Nothing in life is free! — John 6:22-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 1, 2015
There is a tale that the great circus promoter P. T. Barnum once quipped, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” There is a lot of doubt as to whether he actually said this or not, but one thing I have heard over and over again is the old truism “nothing in life is free.” This is true of anyone who wants to sell you the latest get rich scheme, diet pill, or quick spiritual fix. Nothing in life is free. However, the Apostle Paul wrote, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24 NIV)” In other words, we receive the gift of salvation freely from God because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Nothing in life is free, except salvation from God through Jesus!
And here in John’s gospel we find that there were those during his day that wanted something for nothing as well. Some things never change.
Here in John’s gospel we discover that…
I. Some folks just want free food! (Vv. 22-25)
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. 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. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
1. Following Jesus and his disciples getting miraculously to the far side of the lake we discover that the very “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.” Some people look far and wide for the wrong things in life in order to find themselves or the answer for their lives. Often, it is right in front of them but they do not recognize it. Kind of like the crowd and Jesus. Later on in John’s gospel we discover that when the “chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. Jesus said, ‘I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.’ (John 7:32-34 NIV)” It is too late to look for Jesus when you’re looking for the wrong things in life or when your life is over! The crowd, afterwards “realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.” They diligently searched for Jesus for entirely the wrong reason, free food! There are still people who follow Jesus for the wrong reason. They follow him in order to make themselves happy; they follow him in order to be more spiritual; or they follow him in order to have a spiritual safety net. We are to follow Jesus because he is the Savior, the Messiah, of the world! Notice what the crowd’s first reaction is after they find “him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?'” They were not interested in Jesus’ welfare, they were not interested in where the disciples were, they were only interested in their bellies. Some folks just want free food!
EXAMPLE: Like I stated before, some folks today seek Jesus only for the freebies they think he offers them in life. Joe Stowell writes in Strength for the Journey, ” Each year over 3.5 million people visit Yellowstone National Park. The park is loaded with signs that read, “Don’t feed the bears,” but visitors are constantly doing just that. As a result, bears become too lazy to look for food. So, sadly, some of them starve to death in the woods—which are full of nourishment—when the tourists aren’t there to give them handouts. Ever wish you could get a few spiritual handouts from God? A lot of us are like those bears when it comes to walking with Jesus. We’d like to have everything handed to us, straight from God—no questions asked. We keep looking for those divine snacks of His direct involvement in our lives. It’s tempting to measure the quality of our relationship with God by the frequency and intensity of those times when we see Him reach into our lives and change things. This leaves us prone to the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” attitude. When God doesn’t live up to our expectations, we get bogged down in discouragement, doubt, and even a dysfunctional view of Him. Admittedly, it’s easy to feel cheated by the absence of those spiritual freebies. If I hear Bob talk about how God provided an anonymous donor for his mortgage payment just in the nick of time, I begin to wonder why God never does anything like that for me. Sound familiar?” Some folks just want free food!
We also learn that…
II. Some folks will work for the wrong food! (Vv. 26-29)
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” 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.”
1. We find that Jesus knows exactly why they followed him around the lake and so, “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.'” What these folks said with their mouths did not match with what they believed about Jesus in their hearts. All they wanted was free food! Jesus confronts their hypocrisy. Often we show up to worship only desiring that Jesus “fill us” in some kind of way that will make us happy for the moment so we can get through the day or the rest of the week. This is a horrendous view of who we believe Jesus is and what he was sent to do. All we want is a quick fix from God and not something that will last for eternity. Jesus warns his listeners, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Now Jesus was not, as some incorrectly conclude, endorsing good works for salvation. Rather, he was trying to focus their attention where it needed to be, on their need to be cleansed of their sin. The loaves and fishes would eventually mold and decay, the real food Jesus offered “endures to eternal life.” which only the “Son of Man” could give them. Only Jesus gives us the food that matters and lasts forever, eternal life. In fact, only “On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel would declare, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4 NIV)” Notice, “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?'” God did not require that they earn their salvation, he requires that they only believe in the one he sent! This is why Jesus bluntly responds, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” Some folks will work for the wrong food!
EXAMPLE: Cults and heretical religions are attractive to some because it soothes their guilty conscience when they can earn part of their spirituality. However, we discover the wonderful truth when Paul wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV)” In other words we are saved for the works we are to do after salvation! We do them because we love God! Our good deed do not save us for if they did, Jesus did not have to die on the cross and rise again to give us eternal life. Yet, sadly, some folks will work for the wrong food!
And finally, we find that…
III. The only bread we need is freely given by God! (Vv. 30-33)
So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, 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 he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
1. These people just seem not to get the picture and we find them asking Jesus, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?” Like people at an accident scene, they simply cannot get over their preoccupation for the unbelievable or inexplicable. They wanted Jesus to sing and dance for them! Jesus would later remind his listeners, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (Matthew 12:39 NIV)” The crowd wanted more than manna from heaven, like the Israelites of Moses got. This is why they said, “Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Perhaps, they thought Jesus’ miracle was less significant because manna fed the whole nation for 40 years. However, they missed two things. First, the Israelites who were fed 40 years did not believe! They blew it and suffered for their unbelief! They failed to understand the significance of their being fed by the hand of God. Second, both Moses and Jesus were absolutely validated by God and therefore both should be listened to and believed. So, Jesus remarks, “I tell you the truth, 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.” In fact, Jesus continued, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jesus is the life-giving bread they needed in order to survive for eternal life! In fact, the only bread we need is freely given by God!
EXAMPLE: “In cultures with an abundance of food choices, like our own, bread is no longer a necessary part of the diet so some choose to live without it for various reasons. In the first century, however, bread was viewed as an essential staple. A diet without bread was a foreign concept. One day a crowd of people sought out Jesus because He had performed the miracle of multiplying loaves of bread. They asked Him to perform a sign like the manna from heaven that God had provided for His people in the desert (Exodus 16:4). When Jesus said He was ‘the true bread from heaven’, the people didn’t understand.” (Our Daily Bread, Marvin Williams, Oct 9, 2013) The only bread we need is freely given by God!
Some folks just want free food! Some folks will work for the wrong food! The only bread we need is freely given by God!
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.