When they found [Jesus]on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:25-35 ESV)
The importance of food cannot be over estimated. It is vital for living. I have had hunger pains from time to time, tummy growling and the like. I have on occasions fasted for while and you learn to live with it. But I remember, as young person, my father who didn’t say much about his life as a teenager and young adult in war torn Europe –and I knew he had suffered hardship and deprivation –saying that ‘hunger was a terrible pain’. It was the antithesis of life –especially a good life.
Food is also vital for fellowship, social interaction, and community. Whom you eat with is important and can reveal friends and allies or relationships begun or restored. In this case food isn’t just a means to a physical end, it is a means to fellowship.
And then food is us –in the sense of ‘we are what we eat’. And with this in mind, who controls the food has a power over us. Regimes might cause starvation as a means of control or simply to oppress. Individuals might use their intake of food as a form of power or identity and this is significant precisely because food and life and intrinsically linked.
So we can simply understand the crowds reaction to Jesus who fed them with loaves of bread and fish in a way that revealed abundance. These weren’t scraps. This was generosity. They wanted more. Especially in the wilderness and with the stories of their ancestors receiving manna and quail, God’s providence, ringing in their ears, they were excited –this sort of thing hadn’t happened for centuries and what did they want? They wanted more food.
Jesus points this out to them –that’s why they followed him and found him in Capernaum –because they wanted their stomachs filled regularly –and Jesus said that he had come not so much to feed their stomachs –their physical life –but to feed them with ‘eternity’ life–by giving them faith and nurturing it. And the crowds go, ‘Oh’…‘Riiight’…They hear and they don’t hear because they now want a sign that Jesus can give them food for this eternal life …and that sign is …? They want another meal! They want physical food to eat –more manna please!
Jesus then tells them this manna which they described as ‘bread from heaven’ meaning bread from God was one thing but he would give them the ‘true bread from heaven ’and this would give life to the world. Can you see how the crowds would hear this? Super manna! Better than manna! Sumptuous manna! Finger licking good manna! ‘Sir, give us this bread always!’
And then the food hope and dream evaporates and vanishes and all they see is Jesus. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
- John 6:25 - 35