22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 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. 27 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.”
Our heavenly Father,
You are sovereign over creation, over all that has happened, and all that will happen.
It says in your Word:
8 “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
Lord God, you work all things according to the council of your will. May we rejoice in that .Nothing happens that is outside of your sovereignty. Nothing happens that you have not allowed. You have declared the end from the beginning. You have eternally known of your gospel for our salvation. You are sovereign over our lives. All of the good and the bad that happens is within your perfect will. All of our successes and failures you know. The days of our lives you know the number of. Lord, may we trust in that and in you. May we honor you, may we follow you, may we know you. Lord, on this weekend as we celebrate our independence, we do thank you for the freedoms we enjoy in our nation.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We’re resuming in the Gospel of John this morning. And we begin another speech from Jesus. Just to remind us of where we’ve been in John. We looked at Jesus feeding a multitude of thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish.
Today, Jesus will interact with many who were in that crowd, who saw that miraculous sign, who ate that bread. They ultimately missed the real significance of what Jesus had done. We’ll see that this week, and in the following passage where Jesus says that he is the bread of life.
For our passage this week, it’s a microcosm of a major issue within American Christianity today.
And so I begin with a question.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, why are you a follower of Jesus?
And with that, we’ll jump into our passage. The first few verses set the scene for the conversation which follows. When Jesus feeds the multitudes, that story ends with the crowd wanting to make Jesus their king, Jesus withdrawing up the mountain, and the disciples setting sail in the sea. The crowd knows that Jesus hadn’t left with the disciples.
Verse 22: On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.
The crowd had not seen Jesus walk on water, nor is there any indication they were aware that had happened. It’s morning and the crowd is looking for Jesus. Quite possibly they still harbor the hope of making him their king and leader.
Verse 23, other boats start to come to where the multitudes are: Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
Tiberias was on the other side of the lake and a group of boats had come over and that appears to be the means through which some of the crowd were able to rejoin Jesus.
Verse 25, the crowd is reunited with Jesus and they address him. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
Jesus responds to the crowd but he doesn’t answer their question. Nor does he tell them of his most recent miracle when he walked on water and calmed the storm. Certainly those would have been incredibly impressive events for the crowd to learn about. But they’ve just experienced Jesus feeding them, and Jesus has a rebuke for the real motivation of this crowd.
Verse 26. Jesus says to the crowd: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
How can Jesus say that? The people had been highly impressed by Jesus multiplying the bread and the fish.
John 6:14: When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
And in the following verse, Jesus withdraws because he knows they want to make him king. Following Jesus is not about merely liking Jesus. It’s not about merely being impressed with the things Jesus says or does. It’s about being a follower of him. The bread was not about bread. The signs that Jesus did pointed beyond themselves. And the feeding of the multitudes in their hunger pointed to Jesus as being the one who feeds a world that is starving in sin. The people came to Jesus because a physical need had been met and Jesus says that is the reason why they’re seeking him.
They weren’t seeking Jesus to find out if he’s really the promised the Messiah, they’re not seeking Jesus to hear his teachings and learn from him. They’re coming to Jesus because he satisfied a need.
And that was a blessing. But the issue is if they want to make their loyalty and devotion to Christ contingent upon him continuing to fulfill their needs. That’s a temptation of the world. That’s a temptation for why many come to Christ.
Jesus gives the parable of the sower. A sower sows his seed. Some fall on the path and is eaten by the birds. Some fall between the rocks, grows a little bit but ultimately withers because it does not have sufficient water. Some seed falls among the thorns and does not have sufficient space to grow. And then you have the seed which falls in the good soil and grows and flourishes.
When Jesus explains the parable, he tells of how the seed is the Word of God. For some, they’re led astray. For others, they don’t have strong roots and fall away in times of difficulty. For others, they don’t have roots and the cares and pursuits of the world distract them.
Finally, Jesus says of the fourth group in Luke 8:15:
15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Jesus knows that many of these people are not in good soil and are more enamored with the spectacle than the savior. They’re more focused on what Jesus does than who he is. They’re more interested in what he can do to meet their physical needs than their spiritual needs. Why are you a follower of Jesus?
There are all sorts of reasons why people turn to Jesus, look to religion. For some, it’s because of a health crisis; for others, it’s a health problem. For some it’s despair. And God uses that. And God meets us where we are.
But if we turn to Jesus just because we’re in difficult circumstances but don’t have beliefs about Christ which are grounded in the reality of who he is. If we come to Christ and are not rooted in the truth of what he did, we will be led astray.
Jesus is the savior of the world who came into a starving world to provide the eternal nourishment that humanity needed. That was the true point of Jesus feeding the multitudes. He’ll say that specifically next week when he tells them: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Jesus had fed them but they missed the point of it. The feeding of the multitude was a sign which pointed beyond itself to who Jesus was and it pointed to the ultimate sustenance of the human soul which Jesus brings.
Why are you a follower of Jesus? It’s a serious question to ask yourself. To examine your heart.
You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
Worshipping the gifts over the giver.
There is a modern-day temptation of the prosperity gospel movement.
If you’re not familiar with that term. The prosperity gospel is a movement that has its origins in America about a century ago and came to greater prominence after the Second World War. It has largely grown out of Pentecostalism and the Word of Faith movement.
It is the idea that it is always the will of God for genuine believers to be materially blessed and physically healthy. It’s essentially preoccupied with material blessings.
You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
I’m not saying that this first century audience had a 20th and 21st century notion of a health and wealth gospel. But they’re drawn to Jesus because of him fulfilling a physical need. There are elements of what they believe which are picked up in the prosperity gospel movement.
It’s not the only place where we find this attitude in the New Testament.
Paul addresses a similar issue within the church at Philippi. Philippians 3:19-20:
18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
They’re not looking to take up their cross and follow him. They’re not looking to die to themselves and their sinful ways. They’re there because of a free meal. The theology that looks merely at the material blessings of God has many problems.
First, it’s not the gospel.
The gospel is the message of Christ crucified and his redemption of sinful people for the glory of God. He died to save souls. The purpose of life is knowing and enjoying Jesus Christ forever. The purpose of life does not revolve around material blessings.
Secondly, prosperity theology teaches things that are not Biblical.
It undermines the doctrine of suffering. The Bible does not hide from suffering. Prosperity theology believes that it is never the will of God for a person to be sick, to die from cancer, to struggle with depression.
The Bible teaches that the Christian life does involve suffering. God uses it and works all things together for good for those who love him. Romans 8:28.
God uses suffering to work his purposes. Story of Joseph. We referenced it last week. Joseph is betrayed by his brothers, but through that betrayal, it brings Joseph into Egypt which allows him to be in a position years later to save his family during a time of famine.
But we also see God’s providence and goodness through that evil.
Genesis 50:20: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
God uses suffering to sanctify and perfect his people. James 1:2-4: 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Notice that James says to count it all joy WHEN not IF you meet trials of various kinds.
To quote my professor D.A. Carson, if you’re not suffering, just keep living.
Romans 5:3-4: we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope
God uses suffering so that we can have a positive influence on others.
Wonderful passage. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
God uses suffering to remind us that our ultimate need is in him. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9: 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
And we could talk for hours on many more passages. God allows suffering. In his sovereign will, God allows it. It is talked about constantly in the Bible and especially in the New Testament.
And you have televangelists and authors of popular Christian books who say the opposite of that. They’re teaching an idea that is not Biblical. Yes, God does ultimately promise healing, in heaven. But there is no promise given in the Bible that all true believers or faithful Christians will always experience healing in this life.
Third problem with prosperity theology. It turns God into your genie.
God does not primarily exist to fulfill to give you everything you want. A lot of times the things we want are not good.
If you have a child and just gave them everything they ever wanted, would that be loving? Of course not. Because a lot of things kids want aren’t good for them. Prosperity theology views giving not primarily as a way of giving back part of what God has given for the purposes of his kingdom, but as a way to receive material blessings back as a result of your generosity. Prosperity theology views prayer as a way to force God to give you what you desire. Prosperity theology believes that faith is rewarded by leading to prosperity.
Fourth, while turning God into a genie and believing in a theology where good things happen if you’re good enough or have enough faith, what that essentially teaches a person is that they’re in control of their own lives and destiny.
Not Biblical. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign.
Fifth, prosperity theology actually distracts us from true riches.
Ironically, God actually wants to give us so much more than what prosperity theology focuses on. But if we just focus on this world, on materialism, on what’s physical, we lose sight of that.
Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.
Sixth, prosperity theology distorts the teachings of scripture and takes the Bible out of context
It cherry picks the Bible.
We’re going through the Gospel of John. Prosperity gospel preaching churches don’t go verse by verse through books. Because they have a theological belief system that is not supported by the whole of scriptures and so they pick and choose what fits their system.
You don’t have great scholars or theologians of prosperity theology. Because honest reading of the Bible tears it down.
Seventh issue with prosperity theology is that it relies heavily on special revelations from God.
I know I’m hammering on this topic this morning. But it’s a highly influential, unbiblical movement that influences Christians here in America and across the world.
Many of the best-selling Christian books are written by prosperity teachers and preachers who do not teach or preach the Word but preach a worldly message. Many, I would say most, televangelists fall into this camp.
Our world eats up prosperity theology because it tells us that it’s all about us. It co-opts the gospel and replaces it with worldliness.
You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
Why are you a follower of Jesus? Is it because he is the way, the truth and the life? Is it because he is glorious? Is it because he’s worthy? Is it because he’s the savior of the world? Is it because of the gospel. That you were dead in your sins and that the only way to redemption was through his life, and death and because of the shedding of his blood?
I’m hoping that I’m preaching to the choir on this. For those of us who love the Word of God, who have reverence for the scriptures, the prosperity gospel must be seen as a counterfeit gospel.
But here’s my challenge. Because while we might not buy into a health and wealth gospel, we have so many blessings in our country that there can still be a temptation into falling into the trap of thinking that we’re good and that our lives should be good. We should have good families. We should have happy marriages. We deserve to not really suffer.
It’s a constant temptation. But the Bible makes no such promises.
Why are you a follower of Jesus?
The Biblical message is not that we should follow Jesus so that everything will be easy. It’s that when you follow Jesus, you’re taken from death to life. It’s not a promise of ease but it’s a promise that the difficulties have a purpose. It’s not a promise of getting what you want, but it’s a promise of all things working together for your ultimate good.
People wanted to follow Jesus because he took care of a physical need, but Jesus came in order to tend to our spiritual needs.
Final verse of the passage. Jesus has given his rebuke to the crowds. He’s exposed their heart and the real reason they’re following him.
27 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.”
Jesus tells them to work for the food that endures to eternal life and that is the food which Jesus came to bring.
Not only did Jesus come to bring it, but it can come only through Jesus. As the end of the verse reminds us that it is Jesus upon whom God has set his seal. Jesus is the one who has come to bring eternal life to a sinful world. And he offers that life to you today if you believe in him by faith. Know that you are a sinner and that Jesus has come to forgive you of your sins and reconcile you to God.
Why do you believe in Jesus? Why do I believe in Jesus?
Because he’s the savior of the world.