The sixth chapter of John relates one of the most somber and thought-provoking incidents in the public ministry of our Lord. It is somber because we find no cheer in it; only what seems like defeat. It is thought-provoking because it remains relevant still after two millennia.
A large crowd was following Jesus because they saw the signs that He was doing. Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He began to teach them many things and healed their sick.
When evening drew near and the people were hungry, Jesus miraculously fed them with only five barley loaves and two fish.
The next day, the relentless multitude pursued Jesus across the sea. The Lord knew their hearts; He knew that many of them came with ulterior motives, not because they thirst for the truth.
“Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled (John 6:26).”
They were looking for a free lunch! They had been fed the previous day and were looking for more. Were they embarrassed to be called out for their true motive?
The Lord went on to say to them: “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed (John 6:27).”
When the Lord told them that they must believe in Him, their true colours showed.
“They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat (John 6:30-31).”
They were looking for a sign! Had they not already seen plenty of signs the day before? They were among the thousands Jesus fed. Some of them perhaps had their sicknesses healed. Yet they were not content.
In making reference to the manna their forefathers received in the wilderness, they betrayed their motive for another free meal. The irony escaped them—their forefathers, who ate the manna, disbelieved and perished in the wilderness.
Clearly these were not truth-seekers; they were thrill-hunters. Even so, the Lord patiently instructed them. He directed their attention to the true bread from heaven.
“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world…I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:32-33, 35).”
The Jews grumbled about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” The Lord dropped the hammer on them with these words:
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you (John 6:51, 53).”
The apostle John, by inspiration, made one of the saddest statements in Scriptures: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him (John 6:66).”
Turning to the twelve, the Lord asked them pointedly: “Will ye also go away (John 6:67)?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
What are our motives when we come before the Lord, whether in prayer or in the assembly? Do we come with ulterior motives, hoping to gratify certain misplaced desires?
Wrong motives can come in many shapes and forms. We must examine ourselves to ensure that our hearts are right before the Lord. The Jews in this account did not want Jesus; they only wanted Him to gratify their desires.
Their carnal minds were exposed when all they could think of was actual food and drink. They missed the truth which the Lord was telling them. How tragic if our minds are likewise befuddled by the cares of this world.
They went back, and walked no more with Him. They could not stomach His hard teachings, though they could stomach the bread and fish He gave them.
The Lord’s question to the twelve is, in a sense, directed to all of us. Will we also go away when we find it hard to accept some of His teachings? Will we also go away if loving one another as He has loved us proves to be too tough?
Will we also go away if doing good to those who hate us, or laying down our pride in repentance, or severing relationships that hurt us spiritually seem to be asking too much of us?
Each of us must answer the Lord this piercing question: will ye also go away?