In Chapter six of John we get the fourth and fifth signs of Jesus. However, they are presented briefly and without much fanfare. (Especially the walking on water, it is almost glossed over. When Jesus is asked about it, He ignores the question.) What gets more attention here is the teaching Jesus is inspired to deliver in light of the response to His signs. We get the first of the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus. And, for the message of the Gospel, they are a bit more useful.
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
In this passage we again get Jesus rejecting the reasons the crowds are following Him. They are interested in a god who will meet their needs, accommodate their religious theories, and give them autonomy. They are only interested in the signs as a proof of ability to meet those demands. And, incredibly, they demand more signs when asked to trust Him—this just hours after the feeding of the multitudes!
In many ways, the Jews of Jesus’ day resemble American and Western Christianity. Many follow Jesus as a regional god who will give them the health, wealth and success in their agendas. Jesus is a tool. A totem.
Jesus tells the crowd that what He demands is their trust. To truly do God’s work is to surrender to Christ. To follow God’s plan for life and to lay down our own petty desires and plans.
Those who come to Jesus (note He doesn’t say eat) and believe in Him (not drink) will have true fulfillment. He does take the metaphor to a greater extreme as the crowd continues to try to translate His words down to some acceptable, understandable action. They want a religious ritual, a political power, a thinkable task.
What Jesus is demanding is a radical faith. We do not find in Jesus some trite religious hoop to jump through. We do not find “something that works” for those who give intellectual assent. We do not find a solution to life’s puzzle or a better way of living. Jesus is it. The choice is to follow Him 100% sold out, or not at all. Any half-measure Christianity is a false hope.