Message by Vicar Ed Shoesmith.
The people just keep on coming after Jesus don’t, they? It’s like an annoying mosquito. Jesus has just fed the 5,000, walked on water and is now not where the crowd expected him to be. He is on the other side of the sea. The people are chasing him, and do you blame them? I mean seriously Jesus has just multiplied bread and fish and fed them and they want more! And to get more we need to go get the man who dispenses the goods. However, when they wake up Jesus is gone! The food dispenser has left the building and the crowd want to find him. Now we could say “but isn’t that a good thing”? Like, what is the problem with searching for Jesus? All the Christian books tell me to do that. These people are seeking Jesus, they want to find him. In fact, don’t we want people to go closer to Christ?
But I think this is the catch. From first glance it might seem the crowd has good intentions. Noble intentions, get closer to Jesus to be around him and within his presence. However, the crowds’ motives are mixed and when we dig deeper, they seem a little self-orientated.
John in today’s gospel tells us how Jesus reveals and opens our minds to the desires of the selfish heart.
As Christians we should not be surprised when we read this text. We do not have a good track record for following and seeking out Christ in fact we are quite the opposite. These people are not drawn to Christ because of His teachings but rather they were seeking him because they wanted their bellies filled by the food, he provided them. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying that these miracles performed by Jesus were not holy and just. They are, these signs serve as Jesus’ credentials and prove that He is who He claimed to be, that is the Saviour of the world. But Jesus was not there as entertainment, Jesus is not some kind of street performer or crowd pleaser for the physical needs of the people, and this is today’s problem. The way the crowds responded were for their own selfish desires they mis interpreted Jesus’ actions.
But seriously how can we blame the crowd? It happens today, doesn’t it? If you offer free food and entertainment to people they come, it seems to be in our DNA that these things draw a crowd. Free food and entertainment are powerful motives we love it! But considering the crowds view of Jesus as a vending machine, is this who Jesus is? Is Jesus just some kind of entertainment that feeds us? Is this what the bible tells us about Jesus? No, my friends, Jesus is far more than this in fact he is very different.
In and of itself food and entertainment are not bad things sure sometimes they lead us to sin, too much grog, the wrong kind of entertainment and so on. Look around us here today at the abundance of blessings received from God. I mean we can’t say that this pumpkin is on mission to destroy us.
However, when food and entertainment become the motive there can be a problem.
When I lived in Toowoomba Qld, there was a church not far from my local Lutheran congregation. They had it all, they were like the ideal community. They had everything they advertised free food and worship services, with jumping castles and roving panda characters, lights they had a TV screen as wide as this church building, I mean it was intense. But what was the problem here? The mentality and the problem of this kind of thing is the temptation for the church to appeal to the motives of the world, the feeding and entertainment. So just like the crowd in our story today they were drawn to the feeding and entertaining Jesus.
But in the gospel reading we heard today the people are on the hunt for Jesus because the bread has ran out. Sure, Christ could have done some more miracles and made more bread, but he didn’t. What happens? Instead, we read that Christ exposes the crowd’s motives and he doesn’t do it lightly he goes straight for the jugular.
But let’s be honest we struggle with these very same motives, don’t we? I mean I do.
Week in and week out we hear the gospel, but we want more, I want to come back again and have my belly filled and watch a good show. I am tired of the ordinary I want some extraordinary! Give me something exciting!
But that is it, if you want something exciting read the gospel of John it won’t do you any harm. If you want something exciting, look at the Cross of Christ what more do we require? The day our Lord was crucified as Matt 27:51 and following states
“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.”
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35).