After Jesus fed about five thousand men with only two small fish and five barley loaves, the people sought to take him by force and make him king. When Jesus understood what was taking place he departed and went to be alone. The next day, the people sought Jesus and found him on the other side of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:1-25). When the people asked Jesus when he came to the other side of the sea, Jesus answered, “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. 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 6:26-27).
Why did Jesus see fit to rebuke those who sought him? What lessons can we learn from this? First, the people sought Jesus with the wrong motive. They failed to understand the real significance of Jesus miraculously feeding the five thousand. “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, ye might have life through His name” (John 20:30-31). Jesus’ signs, or miracles, served to affirm his deity. They served to prove to others that he was the Son of God. Unfortunately, those who sought him out were interested in the miracle only to the extent that it satisfied their own selfish desires.
Sadly, many today go to Jesus for the wrong reason. A building is crowded with people on Father’s Day when a denomination gives a fishing boat to the lucky winner. That same building has a much larger attendance on Mother’s Day when flowers are given to the mother who has the most family members in attendance. Seem a bit outlandish? How about the teenager who becomes a Christian simply to get his parents “off his back”? Or the man who attends worship services to keep his wife from badgering him?
Why should someone come to Jesus? Later in John chapter six, Peter gives us the answer. “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). We should come to Jesus because, believing He is the son of God, we might have eternal life.
These people went to Jesus with the wrong motive because they had the wrong priorities. Notice Jesus’ words, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life” (John 6:27).
Certainly Jesus was not teaching that we do not need to work for our physical food. The apostle Paul wrote, “Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28).
Jesus is obviously pointing out that our focus ought to be on the spiritual, rather than the physical. It is a tragedy that most people go through this life with their focus on the here and now. What can they accomplish in this life? What can they accumulate while here on earth? They give great attention to their careers, their finances and even their recreation, but ignore their greatest asset of all – their soul. Their thoughts are directed toward the temporary things of this life, while the eternal things of the life to come are tragically neglected.
It is also noteworthy that Jesus said we are to labour for that which endures to eternal life. That’s right, labour! It is true we can never earn, or deserve, our salvation. Friends, we are saved by God’s amazing grace! But it is also true that God’s grace does not eliminate any effort on our part. “We are confident, I say, and willing rather, to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore, we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him” (II Corinthians 5:9). “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
How hard are you working for the bread that endures unto eternal life? How much effort are you putting forth? Could you compare your spiritual health to a “part time job”? Or have you fully given yourself to Christ? There will be no lazy people in heaven The slothful, or lazy, servant was cast into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:14-30).
How much time do you spend in Bible study? In prayer? In telling others about the salvation you have in Jesus? Is heaven a place you merely hope you go to when you die (because it is better than the alternative)? Or are you wholeheartedly striving for it now?
I invite you to come to Jesus, not for selfish gain, but that you might have life through his name. Believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15-16). Repent of your sins (Acts 2:38). Confess your faith in Jesus Christ to others (Romans 10:10). And be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38).
Remember, any day is a great day to be a child of God!