Let us look back at the context in which Jesus Christ chided His followers for following Him for the wrong reason. He had fed them the day before—five thousand of them with only five loaves of bread and two fishes and twelve baskets of uneaten food was collective after everyone had their fill.
And the Bible says: “After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:14).
His followers all saw the signs and marveled at them. In just a short time they had all satisfied their hunger from food that was meant to satisfy one little child. Something which would have required so much money, time and effort to accomplish unfolded before their very eyes with Jesus not spending one penny or breaking a sweat. But instead, he accomplished it effortlessly out of a child’s meal. Jesus Christ satisfied for them what they each toiled for everyday to accomplish for themselves—food.
Hearing the story in this passage in the Bible, most of us today marvel at the sheer enormity of what was done, but Jesus Christ in the passages maintained that most of those who were feed in this miracle and come back looking for Him did not do so because of the enormity of the miracle but rather in the hope of getting more food or satisfying their other material needs.
And Jesus did not stop at just reproaching them. He pulled a Gideon-type test on them and conclusively made His point. When we read from John 6:14 that the followers marveled at the sign and “intended to come and make him king by force” we immediately think that they finally believed in His deity and wanted to receive eternal life from Him. But that is far from their real intention.
They intended to make Him king by force so they would be sure of their daily provision in much the same way we work on and around our government today to ensure that we will continue to get our life’s provisions. If they had made Jesus Christ their earthly king as they intended, Christ would have automatically become responsible for ensuring their material wellbeing just like the Jewish authorities were; and just like our government is today.
They were going to make Jesus Christ their king so He would continue to meet their needs for material things and physical comfort. They were looking to replace their current government with this one that had shown signs of having the capacity to make anything instantly available for the satisfaction of their lives’ demands. They would not make Jesus Christ their king because they loved Him and cares about His message. They wanted to make Him their king to make sure their daily provisions will continue to come.
And much of Christianity today is going about their faith in much the same way: Christ to the rescue to ease our tough times so we can store up for ourselves and be sure to survive into the future. Society has taught us the right way to earn a living, and the right way to hold on to what we have earned.
So if we earn it fair and square, it is our right to hold onto it and spend it on ourselves. It is not our fault if anyone fails to get something. After all we are not breaking any laws!
And a great percentage of Christians today are now beginning to subscribe to the so-called Prosperity Christianity where they carefully measure and monitor how much they give to each cause based on the percentage of returns the Bible promises for that type of giving. A number of Christian preachers actually reprimand listeners in their sermons for giving to the ‘wrong’ causes what they should have wisely given to the ‘right’ ones to maximize the returns on their giving.
And Jesus knew that the understanding His then followers had was the wrong understanding—not at all what He wanted them to get out of the signs and wonders He performed before them. He said to them: “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.” (John 6:49).
By this statement, Jesus was further criticizing them for being more motivated by earthly materials and physical comfort than by the desire for spirituality and eternal life. Materials and money satisfy temporarily and then fades away whereas spiritual food—the word of God—satisfies forever.
Neither did the manna stop the Israelites that ate it in the wilderness from dying, nor did it prevent them from disobeying God and challenging His authority many times. It is the same way today with money and our earthly pursuits. None can make us spiritual and none can get us into the kingdom of God. Their value to us will only be temporary. And then, they will fade away. Christianity must never be about materialism and return on our giving! Christianity must always be about our love for God, our love for Jesus Christ and our love for our fellow man. Christianity must be about allowing the Holy Spirit who has come into us when we received Christ to lead us into the things God wants us to be doing. Christianity must be about following the directions of our spirit.
So Christ reminded His followers that His mission on earth was about giving mankind the life that never ends; and not about giving us food or anything else that perishes with the world. God was sure to make those available to the entire mankind when He created us and put us in the world. The shortages that we are experiencing are due to the devil’s meddling in our lives, and can only be overcome by following Christ’s teaching.
Christ’s intent was to give His followers the understanding that what He brought to the people this time around is very different from what God provided to the Israelites in the dessert to prevent them from perishing of starvation. Manna was not a spiritual food. Manna was just food for the body. And Jesus Christ did not come to provide food and worldly provisions to believers.
He came to give them eternal life and the abundant life that comes from contentment. But unfortunately His message was lost on this crowd. They understood the satisfaction of their hunger for food better than they understood Christ’s true message of eternal life that prompted the miracle. Jesus then sprung a Gideon-type test on them and the result was startling: One by one, they all walked away in protest, with only the twelve still standing with Jesus. Here is the test and how his point became resoundingly evident:
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.33 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. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)(John 6:22-71).
We should all learn from the above passages—John Chapter Six. Although everything in the passages applied to followers of Jesus Christ of the time, in much the same way, it applies to all followers of Jesus Christ today. We have all claimed to follow Christ because we love Him and believe everything He said to us in the Bible. We should, however, all search our souls to know for sure that our motive for pledging our allegiances to Him is the right motive; because it is not always easy to ascertain that.
In our world today, we face grave living conditions and immeasurable difficulties that most of the time cloud our minds and blur our hearts. We found that it is easier to go through the motions and agree with whoever seems to have the authority on matters concerning Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ does not want it to be so in your life. That is why God created you in His own image and equipped you everything you need to make decisions for yourself.
We have forgotten how to think for ourselves; and have come to rely mostly on our pastors and spiritual guides in making our decisions on spiritual matters. That does not denote love for Jesus Christ. It puts us in danger of being swept away by strong currents of misinformation and exploitation by witty false Christian teachers and preachers, thereby causing us to miss out on “the life that is truly life.”(1 Timothy 6:19).
Jesus Christ is challenging each and every one of us to personally examine our motives for subscribing to Christian doctrines. We must first convince ourselves that we are in it for the love of Jesus Christ, the love of God and the love of our fellow man. We must resign our lives to Jesus Christ and ask Him to lead us through the difficult but reassuring path of faith so we may be able to attain the right faith in Him. That is why He reminded His then followers amid their arguments and frustrations: “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”(John 6:65).
When the push came to shove, the majority of them deserted Him. (John 6:66).
When you convince yourself to seek Jesus Christ for the purpose of having eternal life, God the Father would then ‘enable’(John 6:65) you to follow Jesus Christ, and everything else “will be given to you as well.”(Matthew 6:33).
We should expect to receive from God as He promised we will receive for loving Him and being obedient to Him. That is what hope is all about! But we must not give, and immediately turn around and expect to be rewarded or become discouraged. God never fails in His promises, but we must wait for His time.
Christ did not come to the earth two thousand years ago to give people that believe in Him an earthly kingdom and material and financial fortunes like God did with the Israelites when He rescued them from slavery and brought them into an earthly kingdom with physical abundance—the land flowing with milk and honey. His mission this time around is a spiritual one, not earthly. The treasures He promised His followers are the spiritual kind, and the abundance He promised them is the spiritual kind.
God gave the Israelites what was right for that time. But this time is different from that time. God was using the Israelites to demonstrate His faithfulness to the world, and provide a road map to mankind on how to pursue holiness and salvation. But this time around, He sent His Son to die and sacrifice His life on behalf of all mankind so that whoever believes in Him would receive His salvation.
Therefore, the focus has shifted from physical security and contentment in God, to spiritual security and contentment in Jesus Christ who through His grace has made it possible for us to be reconciled with God. To demonstrate that time has really changed and that the objective is different, even the Israelites have to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior to gain from the mission—to be saved.
That is why Christ was frustrated with the five thousand He had fed who came back looking for more earthly satisfaction—and these were all Jews. Coming to Him for material gain was the wrong message and Christ immediately corrected them, and put them to the test. And we’ve all seen the result of that test—very discouraging because most of them left Him and returned to their old lives. (John 6:66).
Therefore, anyone who is focusing on wealth and physical comfort in his or her walk with Christ is making a big mistake. And any preacher or teacher of the faith that encourages anyone to pursue salvation that way is misleading the believer. God will provide for all believers more than sufficiently, because He promises that and not because they are focusing on that.
Every believer should focus on receiving that spiritual gift which Jesus Christ came to give to all mankind; that is eternal life. Abundant life is comes in our obedience to Christ to seek the kingdom of God—eternal life— first. If Christ’s mission was to enrich all His followers, like God enriched the Israelites coming out of Egypt, Christ should have personally see to it when He was on the earth—just like Moses saw to it that the Israelites leaving Egypt went and received gold and silver from the Egyptians.
Instead, Jesus Christ left the poor of the world in the same state He met them. He had mercy on them and decried their hopelessness, but He did not set up any coffers for them to get them out of poverty. He cured their diseases; He fed them; He encouraged them; He ministered to their spirit but He did not make any wealthy. Neither did He leave great wealth to His disciples who continued to survive on donations received from supporters of the gospel.