Do we want OUR religion, or even that old time religion of our parents, or perhaps a modern version of Christianity? What about the religion of Jesus?
We will look at the religion from heaven and contrast it with that of our own making.
We will discuss John 6:24-35 and an event that occurred after Jesus had fed the 5000.
John 6:24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. 25 They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” 28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” 29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” 30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” 35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Whose bread are we eating? (John 6:24-31)
A crowd of people were looking for Jesus in Capernaum, but why? Why do we look for Jesus? The crowd had wanted to make him king, but Jesus eluded them. They wanted a leader who would fulfill all their expectation, but Jesus was not going to operate according to their will. The crowd politely called Jesus “rabbi” because they did not understand any more about him than that. They seem to be a little demanding of him, asking when he got there, obviously unaware that he walked on water to get there. Like so many reporters seeking to control an interview, they may have expected an answer to the question. Jesus often did not answer a question, but addressed the deeper issues. He chided them for seeking only physical bread and not the more important spiritual food that he brought.
Is our focus on perishable things?
Do we make idols of the perishable things, ignoring the important spiritual food that Jesus brings? Are we control freaks demanding our own way or letting Christ lead? The crowd asks how they too could have the power to do God’s works. But power in the wrong hands is dangerous, causing more harm than good. Instead, Jesus urged them to believe in him instead of their own ideas. Instead of simply listening they argued back, asking what sign he was going to give them. Even though they had already seen many signs such as healing the sick and feeding a large crowd and some had even admitted that he was the prophet who was to come (6:14), they were a demanding and argumentative crowd. Jesus challenges their motives as seeking perishable things when they should be seeking eternal life.
Are we just consumer Christians?
Should we be a consumer church? Should the church’s agenda be set by what the crowd wants, to attract new members? Self-centeredness is the agenda of the day. We want a church that satisfies our selfish desires for power or prestige or excitement or music or miracles or friendship, but not a church that teaches us to sacrifice like Jesus did. Since when should the church allow the unchurched to set the agenda? Ought not Jesus be in charge? Are we in the church more like the world than true Christians? Are we just consumers out for what we can get out of church instead of what we can give in service to others? Are we interested in the bread from heaven or the bread from here below? Did Jesus teach us to take up our cross and deny ourselves?
Whose work are we doing?
What is God’s work? Is it to preach the Gospel into all the world, feed the hungry and keep ourselves unspoiled by the corruption of the world? It certainly is, but is there another way of speaking about God’s work that puts perspective on it? Jesus says that the work of God is to believe in the One that God has sent. He said this along with working for food that does not perish and seeking eternal life. They asked what should we do, but Jesus’ bread is not something that we do anything for. Why turn the gift of God into something that we work for? Why not just receive it? Why do we keep trying to control God’s work? What does Jesus mean by believe in the one sent? In this context it refers to trusting in Jesus.
Are we stuck in the past? (John 6:30-35)
The crowd asked for manna like in the days of Moses. They were living in the past, fixed in past events not the living God who lives to bless us today. Do we live in the past? Are we still focused on old time religion or long past miracles? Did our Christian experience stop with an event long ago? What is God doing in our lives now? Are we blinded to how God wants to operate today or stuck on past ways? Do we look to heroes of the faith such as Moses or a favorite preacher instead of Jesus to provide bread from heaven? Is any minister or tradition or building more important than God and what he is God doing now? Every communion the bread from heaven is again freely given to us? Will we accept God’s gift?
Let’s not be control freaks, wanting our religion, the religion of our memories, or our own creation, but the religion of Jesus. Let us allow him to feed us not with bread that perishes, the bread of this world, but with the true manna from heaven.