WHY ARE YOU FOLLOWING JESUS ?

Jn.6:26 – Jesus replied, “Let me make this very clear, you came looking for me because I fed you by a miracle, not because you believe in me.

There were all sorts of people following the Lord when He was here on earth. There were the lepers looking for cleansing, parents with dying children, frustrated tax collectors, and disillusioned hookers. There was even a random Pharisee tagging along at these unusual gatherings. When Jesus fed everyone with a little boy’s lunch it was as if the covers were suddenly torn off. Apparently a majority of the crowd were looking for a king to give them their best life now. Nothing much has changed in these 2000 years. Here is how Zwingli described the same issue some 500 years ago.

“With these words the Lord reproaches and scolds the crass and carnal condition of the multitude, because although they had seen greater miracles, proofs of divine power, they were so excited by the fullness they experienced at one banquet. And so they show themselves to be more interested in obtaining fodder for the body than food for the soul. Now we see here the fickle opinion of the common people, which changes and fluctuates. We all hear the Word of God, but in different ways; and this becomes evident enough from the fruit we produce. Some hear in order to learn the way to life and salvation, and these are those who rightly seek and rightly hear the Word of God. For Christ was sent by the Father for this reason: to be the salvation of the world. And he bears witness that he is the one through whom believers are saved. He instructed the apostles to preach this, and they did it as we see in Acts 3, 7, and 13. “For the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.”

So let me ask that question to you; why are you following Jesus? Have you seen Him as altogether lovely? Is it Christ Himself you are after or if you were honest you may be looking for some modern day king or even a Santa Claus? Jesus told then straight up what He was about. He said, “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you have no part with Me”. What He was describing is an incredible intimacy that is offered to us in Christ. It’s not about houses, jobs, careers, possessions or even family. It is about Him; it is only about Him. After this day John said the crowds stopped following Him. Sounds like they were in it for the wrong reason.

SOUL’S DESIRES

Jn.6:35 – Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life. Come every day to me and you will never be hungry. Believe in me and you will never be thirsty.

Food is a big deal. If you didn’t realize that before the Covid drama you certainly realize it now. As the saying goes, “You gotta eat”. The miracle that Jesus performed the day before this teaching was one of His greatest. He had fed 5000 families with a little boy’s lunch. This miracle brought up thoughts of the prophet Moses had prophesied about. Seeing this miracle of feeding thousands caused them to think Jesus was apparently their new Moses. Boy, did they have that wrong. Jesus said that the bread in the wilderness came from His Father, not from Moses. And more than that, Jesus claimed to be the bread of God from heaven. The manna and the loaves and fish were just pointing to Him. Here is how Luther describes this scene.

“Out of the mass of powerful words in the holy Scripture there is almost no stronger word that Christ is a bread and meal given by God, and that whoever eats this bread lives forever and becomes content, no longer hungering or thirsting. . . . It is a settled point that here in this chapter the Lord is speaking about spiritual food, for he himself explains it as the hunger and thirst of the soul. The soul wants to live forever, to not be cursed, to have a merciful God, to be able to stand before the wrath and judgment of God, to not be condemned by sin and the law or go to hell. Those are the soul’s desires. It is a spiritual thirst and hunger, for which we need a spiritual meal and drink. And so the Holy Spirit comes and says, “If you do not want to die or be damned, then come to Christ, believe in him and cling to him. Eat this spiritual meal, believe in Christ, that is the most important thing.”

The bread and fish pointed to our greater need; we need the bread from heaven. Just having an abundant supply in this life will never satisfy us and certainly won’t prepare us for the other world. Jesus told them in plain words that day, “Unless you eat My body and drink My blood you have no life in you”. So go ahead and eat this heavenly manna, it is available for everyone. The only qualification is to be hungry for this different kind of bread.

DIFFERENT KIND OF KING

Jn.6:14,15 – All the people were astounded as they saw with their own eyes the incredible miracle Jesus had performed! They began to say among themselves, “He really is the One—the true prophet we’ve been expecting!” So Jesus, knowing that they were about to take him and make him their king by force, quickly left and went up the mountainside alone.

This passage gets right at the heart of why Jesus came and what the kingdom of God actually is. Jesus did come to establish a kingdom but not a kingdom of buildings, wealth, and power or influence. He is and was a king but not the kind of king the crowds were looking for. It seems that the miracle of the fish and the loaves brought the conflict to the surface. The crowd wanted an earthly kingdom. They wanted to get rid of the Romans and have a king that would lead them into a time of prosperity in this life. That is not why Jesus came. He came to die not to conquer armies by force. He came to conquer our hearts through the power of His love. He came to wash away our sins by His sacrificial death. Here is how Erasmus describes this verse.

“Now those who had eaten their fill knew that five loaves, barley loaves at that, and two fish had been found, and they saw how many basketsful were left over. So they began to sound the praises of Jesus, saying, “This is truly the long-expected prophet who was to come into the world.” It is typical of the common people that they are more aware of benefits to belly than to brain. They had seen greater miracles, but they had never rendered him such splendid praise; it was full stomachs that wrung out this language. And now, inexperienced and foolish as they still were, looking for a Messiah to claim an earthly kingdom for them, they schemed together to snatch up Jesus and make him their king, promising themselves goods in abundance, plenty of grain, wealth, freedom and the other comforts of the world if they were lucky enough to have such a king.”

The shocking truth that this message reinforces is this, it is still the same today. The gospel is often viewed as a means to get your best life now, on this earth. Many perceive that the message of the gospel is good news for this life alone. Christ came to redeem us from our sins. The Lord addressed this the following day. He taught about His body and His blood. He came to give us Himself so that we can live. For the next year until the time of the Lord’s death things changed. He had come to be a king, He was about to display exactly what that would look like by His death and resurrection.

FEEDING ON CHRIST

Jn.6:53-58 – TPT – Jesus replied to them, “Listen to this eternal truth: Unless you eat the body of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have eternal life. Eternal life comes to the one who eats my body and drinks my blood, and I will raise him up in the last day. For my body is real food for your spirit and my blood is real drink. The one who eats my body and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. The Father of life sent me, and he is my life. In the same way, the one who feeds upon me, I will become his life. I am not like the bread your ancestors ate and later died. I am the living Bread that comes from heaven. Eat this Bread and you will live forever!”

I often think of the first time I remember seeing communion in a church service. The bread and the drink were in front of the church on the communion table with a white cloth draped over it. I asked my mom what it was and the only answer I got was an elbow in the ribs. It seemed too much like a funeral to my child like mind. Of course it wasn’t until I was born again that I even began to understand what eating His body and drinking His blood was all about. Jesus taught us about living off of Him every day in this passage. The Lord compared Himself to the bread and fish and the manna that the children of Israel lived on for forty years. We are designed by God to live off of this heavenly food; nothing else will do for us. Here is how the Passion Notes describe this passage.

“To eat his flesh is to take into our life by faith all that Jesus did for us by giving his body for us. To drink his blood is to take by faith all that the blood of Jesus has purchased for us. This “eating” and “drinking” is receiving the life, power, and virtue of all that Jesus is to replace all that we were in Adam. Jesus’ blood and body is the Tree of Life, which is offered to everyone who follows him.”

Just as the Lord taught us to drink living water He is teaching us to feed off of Him for our contentment and spiritual nourishment. It is in feeding on Christ daily that we begin to enter in to the joy of our Christian faith. What a great promise, if we eat this heavenly bread we will never be hungry or thirsty even in the difficulties of this life.

Rejoice

Isa.54:1 – Rejoice with singing, you barren one! You who have never given birth, burst into a song of joy and shout, you who have never been in labor! For the deserted wife will have more children than the married one,” says Yahweh.

Often times scripture is talking about more than what you see at first glance. The sower was sowing more than seeds, Joel was prophesying about more than a strong rainy season for Israel, and Isaiah is prophesying about more than a woman’s barren womb. The sower was sowing the word of God, Joel was talking about the last day outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and Isaiah is speaking about spiritual barrenness.

Barrenness comes when our attention is on the things of this world. It could be from the distraction of the other things in life, things like hobbies, career choices, our just plain laziness. On the other hand fruitfulness comes from the touch of God. When we turn our attention and affection toward the Lord worship is the result. Worship prepares our lives for fruitfulness. Isaiah is describing exactly that, he said, “Rejoice with singing, you barren one”. Singing and worship precede the blessing of God. Here is how Brian Simmons describes this passage.

“This verse begins with only two words in Hebrew: barren and rejoice. These are two ends of the emotional spectrum. Nothing brings sorrow like being barren. Yet God promises that even in our greatest sorrow there can be a song of joy. This verse can be viewed as the remedy for spiritual barrenness—the song of triumph and the shout of joy! Spiritual barrenness is broken by the power of worship. Where God’s people are held back in worship, spiritual barrenness soon follows. Our worship has the power to bring new birth (evangelism) into our congregations. Worship is a mighty force to influence the lost and bring new birth.”

Rejoicing before you see your breakthrough is really the Biblical picture of faith. In Romans 4:20 Paul speaking of Abraham said, “But he did not doubt or waver in unbelief concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and empowered by faith, giving glory to God”. Abraham and Sarah rejoiced in faith before Isaac was conceived. Rejoicing paved the way for God’s fruitfulness to begin. If you feel barren and long for a fruitful season maybe its time to “Rejoice with singing”.

EYES OF FAITH

Jn.6:7 – Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”

This miracle is a great picture of our Christian faith. It deals with the very basic spiritual and natural needs that we have. It brings us to a place of total dependency on the Lord. Phillip is a picture of all of us. He could not see any way out of the situation they were in. They were too far from stores, they did not have enough money even if they could get to a store, and there were far too many people. Phillip’s problem was that he was strangled by unbelief. The creator of all things was right in front of him and he had no eyes to see. The funny thing about that is this, we too are standing in the very presence of the Lord and often times all we can see is the lack rather than the supernatural supply of God. Here is how the reformer Johannes Brenz saw it.

“Philip reveals his unbelief. And with his statement he provides an example of the wisdom of the flesh. For our reason, endowed as it is with fleshy eyes, can look no further than to the present state of affairs and to matters of the flesh, to food and money. When these things have run out, it despairs, not knowing where to turn. But faith, because it has spiritual eyes, does not cling to visible things but looks to invisible things, to another world. For if it sees that nothing is at hand suitable for food in this world, it directs the sight of its eyes to another world, where it finds God promising all the best things, abounding in every good thing and kindly directing to us all the things we need to live. What then? You will have enough if you have enough belief. Miserly and wicked people do not believe, and so they possess nothing, they have nothing. “The miser is as much in want of that which he has as of that which he does not have.”

Fleshly eyes can only see sickness, or lack, or some other barrier that will keep us from receiving God’s breakthrough provision in our life. Seeing Christ Himself as our provision is where our breakthrough begins. He is able to feed the multitudes with a little boy’s lunch, after all He created the bread and the fish to begin with.

MOVED

Matt.14:14 – And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

This story, the miracle of the multiplying of the fish and bread, is a great picture of the Christian faith. It all begins and ends with Christ. Jesus looked on the people who had been following Him for three days and saw their great need and also saw their great spiritual hunger. What was His response? He healed their sick, He taught them the Word of God, and He provided food to nourish their bodies. He saw exactly what they needed; food for the soul, healing for their bodies, and food for their natural bodies to sustain them.

Matthew said that Jesus was moved with compassion. That word moved with compassion is defined in Strong’s dictionary like this: “to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity.” Jesus was able to understand our need because of His humanity. Even today, He looks at us and is moved with compassion. When we hurt it literally hurts Him, He longs to see His people made whole. Here is how Barclay describes this passage.

“It tells us of the compassion of Jesus. When he saw the crowds he was moved with compassion to the depths of his being. That is a very wonderful thing. Jesus had come to find peace and quiet and loneliness; instead he found a vast crowd eagerly demanding what he could give. He might so easily have resented them. What right had they to invade his privacy with their continual demands? Was he to have no rest and quiet, no time to himself at all? But Jesus was not like that. So far from finding them a nuisance, he was moved with compassion for them.”

The good news is this, He is moved with compassion for you today. He is seated at the Father’s right hand offering His great love to all of us. If you are hurting, look to Jesus. Get your attention off of your pain and look to Jesus. His love will pour over you and will heal the broken parts of your life. When Jesus gave the fish and bread He was actually giving Himself. As we eat His body and drink His blood His healing love satisfies, heals, and sustains us.

SCRAMBLING TO HEAR HIM

Jn.6:5 – As Jesus sat down, he looked out and saw the massive crowd of people scrambling up the hill, for they wanted to be near him.

Spiritual hunger just can’t be faked. We can try to pump it up or create an appearance of hunger but that is a hopeless endeavor. That makes me think of an old Pink Panther movie from years ago. Chief Inspector Clouseau was wearing a disguise with a fake parrot on his shoulder. The inflatable parrot had a leak and had to be pumped up. Clouseau had a pump under his arm which he would use to try to keep the parrot inflated. It was ineffective but quite funny. That scene reminds me of feeble attempts to act as if we are on fire or hungry for God but that parrot keeps deflating. In today’s verse the crowd is scrambling to get near Jesus just to hear Him. Apparently food had taken a back seat because they had been following Jesus for three days in the wilderness. Here is how John Calvin describes this scene.

“In the first place, we observe here that the people were inflamed with such a great zeal to hear Christ that, forgetting themselves, they were unconcerned to spend the night in a desert place. So much more inexcusable is our sluggishness, or rather our sloth, because we are so far from preferring Christ’s heavenly teaching to worries about hunger that the tiniest distractions immediately lead us away from meditation on eternal life. Indeed, it very rarely happens that Christ finds us free and unencumbered by the entanglements of the world. So far are we from being prepared to follow him to a desert mountain that there is scarcely one in ten who can bear to receive him when he presents himself at home in the midst of comforts.”

So what actually causes the stir in our hearts that nothing else in life matters? That is that little thing that the Apostle Paul called grace. Grace awakens us to Christ’s greatness and our smallness. Grace awakens us to His love for us and His ability to transform life itself. When you catch a glimpse of Christ suddenly nothing else matters. These folks still had the same needs, they were hungry and unprepared for this trip in the wilderness. Its just that other more important things had taken over their lives. They were scrambling to be with Jesus.

SEATED IN HEAVENLY PLACES

John 6:3 – Jesus went up the slope of a hill and sat down with his disciples.

I have been strangely attracted to this simple verse today. It must have been amazing to be able to just sit with Jesus on the mountain. You had to get past the stuff like, who will sit on His right hand or what can we do to get rid of the Romans? To be content with just being with the Lord is the great secret to life. You may never be famous or rich but you are more than that; we you are seated with Christ. Here is how Musculus describes this verse.

“Christ compares his church with a city placed on a hill. On this hill the Lord sits with his own, whom he chose and conveyed upwards from the low desert of this world to the high places of true faith, piety and a heavenly manner of life. What else, I ask, is it that Paul says: “Our dwelling place is in heaven”? . . . For where do Christ’s faithful sit? That is, where do they find rest? Certainly they do not sit or live in the vanities of this world but on the mountain of God’s kingdom, where Christ sits. In that place they are true; they sit and live where they love, which is why they are refreshed. That conveyance to rest, found on the mountain of God’s kingdom, begins in this life. It will obtain its fullness and perfection in the future after we have departed from this valley of miseries to the heavenly places, delivered from all the troubles of this life by the benefit and intervention of death. There we shall sit and rest with Christ forever.”

Learning to be still and sit with Him in this crazy world will go a long way in the next one. What brings about that kind of contentment and takes the restlessness from our hearts? It is seeing the greatness of the Lord. These same disciples that sat with Christ on rather mountain recognized His new place to sit after His resurrection. They preached constantly about Christ being seated at the right hand of God. Seeing Him in His greatness of His throne causes all the other ambitions to fall by the wayside. After all, they not only got to sit with Christ in His earthly life, they realized that they were already seated in heavenly places with Christ. That is not our future reward, we have that now. So go ahead, take a load off your feet, and sit down with the Lord.

TOO DEEP FOR WORDS

Rom.8:26 – And in a similar way, the Holy Spirit takes hold of us in our human frailty to empower us in our weakness. For example, at times we don’t even know how to pray, or know the best things to ask for. But the Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede on our behalf, pleading to God with emotional sighs too deep for words.

One of the great mysteries of God is prayer. The omnipotent and omniscient God hears and answers our prayers. There are two main ingredients of prayer that actually come from God and not from us. The first is His word Jesus, said it like this, “But if you live in life-union with me and if my words live powerfully within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done”. The word of God is the very foundation of our prayers. In today’s verse we see God’s second great ingredient for prayer, the Holy Spirit. If God’s word is the understanding of the Lord, the Holy Spirit is the unveiling of His affections. These two ingredients, the Word and the Spirit make for a very effective prayer. Here is how the Puritan John Cotton explained the work of the Spirit in prayer.

“The Spirit of Grace in the heart is greater than the world; nothing can do what the Spirit of Grace can do. It teaches us to cry with sighs and unutterable groans. A soul cannot tell God how much it grieves in such a case as this, because the principle of it is the Spirit of grace. We are shallow and can soon run our eyes and hearts dry for any grief we take up ourselves. But where the Spirit of grace works, the grief that it puts forth cannot be expressed. As it comes from a deeper fountain, the eternal love of Christ, so it has a deeper work. It searches the deep things of God. It is a profound spirit, and so it works a profound work.”

So have you been overcome with emotion recently? Many have in these unprecedented waters we have been asked to navigate. Maybe those emotions could be described as affections. Even better, maybe they are the affections of the Holy Spirit. What should be our response? Give words, unspeakable words to those affections. Those are the prayers that change the world.