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Part 25

04 Aug 2021

John 6:22-71

It’s the day after the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus and His disciples have crossed over to the other side of the sea from where that great miracle of multiplication was performed.

The word has spread of the wonder working power of Jesus. The crowds gather in hot pursuit of this performer of astonishing deeds. However, far from being received with the same miraculous hospitality shown the five thousand the day before, Jesus greets the crowds with a word of rebuke.

“…you are not seeking me because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of loaves.”

This is still as true today as it was in Jesus’ own ministry on this earth.

The signs Jesus performed were not random, they were not ends in themselves, they were signs, and signs are intended to point us towards something.

The miracles that Jesus performed were intended to be signs that pointed to who Jesus was and is, the Messiah, the Promised One of Israel.

But the people gathered failed to read the signs for what they were. They even failed to see the signs as acts of incredible power. Instead of seeing what should’ve been plain to them, what was right before their very eyes, instead of seeing the signs and following them to their logical meaning, they only recognised that their bellies had been filled.

They took the eternal power of God and reduced it to a temporal means to satisfy their earthly hungers.

Boy if that shouldn’t catch us up short.

Of course it is natural for us to immediately have the egregious errors of Christian history come to mind, the twisting of the Gospel for the earthly benefit and maintenance of power of those in authority such as in the Roman Catholic Church, the warping of the Gospel in order to line the pockets of the televangelists, the bludgeoning of the Good News under all that goes under the label of the ‘Prosperity Gospel’.

Even the pursuit of the signs and wonders as if ends in themselves in the Pentecostal movement under false teachers such as Benny Hinn, Bill Johnson et al.

Oh yes, it is easy to point the finger at all those, and more besides, and rightly so. However, how often do we fall foul of this ourselves? How often do we slip from seeing Jesus for who He is and instead pursue Him for what we can get, to fulfil our earthly desires.

Why are we disciples of Jesus?

What causes us to pursue Him?

Are we pursuing Him for who He is or for what we can gain?

I think it was Luther who taught that the heart of man is constantly creating idols. Whoever said it, they were right.

Our flesh is constantly churning out idols for us to worship, pursue, and of course, make sacrifices to.

We can make gods out of anything, even making gods of our bellies.

The most dangerous and intoxicating of idols are of course the ones that are dressed up in the robes of the Lord Himself, the ones that we convince ourselves are Christ, or indeed, in service to Him.

Ministry can become an idol every bit as much as our bellies can. We can end up sacrificing everything on the alter of Ministry and service to the Church. Our time, our energy, our resources, our families, I’ve seen them all put on the alter and offered up to the idol of Ministry, as if the faith would be lost and God’s purposes thwarted without me.

We are not central to Gods plan, Christ is. God enlists us into Christs Ministry and entrusts to us the Ministry of Reconciliation as though God were making His appeal to the world through us, but make no mistake, the Ministry belongs to Christ. We do not have a ministry, it is Christ’s ministry and, by His grace, we are servants in it.

We’ve got to get a right perspective on reality as it actually is, and as a result, on ourselves as we actually stand, which should in turn realign our priorities.

If we fail to see Christ for who He is we will forever be caught in the trap of sacrificing the eternal on the alter of the temporal, exchanging the power of God to salvation for the satisfying of our own earthly desires.

The irony is that Christ tells us that in doing so, we will only ever end up unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

“Do not labour for food that perishes but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.” - Vs 27

It’s impossible for me to read these words and not have Isaiah 55 ringing in my ears.

“Why do you spend your money on that which is not bread and your labour on that which does not satisfy.” - Isaiah 55:2

I know I’ve raised this passage before on our journey together, but it is worth going back and reading over it again here.

We’ve got to get an eternal perspective on life, otherwise we will end up pursuing anything and everything in order to satisfy our souls only to end up empty as a result.

On the other hand, it is so easy to get caught up in the constant unrelenting nature of life in this world, there are always so many demands and pressures squeezing us and pressurising our time.

Life can be relentless, not just providing a constant distraction from what is truely important, but also demanding our constant attention and time.

How easy it is for the demands and cares of life to cause our eyes to drop from Him and the things of heaven, to our own to-do lists and all they represent.

All of these demands are less than nothing without Christ. It’s only in light of eternity that the cares of this life have any meaning or significance. Apart from Christ and the eternal perspective He brings, all that is of this world is meaningless, and will eventually be lost to us every bit as we shall be lost to it.

Jesus is the bread that has come form heaven, the true mana that God has given, not simply for the filling of our bellies, but so that we may have life eternal.

His flesh is spiritual food for us in the days of our sojourning. In eating of this bread we not only find our hunger to be sated, but we ourselves are caught up in the eternal life of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

In being caught up in Christ we are given a new context where we are forever more located in Him. Our lives are in Christ, the one in whom it has been given to have life in Himself, and as such, our lives are filled with a meaning that they would never have had otherwise.

It is only as our lives gain this new location, this new context that the things of this world, this life can gain their proper perspective, their proper order and priority. Life in this world of the here and now is subsumed by eternity and the life of Christ.

We must eat of this bread if we are to find our proper context and for our lives and the things of this world to find their proper order and priority.

Of course the words found here uttered by Jesus immediately recall to our minds the communion, the taking of His body and His blood.

There’s so much that could, or even should, be said about communion, that sacred feast we that entrust ourselves to Christ partake of together, however, we simply don’t have the space in this instalment. I will simply make this point, along with the many other significant implications of the communion, we can say that at the table of Christ we remind ourselves and commit ourselves to reality as it actually stands, and as a result, our proper context within that reality. As such, it is the place where our priorities are reordered because we are realigned with our heavenly location, which flows out of our eternal identity in Christ.

Unless we gain and continue to gain this heavenly perspective, applying it to all of life, we will always seek to form our identity in wrong contexts, giving our labour to that which is not bread and will not satisfy.

In the face of the temptations of life in this world which would have us bound up by temporal things, we must learn to say with Simon Peter “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”.

The choice before us is simple, it is life or death, it is Christ or nothing.

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