90 Days With Jesus, Day 24: John 6:22-29: Vending Machine Jesus
22The 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. 23Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. 25When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26Jesus 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. 27Do 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.” 28Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Later some folks from Greece will come to Philip and say, “We want to see Jesus.” And Jesus, rather than rush right over to them, launches into a short sermon about his impending crucifixion. Eugene Peterson wryly notes that Jesus is not a tourist attraction.
Well here in these verses some other folks are looking for Jesus. John recounts for us the great hysterics that arose the next morning when all those well-fed folks woke up and couldn’t find Jesus. They go on a great search for him, but do not find him. They look at the docks. They look on the beach. These people keep coming to realizations that Jesus has fled the scene. I suspect they still have designs on making him a king too, but he is not there. When they realize Jesus is not on land they get into boats and head out to find him—maybe on the water, maybe in Capernaum. They go looking.
I think at this point we can say that there should be a certain amount of admiration for these folks. They are really looking hard for Jesus. They really want to find him and Jesus is playing a game of hide and seek with them. Rich Mullins sang a wonderful song about this very thing, this God who ‘plays hard to get.’ I read the other day that people in this world are very spiritual and are on a great spiritual search. In fact, let me quote a little of what I read from a radio broadcast transcript of Luis Palau:
Hello, this is Luis Palau. Americans today are more interested in matters of faith than at any other time in the past four decades. While interest in spirituality is rising, however, it’s often experimental. Americans are dabbling in all things religious, often more concerned about how they feel than what is true an attitude …
What about you? If you knew you had only one week to live, what would be your claim to faith? The bottom line is you can be any religion you want to be, as long as what you believe about God corresponds to reality. After all, God isn’t Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish, or Methodist. The question ultimately isn’t who owns God, but who God is. This is Luis Palau. (Source, http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/09-11-97.html, September 11, 1997 original broadcast date; italics added.)
Many people are, in fact, searching nowadays. We see it too in churches around the country as people flock to them in droves each week. No doubt people are searching. I don’t happen to think, however, that they are searching for anything that is remotely close to the Biblically revealed Jesus. This is essentially what Palau is saying when he says, ‘you can be any religion you want to be.’ Uh, sure. A spiritual experience they may be seeking; Jesus they are not. This is the same problem we see in the verses we are looking at today.
Eventually these people who are looking for Jesus find him. And, they go to him and sheepishly rebuke him with a question, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Or, maybe they are feigning surprise like: “Wow! Imagine you being here too!” sort of thing. Perhaps they thought Jesus didn’t really know what their motives were. But the first words out of Jesus are not ‘Hey, I’m glad you’re here!’ or “Hey, good to see you!’ or ‘Hey, where you been?’ but instead, he cuts them deep by identifying their motives, “I tell you the truth you are not looking for me because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” In other words: You’d be better off not to even be here because your motives are impure.
In other words, if Jesus is not a tourist attraction then neither is He a vending machine! Too many folks just don’t get that at all.
Jesus essentially told these people what they wouldn’t tell themselves: They were not interested in the one who made the bread, just the bread. Jesus tells them flat out: “You people who come here looking for bread are wasting your time because you are looking for the wrong thing, the wrong stuff, the wrong bread. You’ve got it all backward.” I don’t believe that Jesus can be much clearer in his line of reasoning. The people were coming to him not because of who he was, but because of what they thought he would do for them: Give them bread.
To many people today Jesus is a Vending Machine Messiah and ATM Messiah or National Health Care Messiah. To many people life with Jesus is all about what He can give them. To many people on a great spiritual search Jesus is merely the answer to all their problems. As such, there is very little stability in disciples any more. If they don’t like the Jesus they encounter at one church then they up and go to another church. Eventually they will find a Jesus that suits them: I just wasn’t getting thing out of my last church. (Sometimes I want to respond with something smart like: Well, why don’t you go back and put something into that church. It seriously grieves me to here people say that as if Jesus is merely a social security net or something along those lines. I wonder how many preachers have the nerve to stand up on Sunday’s and say, “Many of you have come here today looking for Jesus not because he died for your sins but because you want your bellies filled.” How many preachers have the nerve to preach what is true, in other words, about human nature?
Someone has to have the nerve or else people will continue to go around searching for a Jesus who is not their eternal Savior but merely someone who gives us this day our daily bread. Now this is not to say we shouldn’t recognize where our bread comes from, but Jesus says our lives have to be about more. Man, he said elsewhere, does not live on bread alone; therefore, it is pointless to go around from day to day only looking for that scrap that will keep us going from day to day. We need something more Jesus said and our lives ought to have a little more ambition that mere bread. So, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” In other words: Set your sights a lot higher.
This seems rather plain to me and the comparisons between Jesus’ day and ours are unmistakable. Given a choice in the matter, I sadly think most people would take bread for today and miss eternity than to miss bread for today and gain eternity. And I hate to keep putting the blame on pulpit ministers (i.e., preachers) but I think in their haste to acquire a flock they (we) have largely compromised this message of the Gospel. We have substituted a Vending Machine Jesus for The Bread of Life; junk food for The Bread of Life; artificial flavors for the Real Deal. Oh, and one more thing: Jesus said, ‘On Him (i.e., himself) God has placed his seal of approval.’ You know what this means right? It means that God has approved only Jesus to speak thus, and that only Jesus can give this eternal life. It comes from no other source: Not Nickels, not Schwebels, not Wonder. None. Only Jesus.
And the great work we are to do? Believe in the One God sent. It could well be that there is someone reading this right now who has never given it a thought. Perhaps you are running from place to place trying desperately to find a Jesus who will do what you want him to do and fix all your problems. I think what Jesus is telling you is that you are missing the bigger picture. It is not that you come to Jesus to get your problems fixed as much as it is that you come to Jesus regardless of the status of your problems. Jesus says there is a greater search in this life than just the daily grind or hunt for food for the belly. There is a greater search for Jesus himself who is, as we will see, the Very Bread of Life. We are, or should be, searching for Jesus. That is the Work God has called us to: Search for Jesus.
Michael Horton wrote:
“To preach the Bible as ‘the handbook for life,’ or as the answer to every question, rather than as the revelation of Christ, is to turn the Bible into an entirely different book. This is how the Pharisees approached Scripture, however, as we can see clearly from the questions they asked Jesus, all of them amounting to something akin to Trivial Pursuits: ‘What happens if a person divorces and remarries?’ ‘Why do your disciples pick grain on the Sabbath?’ ‘Who sinned–this man or his parents–that he was born blind?’ For the Pharisees, the Scriptures were a source of trivia for life’s dilemmas. To be sure, Scripture provides God-centered and divinely-revealed wisdom for life, but if this were its primary objective, Christianity would be a religion of self-improvement by following examples and exhortations, not a religion of the Cross. This is Paul’s point with the Corinthians, whose obsession with wisdom and miracles had obscured the true wisdom and the greatest miracle of all. And what is that? Paul replies, ‘He has been made for us our righteousness, holiness and redemption’ (1 Cor 1:28-31).” (Source: http://www.modernreformation.org/ “What Are We Looking For in the Bible”, Modern Reformation Online, italics mine.)
I hope this 24th Day of 90 is truly blessed for you and yours.
Soli Deo Gloria!
[I have a lot more to say about this subject of the content of our preaching, but I’ll not tarry on it here. Suffice it to say that Christ must be the focus of our preaching, which is the point of the above quotation. I’m not suggesting that I am perfect, but I do have to wonder what would happen to the church in America if Christ were truly proclaimed in His glory, His Cross? What would happen if the Biblical Jesus were actually proclaimed from America’s pulpits? More preachers ought to try. The one’s I’m referring to know who they are. For now, the role of the preacher is to point to people the real reason they ought to be seeking Jesus and disabuse them of the idea that their motives are entirely pure. They need to be told that He is no Vending Machine or Tourist Attraction, but the Savior, the King, The Bread of Life. He’s not just or merely a provider of bread, He is the Bread we should be searching for. That’s what we ought to be proclaiming.]