Food that perishes or lasts - Letters to the Prison
From the series - Letters to the Prison
Last week we saw how Jesus fed upwards of 20,000 people (5,000 men and their families) out in a “desolate place” (for further reading, see Luke 9:10-17 for another account of this event). Before we move on to the next stunning thing Jesus does to back up the claims he’s made in chapter 5, let’s look back briefly on something:
- 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” -John 5:46-47
These were Jesus’ words to the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem at the end of chapter 5. Keep in mind, several months went by between what Jesus says there and the feeding of the “large crowd” in chapter 6. So, it’s not like Jesus said “Oh, you don’t believe me? Watch this!” and then marched out into the wilderness to create a Walmart truckload of food for 20,000 hungry followers just to prove a point. That’s not how it worked. A significant amount of time passed between these two events. But there are reasons why John recorded it this way. One of them has to do with the connection between what Jesus did in chapter 6 and the mention of Moses in chapter 5. This will become very clear a bit later, but for now it’s enough to know that Jesus, if he is God (as he claims to be), is no stranger to feeding huge crowds of people in a desolate place. In other words, what happened in John 6:1-15 is nothing new for Jesus.
Consider this: Here are some notes for further reading from the book of Numbers:
- The number of men God (and Moses) led out of Egypt during the Exodus was 603,550 (Numbers 1:46). Read that number again. Over half a million men.
- That means when you count the women and children who accompanied those men, you’re talking about upwards of 2.5 million people crossing the Red Sea and following God (and Moses) into the wilderness. That’s more than the entire population of New Hampshire and Vermont combined walking out into the wilderness.
- And God fed them all. With Manna from the sky. Literally. You can read about it in Numbers 11. For how long? Long enough for them to get sick of it (Numbers 11:1-11). Seriously. But seriously, for how long?
- Numbers chapter 14 gives us the answer. (See also Exodus 16:35 and Joshua 5:12). You can check it out for yourselves, but the short version is:
- God fed the entire nation of Israel –possibly as many as 2.5 million people—with manna from heaven… not just for a day, but every day… for FORTY YEARS.
And this wasn’t done in any flashy sort of way, either. The manna just appeared with the dew every morning (Numbers 11:9).
God is omnipotent. All powerful. This means that it takes no effort for him to do anything. He does one thing just as easily as he does anything else. So, he feeds 20,000 people for a day in the wilderness just as easily as he feeds a swarming 2.5 million people for forty years… or creates a universe and everything in it (Genesis 1)…
And he does all that just as easily as he walks on water.
Which is what John records next (6:16-21).
Bearing in mind the focus of our study which is to look at what Jesus says about himself (and what others say about him), there’s not much to tell in these verses. The mighty acts Jesus performs in John 6 speak for themselves. We will marvel at them our whole lives and they will proclaim Jesus’ power and majesty and mercy and compassion and love for as long as God’s word endures –which is forever. Amen!
Meanwhile, the crowd Jesus fed got left behind. But they caught up with him in Capernaum the next day (John 6:22-24) at which point a very interesting conversation takes place.
- 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
That they would refer to Jesus as “Rabbi” (teacher) is nothing new. That they should wonder how Jesus got across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum shouldn’t surprise us, either, since no one saw Jesus get into a boat yet here is on the other side of the lake. We of course know that he simply walked… on the water… Anyway, look what happens next:
- 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
And there it is… Jesus’ 8th “truly truly” statement recorded by John. Once again, Jesus blows right past the crowd’s superficial question and gets right to the heart of the issue: Their superficial motives for following him. As we observed before, they were in it for the free food. Jesus is here confirming it and calling them out for it. He continues:
- Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” -John 6:27
Here, Jesus indicates that there are two types of food: Food that “perishes” and food that “endures to eternal life.” The food Jesus gave to the crowd on the mountain a few verses ago –the bread and fish—is the sort of food that perishes. It temporarily sustains temporal life. The crowd ate it and got hungry again the next day… which is why they all followed Jesus to Capernaum… so they could get more free “perishable” food. The Manna in the wilderness was “perishable” (Exodus 16:16-21) too and the people who ate it didn’t live forever. Jesus will say this very thing in a little while, as we will see (John 6:49).
There is a lot more going on in this “truly truly” statement that we will look at next week!
Until then, we encourage you to consider this: What sort of food are you working for?