What does the crowd want to know? And you see, Jesus is not answering. Why should you be interested? What led Jesus to say the powerful “I am” statement: I am the bread of life. We are talking about John 6:24-35.
Is the crowd searching for another sign?
The crowd wants to see another sign. People are looking for Jesus, still struggling to make sense of the miracle of feeding the 5000. The crowd is feeling is Jesus a prophet like Moses. And the crowd wanted to make Jesus a king. But Jesus is inviting the crowd to move beyond the needs of their bellies – the need for physical food. Jesus’s response is focused on who he is – the son of God – the word made flesh. Well, the crowd will not get another sign but an invitation to believe in Jesus.
The three-fold conversation topics in John 6:24-35
The conversation in John 6:24-35 is about food, manna, and bread. It’s like a conversation of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. The conversation includes the reference to the ancestors – Moses and Jacob. There is a request to receive the gift – a sign or miracle. And there is a reference to the permanent supply of bread or water – never to be thirsty and hungry again. There is tension between who Jesus is and is not.
Each one must answer that question. The crowd is calling him a rabbi – a law teacher – but does not incorporate the miracle of feeding the 5000 to call him a prophet. The crowd failed to update their knowledge of Jesus after witnessing a miracle.
What does the crowd want to know versus what answers Jesus provides?
There is a pattern in the conversation. The crowd wants something, and Jesus answers with a different kind of information.
In verses 25-27, the crowd wants to know when Jesus came to the other side of the lake. The crowd had noticed that Jesus was not in the boat that ferried the disciples across the lake. So how did Jesus get on the other side? The disciples had seen Jesus walking on water, not the crowd. But Jesus says you are searching for me because of being fed with food. Jesus urges to work for food that endures for life. The crowd is searching for stomach-based food, not to satisfy spirit-based hunger. Jesus challenges the crowd to see beyond the physical realm.
Again, in verses John 6: 28-29, the crowd wants to know what they can do to do God’s work. Jesus calls to believe, not much work. You need to understand what work means. The Israelites receive the Law on Mount Sinai – to obey the law was to do the work of God. Since the laws were many and complex, the crowd asked Jesus to identify the most important laws to focus on and practice them. Don’t confuse Mark 12:29-31, where Jesus summarises the two important laws – loving God and loving others as yourself. But here in John, Jesus says: the work of God is to believe in him, the one who God has sent. Jesus is offering an alternative to the maze of laws the crowds were obligated to follow.
In verses John 6:30-33, the crowd is asking for a sign to believe in him. Jesus talks about his Father and the bread that gives life. The crowd is getting ready to give up their centuries-old laws and place their allegiance on Jesus. They want Jesus to authenticate his claims. The crowd once again fails to make the connection that Jesus is God’s chosen one – through the miracle of feeding the 5000.
And in verses John 6:34-35, the crowd demands bread, Jesus claims to be the bread of life. The crowd was expecting a Moses, like a sign of providing manna in the desert, to authenticate that he is the true prophet. It’s like spiritual myopia. Beautiful things happen around us, and we fail to notice them. The miracles of feeding the 5000 do not lead the crowd in the direction Jesus intends.
Jesus clarifies their understanding.
He says it is not Moses who gave you manna in the desert; it was God. The focus is not on Moses gave; my Father gives – a present tense. Moreover, manna gave physical strength for a short period, the bread Jesus offers gives eternal life. Then the crowd says, like the women at the well, give us that bread.
What can we say at this point?
Jesus is repairing the faulty understanding of the crowd as a result of the miracle of feeding the 5000. Beard is a metaphor. Like bread that fills our stomachs and physical hunger – Jesus is capable of genuinely sustaining life.
About the Author
Feroz Fernandes, a Catholic Missionary, identifies himself as an Uncommon Priest. Father Feroz loves adventure in the apostolate. Check out his debut book The Uncommon Priest: Incredible Stories You Never Read on amazon. And also, the YouTube Channel: Feroz Fernandes promotes a better understanding of scripture.