I can remember, when I was in kindergarten and first grade, the teacher would tell us that we would be having “Show And Tell” time on the following day. Each of us children was asked to bring an interesting and unusual object to class, and then we would each take turns showing our object to the rest of the children and telling them something about it. Our parents were allowed to help us with our choice of what to bring to school the next day. Does that bring back memories? That expression, “Show And Tell”, originated in the 1940’s and is one of the learning exercises still being used in early-childhood education. It is often used by adults also as a means of getting to know one another and as a form of instruction and entertainment. It can also engage more than one of our senses, such as sight, sound, touch, and smell.
You may be wondering how this teaching method or game relates to the passage of Scripture we are now studying: John 6:22-35. If we look back at the previous day in Jesus’ life, He showed them that He was the Son of God by breaking the five barley cakes and two dried fish and feeding 5000 men, together with their wives and children. He also showed them how much was left over by having His disciples gather up the fragments. There were twelve baskets filled with those leftovers. Sadly, neither the crowd nor His disciples came to the understanding that Jesus was the Son of God as the result of that miracle He just showed them.
After the meal, Jesus showed two more signs to His disciples only. The first sign or miracle was the sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee, and the second was Jesus Himself walking on the water toward them in the midst of the storm. The Lord Jesus showed them a life-threatening situation and they did not call upon Him to save them. He then showed them Himself walking on top of the water and they refused to believe it, thinking they were seeing a ghost. They thought their eyes were deceiving them and they were hallucinating. They weren’t convinced by what He showed them, but they did become convinced when He spoke to them. Why? Because, in John 6:20, Jesus said to them, “I AM, do not be afraid”. He used God’s covenant name which He gave to Moses to tell to the people of Israel. Matthew 14:33 says, “and those who were in the boat worshipped Him saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son.’ ” They finally “put two and two together”, so to speak. Jesus was claiming to be the God who parted the Red Sea, fed the people of Israel in the wilderness with manna for 40 years, and stopped the Jordan River from flowing. It required both “show and tell” to convince the disciples that Jesus was the Son of God. The story isn’t over yet. There are many others who were “shown” but also have to be “told”.
I. THE BACKGROUND (verses 22-25)
Verse 22 begins with a search for the missing Jesus. The last time the crowd saw Jesus was the night before when Jesus told His disciples to get into a boat, and He sent them on their way across the Sea of Galilee. Then He told the crowd to go home, and I’m sure many of them saw Jesus heading for the hills. Many of those same people came back the next morning, and verse 22 describes the scene and what they were doing. “The next day the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone.”
I wonder whether these people came early that morning in the hope that Jesus might treat them to a free breakfast! There were probably still many among them who wanted to make Jesus their King. They weren’t able to find Jesus, and when they looked across the lake they saw only one boat docked there, and that was the boat the disciples used the day before. They already knew that Jesus didn’t go in the boat with them, and now they know that Jesus didn’t cross the lake in another boat. Where could He be? He wouldn’t have walked all the way around the lake in the middle of the night, would He?
Verse 23 says that “other boats came from Tiberias.”. Those boats must have been blown across the lake by the storm the night before. Having become convinced that Jesus was not on their side of the lake, verse 24 says that they “got into the boats and went to Capernaum.” The city of Capernaum was the place where Jesus normally resided when He was in the district of Galilee. It’s beginning to sound like a variation of “Hide and Seek” but, instead of one person seeking all the rest of the people, all the rest of the people are seeking one person!
Verse 23 tells us that the crowd found whom they were looking for. It reads, “And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, when did You get here?’ ” They must have been very surprised, amazed and confused. Their question seems strange to me. I would have expected them to say “Rabbi, how did you get here”, not “when did you get here.” It makes me wonder whether they concluded that Jesus must have walked around the Sea of Galilee, and were wondering how He could have done it so quickly during the night. If you do the math, the circumference of the Sea of Galilee is 33 miles around the shoreline. Let’s say that the distance from the place where Jesus fed the 5000 to Capernaum on the other side was 16-18 miles. That’s a long way to walk along the sand of the sea shore wearing a long robe and sandals in the dark of night and heading into the wind! Now I understand why they asked “when” instead of “how”. Walking that far in such a short time under those conditions must have seemed like a miracle to them. Little did they know just how amazing a miracle it actually was. Jesus took the “short-cut” across the lake on foot!
II. THEIR MOTIVES QUESTIONED AND CORRECTED (verses 26-27)
Rather than answering their question, the Lord Jesus responds by questioning and correcting their wrong motives. In verse 26, He says to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” Jesus is telling them that their interest in Him is merely selfish. They considered Him to be some kind of a magician who could meet their physical needs. Many of them wanted to make Jesus their king so that their need for food would be taken care of and they wouldn’t have to work any longer. Their motive was: “What’s in it for me”. They missed the meaning of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and now Jesus has to explain it to them. It’s “Show and Tell” all over again!
In verse 27 Jesus says, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you.” Those words should have brought the words of the prophet Isaiah to their minds. Isaiah 55:2 says, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy.” God has given mankind a hunger for things that this world cannot satisfy. Jesus is telling them about two kinds of food: food for the body and food for the soul or spirit. He’s telling them that He is the only One who can satisfy their deepest needs, the hunger of their souls. He’s also implying that we need to work to provide for our physical needs. In the context of that particular situation, Jesus may have been using the word “work” to describe how they wearied themselves by walking around the lake to find Him in order to get more free food. But only God can provide lasting satisfaction. Physical food “perishes” in two senses. If it is not eaten, it become stale, rotten, or ,moldy. But if it is eaten, it perishes in the sense that the body uses it up and in a few hours we are hungry again. We need more food to replenish what has been digested and its nutrients are now gone. Have you ever considered how much of your time is spent eating? If you are a typical person who lives an average lifetime, you will probably spend about 35,000 hours of your lifetime eating. That’s eight years of eating non-stop for 12 hours each day. That’s a lot of eating and that’s a lot of food! If we have to spend that much time satisfying our physical hunger for food, how much more time should we be spending in the satisfaction of our spiritual hunger for God!
The wisest man in the Old Testament, King Solomon, who may also have been the wealthiest man in the Old Testament, wrote a book of the Bible entitled “Ecclesiastes”. In this book, Solomon describes his search for happiness and fulfillment. He went down many dead-end streets, pursuing wisdom, pleasure, riches and work, and found that they were all vanity, “striving after wind”. These things did not fill the emptiness in his soul. His conclusion: “fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Only the worship of God, and the living of one’s life to please Him, brings lasting satisfaction.
Jesus is teaching the crowd a similar lesson here in verse 27. He’s telling them that there is something more to life than working for physical food. He encourages them to work “for the food that endures to eternal life.” Then Jesus tells them the source of that eternal life, and by Whose authority He can make such a statement. He says, “which the Son of Man will give you”. Notice that Jesus is talking about the future in this case. The eternal life can’t be given to them until Jesus pays the price for their sins by dying on the cross and then rising victorious from the grave. It is also conditioned upon their willingness to believe in Him and entrust their lives to Him as their Lord. “For on Him the Father, even God, has set his seal.” Jesus is stating His credentials. The Father set His seal of approval on His Son at Jesus’ baptism and His seal of authority through the miracles that Jesus performed. A seal was used in those days for many different reasons. It witnessed the truth of a document or person. It could also be used, among other things, to show ownership, authority, approval, or as a guarantee of quality, Since Jesus’ discussion with the crowd is about food, I read that some bakers during that period of time would put a seal or impression on their bread as they baked it in order to let people know where the bread came from, and also as a guarantee of its quality.
So Jesus has told them that both their intentions and their motives are wrong as they follow Him around seeking free food to fill their stomachs. They should be seeking the spiritual food which lasts for eternity, and which He alone can provide. What follows is a time of questions on their part and answers on His part.
III. QUESTION AND ANSWER TIME (verses 28-33)
In verse 28 the crowd asks their first question: “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” What did they mean when they said those words? I think they were saying, “Give us a list of the things God wants us to do so that we can perform them.” In their minds, “works” meant obeying the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. So they were asking, “Which particular ones did He have in mind; which ones merit eternal life after they are accomplished?” They didn’t understand what Jesus just said to them. Their minds focused on the word “work” and their attention became glued to that word. Bible expositor Alfred Barnes makes this comment: “The idea of doing something to merit salvation is one of the last that the sinner ever surrenders.” Here’s an illustration that exemplifies that comment made by Barnes.
A young man in the military, who was concerned about his eternal destiny, had been encouraged to receive Christ and stop trying to save himself. He felt, however, that he must show his “good intentions and sincerity” by first cleaning up his life. His superior officer had often tried to make it clear to him that salvation comes to him who “does not work but believes”, but the young man couldn’t seem to grasp this truth. One day, when he had been busy doing some work which left him covered with dirt and grease, he received a call to see his commanding officer. He didn’t like to go in his grimy condition, but having been told to leave immediately, he went without delay. When he arrived, the one who had sent for him said, “Sewell, I am very glad to see that you know how to obey orders. Now that’s the way I’ve been telling you that you must respond to the Gospel call. Come to the Lord Jesus Christ just as you are.” Those words went right to his heart, and then and there he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
In verse 29, Jesus responds to their question by saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Notice that Jesus uses the word “work”, not “works” (plural). He’s the one who is going to do the work to provide eternal life, not them. It’s going to be His gift to them through His atoning “work” on the cross, not as a result of their “works” to please God.
Obviously, the crowd was not satisfied with Jesus’ answer to their question, so they ask Him two more questions in verse 30. They ask, “What then do you do for a sign, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? The miracle of the loaves and fish should have been proof enough that He was the Messiah. But they wanted more proof; they’re always wanting more proof, more miracles. The next verse reveals the real reason for those questions. They continue by saying, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ “ They are referring to a comparable miracle in the life of Moses. I think they are saying, “Moses feed the Hebrew people in the wilderness with manna for 40 years. If you are greater than Moses, why don’t you prove it by feeding all of us for 40 years? Then we’ll believe you.”
In verses 32 and 33, Jesus corrects their beliefs. When they say “HE”, they mean Moses, but that’s not who that Scripture passage is referring to. They are correctly quoting the words written in Psalm 78, verse 24, but they are incorrectly applying that statement to Moses. The psalmist is referring to the works of God in that psalm. Moses’ name isn’t even mentioned, nor is he referred to indirectly, in the seventy-two verses of Psalm 78. It’s not obvious from their question that they are referring to Moses. So how do I know they are? I know so because Jesus knows it, and He communicates that fact to them in verse 32 when He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.”
The Jews of that day highly esteemed Moses, sometimes even more highly than God! They attributed all the plagues on the Egyptians, as well as the parting of the Red Sea, the water from the rock, the manna, the quail, and every other supernatural event to Moses instead of God. They also believed that the manna ceased when Moses died. But Joshua 5:12 states that the manna continued after they entered the land of Canaan and didn’t cease until the day after they celebrated the feast of the Passover, when they ate some of the produce of the land. That was over two months after Moses’ death! Their beliefs point to a tendency throughout history for people to glorify the person God uses rather than God, who empowers and uses that person. Moses would have been enraged at their exaltation of him rather than God.
Jesus goes on to make a distinction between the manna (the bread which fell from the sky), and the “true” bread from heaven. He says, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” The Greek word used here is “katabainon”, which means “to descend” rather than “to fall”. He’s implying that the true bread from heaven descended to become a part of humanity. He’s also saying that this bread is not only for the Jews, as was the manna, but this bread is for the whole world as well.
What’s the reaction of His audience? They still have their minds on physical food, and “forever food” sounds even better than forty years of manna. Their response? “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” (verse 33) Does that response sound familiar? When Jesus told the woman at the well about “living water” that would quench her thirst forever, she said, “Sir, give me this water”.
IV. THE REVELATION (verse 35)
Jesus reveals Himself to them in verse 35 when He says, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” Jesus is telling them that only He can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts. Without Him we are spiritually starving. As you well know, you can make bread, smell it and touch it, but unless you eat it, the bread isn’t going to do your physical body any good. This fact is also true spiritually. Unless Jesus Christ is in your life, and has become a vital part of your life, you are dying of starvation spiritually and eternally. It’s time to repent of your sins and invite Him to be your personal Lord and Savior. He is the One who will satisfy your spiritual hunger and thirst now and forever.
If you have already made that commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and are feasting on His Word, be sure to share the wealth with others. We can’t make people eat, but by allowing Christ to rule in our lives, we can provide an environment where others around us become hungry for the spiritual satisfaction we have in Christ. For several years I worked across the street from a large bakery. When they were baking bread, the smell of it would fill the air. At break time, many of us would go outside to enjoy the smell of it. In our minds we were imagining eating it because the smell made us hungry for it. If the employees at the bakery would have invited us to come and have some to eat, we would have eaten as much as they would give us.
Can we honestly say what the psalmist said in Psalm 73:25-26? These are his words: “There is none upon earth that I desire but Thee. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
It is told of Sadhu Sundar Singh that many years ago he was distributing Gospels in the central province of India and he came to some non-Christians on a railway train and offered a man a copy of John’s Gospel. The man took it, tore it in pieces in anger, and threw the pieces out the window. That seemed the end, but it so happened, in the Providence of God. there was a man anxiously seeking for truth walking along the line that very day, and he picked up, as he walked along, a little bit of paper and looked at it, and the words on it in his own language were “the Bread of Life.” He did not know what it meant; but he inquired among his friends and one of them said, “I can tell you; it is out of the Christian book. You must not read it or you will be defiled.” The man thought for a moment and then said, “I want to read the book that contains that beautiful phrase; and he bought a copy of the New Testament. He was shown where the sentence occurred – our Lord’s words, “I am the Bread of Life”; and as he studied the gospel, the light flooded into his heart. He came to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he became a preacher of the gospel in the central province of India. That little bit of paper, through God’s Spirit, was indeed the Bread of Life to him, satisfying his deepest need. (shared by John A. Patten)
The Bread of Life satisfies and nourishes those who are hungry for it.
CONSTRUCTION SITE: COMPLETED
Welcome to this completed sermon on John 6:22-35. If you would like to study along with me but don’t feel like you have the “tools for the trade”, check online. Type “Gospel of John”, or “Bible study resources” and you will find hundreds of sites. I probably use preceptaustin the most because of the number of Greek helps and because I like the way it is organized, but I also use many other sites, too many to list here. You’ve got all the tools you need online! Hope to see you at he next construction site There is much work to be done and you will find it to be an enjoyable experience. It’s like digging for gold and precious stones!