looking for God, in all the wrong places.”
God's people in our lesson for today were reacting to Jesus' miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Last Sunday's reading from John recalled how Jesus fed a crowd of some five thousand people with just five loaves of bread and a few fish. Quite the miracle! In response to that feeding, the whole crowd went looking for Jesus and more of that miraculous bread that he provided for them.
And why stop with just bread? If Jesus could make a meal for five thousand people, then surely he could provide them with health, wealth, and material prosperity above and beyond their wildest imaginings! Just follow Jesus and you can have all your earthly dreams fulfilled!
But you see, that was just the problem. God's people were looking too low. They were looking for earthly treasures and earthly bread, when they should have been looking heavenly treasure and heavenly bread. They were seeking the gifts, but missing out on the giver.
“Give us more of this bread,” they said to Jesus. In response, Jesus gave them an answer they were not expecting. “Why toil for bread that does not satisfy? Why work for bread that will only perish?” He redirected their searching. He encouraged them to set their sights higher. He told them to look not just for earthly bread which will perish, but for the giver of all good gifts, the one who is the very “bread of life”, God himself.
Looking for love in all the wrong places. Looking for God in all the wrong places. Isn't that what happens to us all when we fall in love with the gifts, but forget about the giver?
Bread is a pretty good gift. And we could think of a lot of other amazing things. Just imagine a first century Biblical person being transported to our day and age, and all the material blessings, he or she might marvel at. Can you imagine a first century person watching television for the first time? How amazed and awestruck they would be by the images and sounds, coming from a box? And not just a little box, but a wide screen “mega TV” covering an entire wall? Or maybe it would be a tiny TV found in someone's cell phone. Now days, you can watch Tom Hanks, not just in the movie theater, but also on your “smart phone”!
And that would be only the beginning of all the marvels that first century person would behold. They would also see trains, planes, and automobiles. Food from all corners of the world almost instantly available in the food court of your local shopping mall. There would be sporting events to attend, dances, plays, and endless entertainment.
After such a feast of material blessings, what would that first century person say? “Give us more of this bread!” And who could blame them?