I love Asian American food. Whenever I have the chance to go to a Chinese buffet, Mongolian grill or my all time favorite restaurant Pei Wei (which is never these days) I will go and I will savor every moment. The only problem for me with Asian American food is that it never seems to fully satisfy for any length of time. Sure I will go to a buffet or Mongolian grill and eat until my heart’s content (and then some) or usually to the point of being overly full. By the time I get home or within an hour to an hour and a half after eating I am hungry again. There seems to be no longevity to my satisfaction… I’m satisfied then soon thereafter I am not. This also happens with my children at fast food restaurants. When we travel we will stop at McDonald’s, BK or Wendy’s and the kids will get a Happy meal or Kid’s Meal. They receive their little kids box or bag with a hamburger, fries, drink and the toy they just can’t live without. As we drive Carrie and I experience a moment of silence as the kids eat their meals and play with their new toy. Without fail soon thereafter we hear, “I’m still hungry.” Or “Can I have a snack?” Much to our surprise our children were not completely satisfied with their meal. With all the nutrients, proteins and health these kids meals contain (said with thick sarcasm) our kids are hungry an hour and in most cases a half an hour after they finished their meals! To top it off by the time we get to our destination they have either misplaced, broke, or lost interest in the toy they had to have.
We all know both kinds of foods are not actually healthy and they are definitely not meals that are meant to be eaten every day. The hard truth is no food ever truly satisfies. Now I know Snicker’s claims to satisfy and I am still anticipating the day when I am completely satisfied after I eat one. Food never satisfies for the duration. We see throughout the Bible that even Jesus got hungry. Even the King of kings and Lord of lords couldn’t find contentment in food. Food, material possessions, and wealth will never and can never bring lasting happiness, contentment or satisfaction. If all of these cannot be attained in things we can physically touch or eat then why do we even bother trying to find true contentment, joy and satisfaction in life?
In today’s passage Jesus talks about true satisfaction. He tells us about the "things" we should and should not invest in this life in order to attain true fulfillment. He shows us the meaninglessness of setting our lives pursuing after physical things that have no eternal or spiritual value. He also challenges us to check our motivation in becoming disciples of Jesus. Today it is my prayer that we can evaluate our relationship with Jesus and what we invest our time, energy and resources in our lives today. Are we pursuing after empty pleasures of life or are we investing in things of eternal value and importance?
Read John 6:22 – 34
Verse 22, 23: The day after Jesus fed the crowd they noticed that one of the boats was gone and Jesus did not leave on this boat, only the disciples were in it. Interestingly that evening Jesus met up with the disciples when he walked on water (see verses 16 – 21) and they went to the other side of the sea. The crowds remained because they thought Jesus hadn’t left yet but as they were there more boats arrived. We are not certain as to why these boats arrived (possible from the storm on the previous night).
Verses 24: When they found that Jesus was no longer with them they crossed over the sea to Capernaum, where the disciples were, and they found Jesus there.
Verse 25: They found him and asked how he got there since he didn’t leave in the boat with the disciples. This could have been an opportune time to share with them how he had walked on water but he chose not to. This miracle was reserved for the disciples.
Verse 26: Keeping in his traditional manner Jesus does not answer the question directly that was asked of him. Instead he questions his followers’ motivation in seeking him out so diligently. He calls them out and tells them he knows their hearts and motivation in seeking him. They were not following Jesus because they were devoted disciples. They were interested in what Jesus would do for them. According to D.A. Carson, “(The miracle of feeding the 5,000) had filled the bellies of the people, and the crowd loved it and were willing on that basis to sign up immediately.” These followers were in it with Jesus as long as he kept feeding them. They were willing to be part of Jesus’ group as long as he gave them the things they wanted. The idea of sacrifice, serving and possibly dying were not even in the cards for these individuals. They simply wanted to witness his miracles (like a circus act) and be given free meals.
This brings up the question of motivation. Clearly the motivation of the crowd was to be fed and watch from the sidelines. They weren’t willing to become true disciples who were devoted to Jesus and the Kingdom of God. They were still hopeful that He was going to take care of things by restoring Israel and overthrowing Rome. They wanted to be on the winning team. They didn’t want to sign up for the team that in the end would seemingly look like fools and losers. They wanted to share in the glory and get their needs met.
Verse 27: Jesus is tells them to not invest in perishable things in life. Invest in what matters… The Kingdom of God and doing his will. Labor/work for things that matter and have eternal value, not in things that pass away where moth and rust destroy. Invest in Jesus.
Verse 28: When they heard Jesus say work or labor for God they immediately assume this means there is a specific work they can do that brings eternal life (which is Jesus). Their response was, “Ok, tell us what we need to do in order to receive eternal life (or to be part of the Kingdom) and we will do it.” This is a very human response.
Verse 29: Jesus responds that the work of God is not an actual work but is what Paul would affirm later in his ministry based on faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is only attained by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not one specific work.
Verse 30: They challenge Jesus in some ways, because they ask what signs he will give them in order for them to put their faith, trust and belief in him. They seek a sign or miracle (as if the feeding of the 5,000 wasn’t enough) before they will believe in Him. It seems odd they were looking for more signs. Possibly they were looking for a miracle that was more military or political. Perhaps they were looking for Jesus to storm the gates of Jerusalem.
Verse 31: The crowd makes reference to Moses and Manna in the desert.
Manna – Exodus 16:11 – 36: Means “What is it?” This was the bread from heaven every morning that God provided for the Israelites in the desert for all the years they were wandering. Even the Manna that God provided in the desert was perishable.
Verse 32: Moses didn’t provide the manna, God did. The manna served its purpose in the desert and God provided for the Israelites. Jesus states a new type of bread is available and it is the true bread of heaven.
Verse 33: Jesus is the bread of heaven. He came from heaven and he gives life to the world.
Verse 34: The response is similar to that of the Samaritan woman at the well. “Give us this bread always.” They still didn’t understand that the bread Jesus spoke of was not actual bread but Himself.
The motivation for many Christians today is grounded in “What’s in it for me?” They are not interested in being part of the Kingdom movement and being a true disciple of Jesus. They are only interested in what Jesus can do for them and not because of who He is. They have no concern for evangelism, discipleship or serving in Jesus’ name because it doesn’t benefit them personally. This is why the prosperity movement is so popular. The prosperity Gospel falsely teaches people to follow Jesus and He will make you financially prosperous. This Gospel says, "God wants you to have a mansion, Mercedes and a million dollars." This is completely contrary to what Jesus taught and what the Bible says. Jesus said, “If you follow me you will most likely not be rich, you won’t always be comfortable or have many possessions, and you certainly will not be well liked by the masses.”
The body of Christ is called to meet the needs of the people. If we see someone who is down and out we should serve them in Jesus’ name, we should help them with resources if we are able, and we most certainly should share with them the love of our wonderful Savior. But we should never give the false impression that if you follow Jesus He will give you everything you want or think you need. He will only give according to His will.
So I ask you today… What is your motivation in following Jesus? Are looking for him to give you things and prosper you or are you just madly in love with the one who willingly gave his life for you so that whoever believes in him shall be a part of the Kingdom of God? We need to ensure that we do not spend all of our time pursuing those things which have no ultimate significance but pursue that which is of eternal value and significance… Jesus Christ.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 283Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
 Wright, Tom. (2004) John For Everyone p. 80 Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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