Thinking with our stomachs (part 2)

You’d think a truly astounding miracle would be enough to make anyone a believer.

But then again, maybe not.

As we saw in part 1, some of the people who had seen Jesus miraculously feed over 5,000 people from a first-century box lunch followed him to Capernaum. They wanted more. He tried to redirect them from earthly to heavenly food, and told them that they needed to put their faith in him.

But this is how they responded:

What miraculous sign will you do, that we can see and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.  (John 6:30-31, CEB)

What sign would he do, to enable them to believe? What, the one they had already seen wasn’t sufficient? Or maybe it just wasn’t impressive enough. Come on, Jesus. You fed 5,000 of us, one time. That’s not bad. But Moses fed an entire people every day for decades. You’re going to have to step up your game.

That’s a rather cheeky attitude to take toward someone who’s just done a miracle. Not to mention the fact that they had forgotten one teeny detail: the Israelites got really, really tired of manna.

But Jesus didn’t blast them. Instead, he corrected their theology:

I assure you, it wasn’t Moses who gave the bread from heaven to you, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (vss. 32-33)

Redirect, redirect. Not Moses, but God the Father. Not manna, but the true bread, sent from heaven to give life to the world.

And still they couldn’t hear what he was offering. Rather, they heard what they wanted to hear, and responded with enthusiasm: “Sir, give us this bread all the time!” (vs. 34). I imagine them waiting with bated breath to see what Jesus would do next.

What he did was utter the first of his famous “I Am” sayings in John’s gospel:

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I told you that you have seen me and still don’t believe. (vss. 35-36)

I wonder how he said it, with what attitude and tone of voice. Did he sigh with frustration? No, no, no, people. Not that kind of bread. Don’t you get it? I am the bread of life. Or did he make eye contact with as many as he could, trying even harder to get his message across?

Whatever the case may be, the conversation went downhill from there.

I doubt that Jesus blamed them for wanting bread, else he would hardly have given it to them in the first place. Moreover, Jesus even taught his disciples to pray, “Give us the bread we need for today” (Matt 6:11).

But that’s meant to be a prayer of trust and dependence, offered to a Father who is trustworthy and dependable. The people who were asking Jesus for bread that day did not yet understand who he was, and were treating him more like Miracle Max than the Son of God — let alone the true bread from heaven.

They didn’t believe.

That’s what can happen when our needs dictate our approach to God. More on that in the next post.