Tuesday, September 13, 2011

led by their stomachs

John chapter six. That's where I began to slow down and spend time daily, simply reading and re-reading, chewing and digesting. The chapter is chock full o' great stuff, but it is not my intent to cover all of it. Nope, only those things that impacted me the most. Let's dig in a little.

Within the chapter there are three basic groups of people: the crowds, the disciples, and the twelve. As Jesus teaches, He does so knowing the hearts of each and the reactions that will follow His short and somewhat difficult self-revelation as the Bread of life. Yet He does not pull any punches. The message is never altered to be more appealing to any group in order to remain "popular" among them. The intent of His words is to reveal Himself and His mission, not to please people and win friends. He left the decision of following of following Him or not to the people.

The chapter begins with Jesus, the disciples (including the twelve) and the crowds camped out on a mountain at the edge of the Sea of Galilee. The crowd followed Him because they saw the miracles He performed around the region. They were drawn to the signs and wonders without necessarily being drawn to Him. Jesus looked at the crowd and tested Philip, asking him where they could get enough bread to feed all of them. Philip, astonished at such a question, replied, "A year's wages couldn't buy enough bread to feed all of these people!" There were 5,000 men and with the women and children the crowd could have easily numbered between 10-15K. At that moment Andrew brought a boy, whose lunch consisted of five barley loaves and two fish, to Jesus and offered these meager portions to Him. (I wonder what Andrew's thoughts were as he brought the boy to Jesus. Was it merely an attempt to appear productive by bringing something, anything to Jesus? Perhaps Andrew was exercising a desperate faith, knowing that Jesus could do something, but not sure what. Just a thought.) As the story goes, Jesus had everyone sit in groups, took the boy's lunch and offered thanks to God for it. He then had the disciples distribute the bread and fish to those in the crowd. The miracle happened as they distributed it and all were fed, in reality glutted, with twelve baskets of leftovers gathered at the end.

What was the reaction of the crowd? They recognized Jesus as the Prophet foretold by Moses, but misunderstood His mission. As a result, the crowd was worked up and sought to take Him by force to make Him king. Why? They had a preconceived idea of what the Prophet/Messiah was supposed to be and it involved an earthly kingdom and overthrowing the Romans. The Messiah was, in their minds, a political revolutionary that would set them free from Roman control. The Messiah was also to be a provider of bread to the people, renewing the giving of manna. They formed an idea of the Messiah's mission based upon their body appetites.

Jesus withdrew from the crowds before they could take Him by force and went up on the mountain by Himself. The disciples left the area at some point in the night, crossing the Galilee to Capernaum. It was in their nighttime crossing that Jesus came to them, walking across the rough, windblown waters, and bringing them to the other side safely. It is important to note that the disciples were struggling in futility to cross the sea, being prevented by the strong winds and choppy seas. Jesus' coming frightened them and then relieved them as He brought them to their destination. It served as a lesson to the disciples, but more on that later.

The crowds awoke the next morning missing Jesus. They looked all over to no avail. He was gone, but no one had seen Him leave and none could figure out how He left knowing that He had not gone with the disciples in the boat. Still bent on crowning Him king and having their bellies filled they set out across the Galilee to find Him. When they do catch up with Him they question His departure. His response is to reveal their motives of why they are seeking Him. He said, "You are not seeking Me because you saw signs, but because your bellies were filled with the bread. You are only interested in what I can give you or do for you physically. You are materially minded." They asked four more questions, as recorded by John, in response to Jesus' words.
      "What must we do to be doing the works of God?"
      "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?"
      "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?"
      "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?"

Each of these questions stemmed from a wrong heart focused on the material and physical things. Ultimately, they walked away from Jesus, disappointed because He did not fit their ideas of what the Messiah should be. How many people have started out seeking Jesus, but turned away in disappointment because He did not fit their predetermined ideas of what a Savior should be? If you are not a Christian and are reading this does this describe you? Instead of trying to change Him by forcing your ideas upon Him, why not listen to what He has to say and change your idea? If you are a Christian, how many times have you been disappointed with Him because He does not fit neatly into your box? Again, who needs to change (and be changed)?

Next time I'll look at the disciples in chapter six.
To God be the glory.

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