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."
-John 6:26-27 (ESV)
There's a lot going on in John 6. Jesus feeds a few thousand people with a couple fish and a bit of bread, then dodges them trying to make him king, then walks on water and teaches us a thing about how God sustains us. The next morning, He has an extensive discussion with the people following Him in which He describes Himself as true manna, watches a host of His followers walk away, and then questions the twelve about it. As windows into one day in a life go, it's a pretty impressive one.
But I think Jesus presents an important lesson in this conversation that we should continue to remember today. In essence, the question we need to ask ourselves is simply this: what are we seeking when we come to Jesus? This is explored in detail in John 6:24-66, but here are some snippets of the conversation:
“It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me-- not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"...When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"...After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
-John 6:45-52, 60, 66 (ESV)
The people who Jesus fed the night before followed Jesus, not for Jesus, but to get more bread. So, Jesus explains that the miracle isn't about feeding people a temporary meal, but about Himself. It's not simply that Christ can sustain our bodies, but that He is the one true source of sustenance for our very being. Bread may give us the energy to go on living a little while longer, but Christ is Life itself. Ultimately, what Jesus is telling them is that, if they are going to follow Him, it needs to be because they seek to have Him, not some assortment of things they believe He can give them.
So how does this effect us today? I mean, Jesus isn't walking around giving us loaves of Wonder bread that can distract us from what He's really about. But that doesn't mean we don't lose sight of Christ in favor of the things we want from Him. We are drawn to Christ for any number of reasons. Sometimes it's the promise of Heaven, or peace in our troubles, or to be on the right side of providence. And it's fine to come to Jesus for these things, and it's even fine to view these things as very important when we are first renewed. But as we mature and grow in Christ, is there a shift happening here? At some point, are we seeking Christ for Christ? My dad once told me about a coworker of his who claimed to be a Christian but was not active in seeking Christ. When asked about it, he had replied that the only reason for doing so is to build up a treasure in Heaven and earn a golden crown. But he then noted that, in descriptions of the throne room of God, we see that these crowns are placed back at Christ's feet. Therefore, he reasoned, why bother earning one at all? How often, I wonder, do we find ourselves thinking there's some amount of merit to this idea?
Let us ask ourselves about this, and go to Christ about anything that catches us. If God will not give us respite from our troubles, but tell us, as He told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you,” would we join Paul in praising God for this? If, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we faced our world with no promise of deliverance, would we understand that standing by God is enough and that He owes us nothing more? If there was no promise of Heaven, or a life to come, are we growing closer to a sense that this brief life, spent knowing the God of all creation, would be enough, simply for God's active involvement in it? We are promised a life to come, of course, but are we more concerned with the fact of that life, or the God we get to spend it with? Father, grant us the maturity to seek You for Your sake.