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After he fed the 5000 Jesus withdrew from the crowds. He sent his disciples back across the lake in their boat. It was the middle of the night as they were still fighting rough seas and a head wind when Jesus came to them walking on the water. As soon as Jesus entered the boat they were miraculously transported to the shore. In the morning, the crowds were looking for Jesus. They started looking on the far side of the lake where he had fed them. When they didn’t find him there, they headed back to Capernaum to look for Jesus.
Why were they looking for Jesus? Because they were hungry. They were hoping that Jesus would feed them again. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t mislead them about his purpose. He does all he can to help them see the real source of their hunger. Their real hunger didn’t come from a lack of food. The hunger they were experiencing would not be satisfied no matter how much they ate. The real hunger they were experiencing was spiritual. It was a hunger and thirst for righteousness. It was a realization deep inside that they needed to be right with God, but they knew weren’t. They didn’t’ have the righteousness they needed to be able to stand before God in the judgment.
Jesus was working to help them realize their need for righteousness when he said to them, Amen, amen, I tell you: …do not continue to work for the food that spoils, but for the 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.
He tries to move their focus from the things of this life to eternal life. He reminds them that eternal life is something that can only be received as a GIFT, a gift from HIM. Only he can give the gift of eternal life because only he has God’s seal of approval, only he is righteous.
Did they get it? Sort of. They got that he was talking about spiritual things, about getting right with God. But they show that they still don’t understand how they can become right with God. They thought that they needed to do something to get themselves right with God, so since Jesus brought it up, they ask him what it was they had to do. What should we do to carry out the works of God?
By nature, we and everyone else is right there with them. By nature, everyone thinks that the way to get right with God is to do the works of God, to do the things he commands. People think that there must be some list of minimum requirements somewhere, so they ask Jesus, “just let us in on secret, show us the list, let us know what it is that we have to do to make God happy with us. Let us know what we have to do to have God consider us righteous.”
Of course, they already had the list, just as we do. We call them the Ten Commandments. Jesus made the list even shorter. He said there are really only two commandments, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all our soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. That’s the first and most important commandment. The second is, love your neighbor as yourself.
So, if they already knew the works of God, the things God required if they wanted to be considered righteous by him, why ask? Because they knew that if that’s what God required, they were in trouble. They realized that they had not kept all of God’s commandments. They realized that they did not always love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They realized that they didn’t always love their neighbor as themselves. They were hungering and thirsting for righteousness because they knew they needed it, and they also knew that they didn’t have it.
Like them, like the man who came to Jesus knowing the commandments, knowing that he was to love God above all things and his neighbor as himself, when Jesus says, “Ok, then do it. Do this and you will live,” we are disappointed. We are starving. Righteousness is the only thing that will satisfy our hunger and we don’t have any.
Jesus helps them and us when he points out that for us, sinners, people who cannot be perfect, people who continue to break God’s commands, there is another way to be righteous in God’s sight. It has nothing to do with “doing”. That way doesn’t work because we can’t do what God demands. It has everything to do with “believing.” Jesus says, this is the work of God: that you believe in the one he sent. The righteousness we need, for which we hunger and thirst, is only available as a gift, a gift that is received through Spirit worked faith in Jesus, the one God sent to be righteous in our place.
Jesus is the bread of life. He is the one the Father sent. He is the bread that came down from heaven. Why did he come? I have come down from heaven, not to do my will, but the will of him who sent me.
Jesus came down from heaven to fulfill all righteousness. He came down from heaven to keep every single one of God’s commandments perfectly. He came down from heaven to do all the godly things we don’t do and to avoid all the sinful thing we do. He came to satisfy God’s demand for righteousness. He came to be righteous not for himself, but for us. He came down from heaven to give his life, his perfect life, for the world, as the payment for all unrighteousness.
Those who were looking for Jesus wanted him to do something different, something more. They wanted him to perform a miraculous sign so that they could see it and believe that he was really the bread of life that came down from heaven. But Jesus points out that he had already done that. They just saw him feed 5000 men not counting women and children with 5 loaves and two fish. Many had seen him heal the sick, give sight to the blind and make the lame walk. They had heard about the raising of Jairus’ daughter and of Lazarus. Never in the history of the world had people witnessed so many miracles! Jesus says, you have seen, and you do not believe. But this is the will of my Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day.
It’s not a matter of doing, but a matter of faith. Jesus uses words that remind us of what he said to Nicodemus. He compared himself to the snake in the desert. When people were bitten by the poisonous snakes and realized that they were helpless against the venom, they could look at the snake on the pole and they would be healed because of the promise of God received through faith.
When people realize that they are helpless against sin and Satan, that they don’t have the righteousness they need to stand before God, they can look to Jesus the bread of life, they can look to Jesus lifted up on the cross, and they will receive the righteousness they need as a gift of God through faith. Jesus says, the one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness and comes to me will be filled. The one who comes to me will never be hungry, the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. And I will raise him up on the Last Day.
Jesus wants you to realize the real source of your hunger and thirst. No matter how much food you eat or how much water you drink, that hunger and thirst is still there. It can’t be satisfied by earthly food because it’s a spiritual hunger. It’s the hunger and thirst for righteousness. It’s the realization that God demands that you be perfectly righteous, and you aren’t. But Jesus is the Bread of Life. Only he can satisfy your hunger and thirst for righteousness. He is the only one who has lived a perfectly righteous life in your place. He gave his life for the world. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled when they come to Jesus. He is the Bread of Life. The one who comes to him to satisfy their hunger and thirst for righteousness with never be hungry again. The one who believes that he is the one the Father sent, the one who came down from heaven to save us, will never be thirsty again. They are righteous in Jesus. They have eternal life and Jesus will raise them up on the Last Day.