Summary: Because Christ told them that they must labor for the food He spoke of, they enquired what they must do. What they want to know is what works can we do better or more of, than those we do in obedience to the Law of Moses.
-Spring, AD 29-
(39) Peak of Popularity Passes in Galilee
22 The next day the people who had stayed on the other side of the lake knew that Jesus had not gone in the boat with his followers but that they had left without him. And they knew that only one boat had been there.
23 But then some boats came from Tiberias and landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.
24 When the people saw that Jesus and his followers were not there now, they got into boats and went to Capernaum to find Jesus.
In these verses we see:
1. The close watch, which the people kept over Christ. They saw the disciples go to sea, and they saw Christ retire to the mountain, probably with a suggestion that he wanted to be alone for a time. But, their hearts were set upon making him a king. The day following, they watched for His return. They were anxious for His return, but they didn’t know where He had gone or what had become of Him. They saw there was no boat anywhere near there, except for the one that the disciples went off in. They also observed that Jesus did not go with his disciples, but that they went off alone, and that they left him on their side of the water.
2. They were very diligent in seeking him. They searched everywhere around there, and when they couldn’t find Him, they began to search other places. First, they determined to search for Him in Capernaum. That was his head-quarters, where he usually lived. Since His disciples were gone, they didn’t think He would stay away from them for long. The quickest way to get to Capernaum was by sea, and that opportunity presented itself when boats arrived from Tiberius, probably bound for Capernaum.
3. They took advantage of the opportunity that offered itself. They went by ship to Capernaum seeking Jesus.
25 When the people found Jesus on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Teacher, when did you come here?”
26 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you aren’t looking for me because you saw me do miracles. You are looking for me because you ate the bread and were satisfied.
They found Jesus on the other side of the sea. It is clear from Jesus’ comment that he knew that they were looking for Him for the wrong reasons. But He let them find Him and He admitted them into fellowship with Him. This is a lesson for us: we should not exclude the hypocrites from close association with us, much less when we do not know their hearts.
Their first question was, “Teacher, when did you come here?” In verse 59, we are told that they found Him in a synagogue. They knew this was the likeliest place to find Christ in, for it was his custom to worship there. But all they could think to say to Him was, “Teacher, when did you come here?” They saw that He would not allow them to make Him king, so they don’t mention that, but their question not only asks what time He got there, but also by what method.
Christ’s answer did not respond to their question, but was the answer that it deserved. They didn’t seek him for the right reason. Christ knows not only what we do, but why we do it. They had not followed Him because of His teaching or even because of the miracles. They sought Him for the sake of their bellies. He said, “You are looking for me because you ate the bread and were satisfied.” These people complimented Christ by addressing Him as Teacher, and they showed Him great respect, yet He let them know that He regarded them as hypocrites.
27 Don’t work for the food that spoils. Work for the food that stays good always and gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give you this food, because on him God the Father has put his power.”
Jesus uses food to represent spiritual things. He says, “Work for the food that stays good always and gives eternal life.” He uses food, because they were so impressed by the Miracle of the Loaves; and He intends to make it clear that they need to tone down their pursuit of worldly possessions. He is not talking about honest labor for food, but making the things of this world our chief care and concern. We must be careful not to make our religion subservient to a worldly interest. Our desire should be for those spiritual things which are dispensed by Christ; eternal life and the gifts of the Spirit. He tells us to labor for it as if it could be obtained by our own efforts. But even though we labor for them, they will only be acquired from Christ, who gives them as gifts. And what’s more, they are free gifts.