“And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?
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. 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. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 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. 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. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.”
We are continuing our study of the Fourth Gospel. Remember that last week I spoke of signs and sacraments and remember that all sacraments are signs but not all signs are sacraments. There are seven sacraments that Jesus left his Church and each sacrament shows up in the Fourth Gospel. But there are also seven other signs in the Gospel that are not sacraments, but the Beloved Disciple very deliberately used these seven to structure his work. But they are also signs that reveal Jesus’ full identity and show as well that God’s judgement has come upon the world in the flesh of Jesus the Messiah. Now I will list the signs thus far and give a gloss to each one’s meaning.
The first sign was Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast. That sign shows that Jesus is the Mystical Bridegroom who has come to take his Mystical Bride back to his Kingdom. (Keep the notion of a Kingdom in mind.) That sign also showed that the Law of Moses once in the hands of the Mystical Bridegroom is not destroyed, but it is transubstantiated into something so beautiful and holy that it is in itself irresistible. Like water transformed into wine.
The second sign was the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem. That sign showed that the Temple and all the sacrifices that were made in the Temple were not destroyed but they too were transubstantiated in the flesh of Jesus the Messiah. The only Temple that matters from now on is the Temple of Jesus’ body and the only sacrifice that matters from now on is the sacrifice of Jesus’ flesh. But unlike anything they had ever seen before the sacrifice of his flesh will not put an end to Jesus.
The third sign was the healing of the nobleman’s son at a distance. There was never a time in Israel when a person was healed or experienced a miracle in this manner. The closest to such a thing would have been Elisha’s instructions to Naaman to baptize himself in the Jordan so that God would heal his leprosy and he did as he was told and God did heal him. But Jesus action was instantaneous and at a great distance all of which was carefully verified by the nobleman and reported back to Jesus’ Apostles, which the Beloved Disciple carefully reported in his Gospel; which miracle/sign signifies that Jesus’ power to heal and create is omnipresent and thus divine. Jesus is Lord over time and space.
The fourth sign was the healing of the man by the Pool of Bethesda right next to the Temple, a man who was known to have been cripple for thirty-eight years. And if you recall this healing occurred on the Sabbath and after Jesus had healed him he ordered him to stand up, pick up his bed, and leave the Temple. What is signified in the fourth sign is that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is greater than the Sabbath, Jesus is greater than the Temple, he is greater any power of evil or disease; furthermore he has the power to raised the dead and to judge the world with power and authority his Father has given to him.
“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” John 5:22-24
Therefore the Temple officials prepare to stone him because he said he deserved to be honored with the same honor that belongs to God the Father thus claiming himself to be God. The Temple officials were correct in their judgement that Jesus was asserting for himself the divine nature. Only they did not believe Jesus’ declaration and they would not come to him in order to be saved and all the more they sought to kill him.
The fifth sign was the feeding of the multitude in the countryside of Galilee and that sign signifies that Jesus is greater than Moses and he is the obvious Lord over nature. (His lordship over nature is also signified by his walking on water.) And the deeper meaning of this miracle is elaborated in the teaching that follows in John chapter six. After Jesus miraculously fed the multitude he realized they would attempt to force him to become their King, the King of Israel, and he left them went to a mountain alone. As I said last week, he must have left instructions for his disciples because that evening they gathered and walked over to the Sea of Galilee, boarded a ship, and sailed off to Capernaum without Jesus. Those who where fed by Jesus enthusiastically followed the next day once a sufficient number of boats had come from Tiberias to take them to Capernaum. They all knew that Jesus had not sailed with his disciples but they did not they know, as we do, that he had strode across the tempestuous sea and entered the boat his disciples were attempting to keep afloat. When those fed by Jesus arrived in Capernaum they found that Jesus was already there and they suspected, rightly we know, another miracle:
“And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?”
But Jesus completely ignored their curiosity and immediately he launched into a sermon concerning their motives:
“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. 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.”
Jesus’ point is plainly stated in the context of each sign he performed over and over again which he declared the Temple authorities:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
Jesus himself is the salvation, the Life, the Light of God and he outshines and outlast any other claim whatsoever to salvation and happiness. But what is necessary is believing Jesus, believing that he, by right, deserves the same honor and worship that, by right, belongs to God the Father. And of course that means that you come to Jesus and offer him all your loyalty, all your love, and all your life. That is only reasonable, I would say, if you actually believe that Jesus’ personal honor and glory is equal to his Father’s honor and glory. Jesus keeps saying this over and over again through out the Fourth Gospel and it is like the people who hear what he says go along with it up to a point. Some, like the temple authorities, hear his plain statements and grasp what he is saying, but they do not believe him. They spring upon him immediately and try to kill him. Others wait it out, like this crowd that follow him to Capernaum. And remember that this crowd is made up of many people the Beloved Disciple says are Jesus’ disciples. They are the one’s he fed on the loaves and fishes and the one’s who apparently hired boats to catch up with him and his inner circle in Capernaum. And these are the ones Jesus lets into with a sermon that is point-blank aimed at their motives for coming to him. They were not even motivated by the miracles which extraordinary act would have inspired anyone to know more about the miracle worker. But they, Jesus says, were not curious about his identity, they wanted food. I take Jesus at his word and since he is God Almighty and therefore he can in fact know what is in our hearts, I take his interpretation of the crowd’s motive as the explanation of why they had followed him to Capernaum. Jesus could materialize out of a few loaves and fishes sufficient food to feed five thousand people which is to say he fed a virtual army and if he could materialize food he could materialize anything an army might need. Some would even say — Judas I would suggest — that Jesus had failed to capitalize upon the opportunity presented to him when the five thousand wanted to make him King of Israel. Beware of Kingdoms regardless of their manifestation whether of a monarchy, a dictatorship, some form of democracy, or even the Kingdom that claims to be “we the people.” Every Kingdom of this world is in competition with the Kingdom of Christ our God for your loyalty.
One may experience one of his genuine miracles and be drawn in wonder and love to Jesus and wish with all your heart to know Jesus. Such is the response of those who come to Jesus and believes that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the flesh. Those who are drawn to Jesus in wonder and love whether by his miracles, his words, or his love are those make up his Kingdom — a Kingdom not of this world. You already know that he said that if his Kingdom was of this world then would his subjects fight to keep him safe from the Romans. But these are not men and women seeking the heart of Jesus, seeking the Shepherd of Love — these are men and women seeking an earthly Kingdom, the kind of Kingdom that Pilate could grasp and understand. They pled of our Lord that he would reveal to them what the work of God is that they might do and without skipping a beat he tells them what he has told everyone else over and over again: