In the Boat with the Bread
Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Have you ever ‘missed the boat’ on something? Some say the government has ‘missed the boat’ on controlling this virus. I am not sure any government can control this virus!
I don’t think I have ever missed an actual boat, only the ferry across the River, and that only means you have to wait ten minutes and the boat will be back to pick you up.
I did miss a plane flight once. Coming back from three weeks away from family while doing a study tour of Israel, we missed our final flight from Sydney to Adelaide. We had to wait on standby and hope the wait was not too long. It wasn’t in the end.
Sometimes I have ‘missed the boat’ on understanding someone or taking the moment to apologise or say something about the goodness of Jesus when the moment was there.
But this account of John talks about a whole community missing the boat.
As John follows on from telling of the feeding of thousands and then that super-quick boat trip home on the windy sea that Jesus captained for the troubled disciples, he tells us that the same crowd who had eaten their fill went on searching for more from Jesus.
But for the life of them could not figure out how Jesus got back across to the home side of the sea overnight by boat. The Twelve knew. But the people did not. They literally, “missed Jesus’ boat”. Like when you walk into an outback pub thousands of kilometres from home and see your next door neighbour sipping on a cold at the bar …
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
In one conversation after another, the people are missing Jesus even though he is right there with them. Sound familiar?
Even as they search and search for more from God, people are not just missing a boat, but missing God …
“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill …
The people are missing Jesus because they are searching in the wrong places.
They are searching for a Saviour who can give them a good life but not a Saviour who can transform their lives into something altogether new.
They want what this man can give, but they don’t want who is actually is.
15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (6:15)
They are missing the boat. They are missing God’s boat that would take them safely to the safe side. Why? Because they are wanting what the Saviour can give but not the Saviour. They have seen what he can do and want more of that, but they don’t want him; to know who he is and then who they are with him.
As a result, even though they know who he is they don’t actually know who he is. They know he exists, but they don’t know him. They can’t see him. They can only see what he can give them to fix their problems and fill their needs.
We are meant to take this to the heart. Is that me, God? Am I wanting you to fix my problems, fix our problems, give us a better go of it, a less troubled and difficult journey? Why can’t you just get us through this to a safe, calm comfortable place we know?
John’s message is getting clearer as he tells the story: if we only ever want God to fix our problems and provide our fill and get us through the day or the time without suffering or difficulty, but do not really want to know him; not really want to hear him and engage in a living, breathing relationship with Jesus, the very bread for living, we are missing God’s boat.
I know I miss this boat a lot. I often want what the Lord can give me but not him. I want safety, security, comfort, help, a good life, money in the bank, a holiday now and again, great kids, great wife, happy life, my football team winning, a new car, a new bike, an uninterrupted life of goods and services.
I want an end to our discomfort by this nasty virus. I want many things – some noble and good, some not so noble or good.
But what about wanting his voice, his calling, his mission, his acceptance, his forgiveness, his love? Do I actually want the Lord in my day, in my decisions, in my inner world and outward journey?
The people seem to want him in their life after all.
“What must we do to do the works God requires?” asks the crowd
In other words, how do we get on board your boat, Jesus, and stay on board? We like the food, and we like the avoidance of the strong wind. We like the feeling of being satisfied and calm … How do we get on board and stay on board with you? What work do we have to do? How do we earn this?
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
That’s not ‘work’! Surely, we have to do something for our bread. We need to pay the fare for the boat journey and the great destination. There is no free bread. ‘There are no free lunches’. Someone has to pay for it.
If you want us to really believe you when you say that you are our bread, our life, our hope, our future rest and peace, then …
“What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’]”
More bread – lasting bread this time – not just one day at a time – but guaranteed for every day. Happy life, please. Always full. Lots of choices. Freedom from difficulty … And sure destination. Guarantee that we will get there and never be blown off course of go under. Give us a sign of that, Jesus.
O, my searching, suffering, wandering, alone, missing the boat, people!
“Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Someone is giving you greater bread than just bread now! Always fresh bread is here. Bread that actually give total life is here.
This bread is not worked for, paid for by you, earned by you or baked by you.
Jesus will go on to be well and truly “cooked’ for these people and you and me in the baking sun as he hangs alone on the cross very soon!
He will rise from that dark tomb like freshly baked bread that fills the kitchen with that great aroma. His sacrifice and triumph over all that is dark and lonely and deflating and deathly fills us with fullness of joy and his presence fills our heart on Easter day. That is THE sign he will give. You dolt need any others.
This bread is gift. It is received no earned, manufactured in the heart of God not yours. It is not like that manna in the desert that died in a day. It lasts beyond all lasting. It never goes off! It never gets moldy because it is not from you but you’re your Father in heaven.
Friend, whether you are missing the boat or not, one thing is always true. Jesus is life; he is the staple diet of living; he is bread; bread for life. That is John’s message.
Just because I don’t see him, hear him, know him, love him, he still remains bread. He is still life – resurrection and life. He is food for free – free for us, very costly for him.
You don’t need to be especially ‘spiritual’ or particularly well behaved to be on his boat. You don’t have to be of a certain heritage or family or name to live with Jesus and his people in this boat. You don’t even have to pay for your journey by trimming sales, watching the GPS, scrubbing the decks to pay off the ticket. It has been paid in full just as it was for those disciples in the rocking boat in the windy sea safely back home under captain, Jesus.
As you trust his word in him for your everyday, you won’t ever go hungry in hope. You won’t ever go thirsty in thankfulness. You won’t be completely dry in determination too long. Your Father and his, gives you all you need for any day of the journey home, however long it takes and whatever wind and churning seas come.
No need to trying to earn Jesus’ life. You can’t and you don’t have to. He has paid the fare, designed the boat, knows the sea and knows where home is – anywhere he is.
No need to constantly search for miraculous signs of his presence to make decisions or know what to do – he’s here in the boat and his word is bread enough for whatever path you decide to take that serves him and others in love. You are free to move and choose and grow as you go because he will sustain you in anything.
No need to have more and more. No need for greed or envy in the heart when it comes to houses, and jobs and wealth or lack of. You are in Jesus’ boat now and the journey is secure with or without the stuff. You only need him.