What is the main objective or priority in our life? Where are we expending our energy and giving our time toward? That which we consider most important to us is what we will desire and pursue after. Often what we are chasing does not allow us to experience the most out of life.
What we are about to discover is that which enriches and empowers our lives is what determines what we will get out of life. So, how do we experience the most out of life?
Jesus, in feeding the five thousand, creates a sign to reveal to the multitude who He really is, and the significance of what will happen if they ultimately receive what he is offering them. The problem is that they have totally misunderstood the nature and the purpose of this miracle for their lives. Jesus is about to make them an offer that will help them experience the most out of life, and it is the same offer that He makes to us today.
Realizing that neither the disciples nor Jesus were among them, the crowd having secured some boats from Tiberias head off across the lake, to Capernaum, in search of Jesus.
There are three important ingredients that we need to understand in order to experience the most out of life which our text will present to us.
THE FIRST INGREDIENT IN EXPERIENCING THE MOST OUT OF LIFE IS HAVING THE RIGHT GOAL
When we put the eternal aspects before the earthly, temporal ones we will begin to experience not only the most this earthly life has to offer, but also the future life to come. Jesus who knows the hearts of people is about to reveal their true condition and how it was diminishing their lives.
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone.
Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.[i]
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.
A. Why are we seeking Jesus?
The underlying question is, why did they want to find Jesus? What was their real motivation? Jesus is now going to expose their real intentions. So, what were they really after? It is a question that each of us must ask ourselves, “Why am I following Jesus?” It usually begins with a need in our life. But once that need is met, will we keep following and allow Jesus to give us the life that becomes the most meaningful and productive life?
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’[ii]
It is interesting that Jesus doesn’t answer that question, because if they really knew they would be impressed, but not transformed or redirected into a right priority. Jesus now points out what is driving their search for Him.
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.[iii]
Jesus is basically saying that all they were interested in was having their physical needs met.
B. What is the main priority in our life?
Jesus challenges the crowd with their misplaced priority, and in that statement challenges us to examine ourselves to see what we are actually pursing in our lives.
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.’[iv]
C. Shifting our focus from ourselves to embracing who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
This is a critical step in moving toward getting the most out of life. We move from a self-focus to a God-centered life. It is not about what is required of us, but how we are to respond to Jesus. Do we really know who He is and what he has done on our behalf? Once we come to really trust what Jesus has done on our behalf, rather than trying to please Him, we now understand that we serve Him out of love and respect. We stop trying and start trusting. We are not trying to earn approval, we discover that we are approved and accepted. Let me state it this way – we work from rest, rather than work to rest. We are not seeking God’s approval because in Christ we are approved, rather we serve with joy and delight.
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.’[v]
If they were not to work for the “food that spoils,” what kind of work did God require? Here Jesus explains that the foundation of any work that will please God must be upon faith in Christ. What is tragic both then and now is how some reject God’s condition.
D. Do we really trust Jesus?
So often we focus on the human agency and totally miss the Divine element in our lives. When they started talking about the manna, some of the Jewish people attributed the manna as coming from Moses, whereas Jesus corrected them and pointed out that this food came from the Father. We also discover that they were strictly thinking on a materialistic plane as they wanted Jesus to continue to give them earthly provisions. It is impossible to serve God without allowing His grace to bring a transformation in our heart’s desires and goals.
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.
But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.[vi]
Jesus shifts their focus to the real issue that satisfies or helps us get the most out of life. There is nourishment for the soul that is eternal in nature which is being in union or participation with Jesus.
The true bread which Jesus has come down from heaven to give is His flesh offered in sacrifice; and unless men eat this bread, i.e. unless they accept that sacrifice in faith, they have no life in themselves.[vii]
The sign that Jesus had given them by ‘feeding the 5,000’ is “an acted parable of the spiritual sustenance which is always available to the believer as the result of Jesus’ sacrifice.”[viii]
To get the most out of life we must desire what God intends for our lives, and this begins with trusting Jesus.
THE SECOND INGREDIENT IN EXPERIENCING THE MOST OUT OF LIFE IS TRUSTING THE RIGHT PERSON
Are we being nourished in our soul? Are we experiencing the life of Christ within our hearts daily? So, how does it come about that we receive Christ and the empowering life of His Spirit living within us?
A. The Divine and Human element in experiencing the life of Christ within us.
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.[ix]
D. A. Carson explains the issue of acceptance and rejection of Jesus and his work of grace on our behalf.
But if some can see Jesus and his miraculous signs, and yet still not come to faith, does that not suggest his mission is in some measure a failure? …Jesus’ confidence does not rest in the potential for positive response amongst well-meaning people. Far from it: his confidence is in his Father to bring to pass the Father’s redemptive purposes: All the Father gives me will come to me.[x]
Here in this portion, we come across the concept that the Father is the One who is responsible for drawing people to Jesus, while Jesus is responsible for accepting and keeping them safe.D. A. Carson makes a very interesting explanation of a very difficult concept regarding God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in our salvation.
John is not embarrassed by this theme, because unlike many contemporary philosophers and theologians, he does not think that human responsibility is thereby mitigated [reduced or diminished]. Thus, he can speak with equal ease of those who look to the Son and believe in him: this they must do, if they are to enjoy eternal life. But this responsibility to exercise faith does not, for the Evangelist, make God contingent [dependent].[xi]
What Carson is explaining is the tension between God’s sovereignty and humans having the gift of free will. He is basically saying that John would be happy with the modern philosophy of ‘compatibilism.’
Compatibilism is an attempt to reconcile the theological proposition that every event is causally determined, ordained, and/or decreed by God (i.e., determinism, not to be confused with fatalism)—with the free will of man. …The compatibilist concept of free will states that though the free will of man seems irreconcilable with the proposition of determinism, they both do exist and are ‘compatible’ with one another.[xii]
Some wonder how God’s will can be attained without violating our choice or moral responsibility. God can work in such a way in the human heart to move us to do what He ultimately wants done. We see that stated in the book or Proverbs, the mystery, how God fulfills His will without violating the human will.
In the LORD’S hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.[xiii]
B. Warning against rejecting Jesus.
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.
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.[xiv]
What we think we know often leads to a closed mind and criticism even of the truth. Jesus speaks of coming down from heaven, while these Galileans are incensed because they know somewhat about Jesus’ earthly origins.
The Jews think they know all there is to know about Jesus’ paternity, but they speak in ignorance not only of his virginal conception but of his true identity. Repeatedly Jesus insists that his opponents do not know his (heavenly) Father at all.[xv]
Humility is walking with an openness to what God reveals to us from His word through the agency of the Holy Spirit. We must walk with dependency each and every day.
THE FINAL INGREDIENT IN EXPERIENCING THE MOST OUT OF LIFE IS ACTING ON THE RIGHT CHALLENGE
Are we pursuing after Jesus or only what we desire to receive from Him? We may have thought that experiencing the most out of life was doing whatever might please ourselves, but that does not bring life, but disastrous results. One of the ironies of life is that we generally only get out of something what we put into it. Jesus is now about to challenge them to follow Him even though they may not fully understand everything.
A. What ultimately sustains us in life.
Jesus points out to them that the wilderness manna only sustained physical 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…’[xvi]
B. A misconception of what Jesus is saying.
While the hearers understand Jesus to be speaking literally, the reality is that Jesus is using a metaphor.
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.[xvii]
A couple of important ideas flow from this presentation.
1. First that the manna in the wilderness could only sustain physical life, what Jesus as the bread of life was offering would sustain ‘spiritual or eternal life.’
2. The second idea is Jesus talking about “eating his body and drinking his blood,” that if it was taken literally would be abhorrent to most people. Jesus is not talking about literal cannibalism, rather the image is one in which his life is a sacrifice on behalf of those who receive him. This will allow us to have our sins taken away from us, just as the Passover lamb addressed the sin issue as a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus came to make. There is no longer a need to offer animal sacrifices year after year, but as the writer to the Hebrews tells us, this has now been done once and for all at the end of the age (cf. Hebrews 9:25-26).
C. Two different responses to the words of Jesus.
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.[xviii]
Here in verse 63, Jesus explains that the words that He is speaking were spiritual words, and they bring life. However, they had been thinking strictly on a natural or physical level and were deeply offended. We must guard against offence in our lives.
For Jews the drinking of blood, even the eating of flesh from which the blood had not been completely drained, was taboo. But drinking the blood of a human being was an idea which ought not even to be mentioned. This was a hard saying in more senses than one.[xix]
So what is the spiritual meaning that Jesus was saying?
The hard saying cannot be taken literally, since it would seem to be enjoining a crime or a vice: it is therefore a figure, bidding us communicate in the suffering of our Lord and secretly and profitably treasure in our hearts the fact that his flesh was crucified and pierced for us. …He sums up the matter in an epigram: ‘Believe, and thou hast eaten’.[xx]
D. The first group stop following Jesus because they were offended.
How many disciples today stop following Jesus because they allow offence to trip them up?
‘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.[xxi]
E. The Response of the Twelve.
‘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.)[xxii]
While Peter makes a proper confession of faith in contrast to those who had walked away, there needed a correction of thought.
Nevertheless, Peter’s way of expressing himself appears somewhat pretentious, as if he and his fellows are a cut above the fickle ‘disciples’ who have turned away, superior at least in insight. …But Jesus will not allow even a whisper of human pretensions. Ultimately, the Twelve did not choose Jesus; he chose them.[xxiii]
And even at that one of them was a devil, a person who, under the devil’s control, would betray Jesus.
So, how can we make the most out of life? By pursuing the right goals, person, and facing the challenges in a right manner. The issue for each of us is what we are following after. Will we follow Jesus to the very end? The only way to do that is to follow him daily through the various challenges that come our way.
[i] John 6:22-24, The New International Version of the Bible, Zondervan, 2011.
[ii] John 6:25.
[iii] John 6:26.
[iv] John 6:27.
[v] John 6:28-29.
[vi] John 6:30-36.
[vii] R. V. G. Tasker, John, TNTC, (Grand Rapids, Mi: William Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960), 96.
[ix] John 6:37-40.
[x] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, Mi: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 290.
[xi] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 291.
[xii] What is compatibilism? | GotQuestions.org.
[xiii] Proverbs 21:1.
[xiv] John 6:41-48.
[xv] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 292.
[xvi] John 6:49-51.
[xvii] John 6:52-59.
[xviii] John 6:60-63.
[xix] F. F. Bruce, Hard Sayings of the Bible, One Volume Edition, (Madison, WI: InterVarsity Press,1996), 500.
[xx] Augustine as quoted by F. F. Bruce, Hard Sayings of the Bible, 500.
[xxi] John 6:64-66.
[xxii] John 6:67-71.
[xxiii] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 304.