Give us a Sign!

John 6:28-30.

Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent.

They said therefore unto Him, What sign shewest Thou then, that we may see, and believe Thee? what dost Thou work?

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Remember, many of these people who are asking Jesus for a sign had enjoyed a miraculous picnic the previous day, filling their bellies with food that Jesus distributed to 5000 people from five small loaves and a couple of little fish.

And now they want a sign.

The passage in Mark 8:12-13 upon which this picture is based goes on to say that Jesus “sighed deeply in His spirit.”

The request for a sign reminds me of a small child who, having torn through a huge pile of Christmas gifts, looked up and said, “Is that all?”

But I’m ahead of myself. Going back to v. 28: The people asked Jesus what they needed to do in order to do God’s work. In yesterday’s passage, Jesus had told them not to labor for food that perishes, but to labor for eternal food. Now they used the same word–labor–in the sense of getting what they wanted from Him. “What (labor) shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” They thought if there were only some regimen to follow, some list of rules, some clear map, they could just follow it and they would have food; they would conquer Rome! Their minds were still on earthly things.

His answer was beautiful in its simplicity, and is just as applicable today as it was then: Believe on Me! Believe that the Father has sent Me!

And that’s when they asked Him for a sign. I doubt that Jesus was in the habit of rolling His eyes, but I wouldn’t blame Him if He had! He sighed deeply in His spirit. Not an adolescent, “nobody GETS me” sigh, but a sigh of deep understanding of the people He had come to redeem.

The people didn’t even pause to consider what He meant when He said, “Believe in Me.” They said, “What sign can you give us, that we may see and believe? What are Your works?”

I think they wanted something spectacular, like a bolt of lightning that would destroy Rome. I guess five loaves and two fish being made to feed 5000 people wasn’t spectacular enough.

But I wasn’t there, so I can’t be too quick to judge. Would I have been a part of that short-sighted crowd? I’d like to think not, but it’s entirely possible.

A Teachable Moment

John 6:25-27.

And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him, Rabbi, when camest Thou hither?

¶Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed.

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First, notice that Jesus did not answer their question. He could have, but because He knew their hearts and motives, He chose instead to use this opportunity to drive home an important truth.

Years ago, I heard a message that described this conversation as a “teachable moment,” and we were encouraged to use similar situations as openings to teach our children truths about God. You know, kids are always asking questions. We give them age-appropriate answers, and the reward for patience with them when they’re small is that when they hit the teen years and then adulthood, we can enjoy deep, meaningful talk with them around the things of the Lord.

But back to the story.

In v. 59 of this same chapter, we learn that this conversation took place in the synagogue in Capernaum, at a Sabbath service. Also, in Matthew 15, we learn that Jewish leaders from Jerusalem had traveled to Capernaum to question Jesus, always intent on their determination to shut Him down.

Instead of answering their question as to when He arrived in Capernaum, He told them why they had come. They were looking for more of that miraculous bread and fish. They were seeking food that eventually spoils, and is no longer useful.

They wanted another miracle. Also, they were still looking for a sign that this Man was the valiant leader who would free them from Rome’s tyranny.

The incredible miracle they had already witnessed was not enough. They were looking for deliverance, not a relationship with Jesus. They had a crusade against Rome in mind, and Jesus was not there for that purpose. They wanted full bellies and freedom from Rome, and that is all for which they followed Him.

They were looking for meat (food) that is temporary and subject to spoiling; power against an enemy that is a passing thing.

I can’t help but compare the attitude of those people so long ago with what is happening worldwide today, and especially in America during the campaign season. Promises of free stuff will always attract followers. Free education, free medical care, free food, free phones, free, free, FREE! And yet, nothing is free. Someone, somewhere, is paying for all the free stuff and doing so in hope of buying the loyalty of the people. The irony, of course, is that it is the people who pay for all that free stuff, through the taxes that grow more burdensome as time marches on. This is not a new thing. Think of the history of Rome, whose fall was, in part, due to giving the people free lunch and free entertainment at the Colosseum. Bloody, horrifying entertainment. When people don’t have to work for their food, they have way too much free time on their hands. The most depraved side of human nature surfaces, demanding more and more thrills and chills.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Notice also that Jesus never, in this conversation, referred to Himself as the Messiah. Rather, He was “the Son of Man,” a term which was not in common usage then, and one that would stir their interest. Jesus was far more interested in bringing them everlasting spiritual food through the miracle of His birth, death, and resurrection than He was in providing perishable food that would satisfy only temporarily.

Finally, referring to Himself as the Son of Man, He said that the Father had sealed Him. What does that mean?

A seal was a mark of ownership, and a promise of good quality. The clear seal of the Father had come at Jesus’ baptism, when the voice of God said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).

Jesus is eternal life and satisfaction. We ought to seek Him for a relationship with Him, not just as a source of free stuff.

Seeking for Jesus

John 6:22-24.

The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto His disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples were gone away alone;

(Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)

When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.

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I hope no one is offended by my use of a cartoon. I don’t usually do that, but this one so perfectly expressed what happens in today’s passage, and then in the next few verses.

Before I try to get underway here, I need to share with you that it has been an absolutely crazy morning here. I’ve been trying to start this post since 10 a.m., and there have been constant interruptions. I finally had a little talk with Jesus: “Lord, I can’t seem to get started this morning. Please put Your hand on all these interruptions and stop them long enough for me to write this post. Keep Satan away! I can only think there is something he doesn’t want me to post, but You are greater than he is. Thank You, Lord.”

Now. It would seem that at least some of the people who had experienced the miraculous meal the day before had camped overnight in the same location. As they began to stir the next morning, they realized that there was no sign of either Jesus or the disciples. Apparently the disciples took the only boat in sight as night descended. They also seem to have observed that Jesus had gone off by Himself, and had not left with the disciples.

Can you imagine the conversation?

“Hey! Did anyone see where those guys with Jesus went?”

“Nope, that was a huge storm last night. I hope they’re not all at the bottom of the sea!”

“Has anyone seen Jesus? I’m getting hungry again!”

“All you ever think of is your belly, Jonas. And no, Jesus has disappeared too. I guess we’re on our own.”

Note: None of that is scripture, okay? Just my imagination.

Parenthetically, John adds in v. 23 that other boats had come from across the sea from the area of Tiberius, on the western side, near to where the miraculous feeding had taken place on the eastern side. Notice that this insertion actually proves the storm was real because the disciples were “rowing against the wind,” rowing from the east into the west.

After making sure Jesus and the disciples were nowhere to be found, as many of the crowd as could find boats went across to Capernaum. When space ran out in the boats, anyone else who wanted to find Jesus must have gone by foot around the northern end of the Sea of Galilee.

Image result for Map of Sea of Galilee in time of Christ

Note that Tiberias is a little more than halfway down the western side of the sea. The feeding of the 5000 took place somewhere near Bethsaida, which wasn’t a terribly long walk, for people who were used to traveling by foot, from Capernaum. As closely as I can figure, it was about five miles.

We’d probably have called an Uber today, or at least found a camel to rent 🙂

Thank You, Lord, for giving me this uninterrupted time.

Question and Answer

In conversation with friends yesterday, the question came up about the post I wrote yesterday concerning Jesus walking on the water. As I wrote, I kept expecting to hear from Peter, who also walked on the water at Jesus’ invitation.

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Peter’s name is not mentioned in John’s account. So, is that a contradiction in the Bible?

No. It is simply an account written from the point of view of John, who presented Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Savior. Peter’s participation in this event is chronicled in other gospels, according to each writer’s point of view.

I did a little research on a forum in which this question was asked, and found a very good answer here:

 Singapore Moses Messenger of God, CEO in IT industry, Astronaut, Scientist

"Jesus walking on water" account is not included in Luke.

This episode is covered in Matthew 14:22-33 in Mark 6:45-52 and in John 6:16-21. However, the account of "Peter walking on the water" is not included in Mark, Luke and John.

Matthew was one among the 12 disciples of Jesus and he got the first hand information that he had seen Peter walking on water. Peter as a fisherman who knew how risky it was to attempt to walk on water. But he ventured because he knew who called him (Mt 14:24-29). Matthew wanted to add the following message to his audience. Even when we don't know who calls us, we run to the telephone the moment it rings! Many times it will be a wrong number call!

Mark on the other hand Jesus' step brother (Mt.13;55) who was a convert of Peter (1 Peter 5:13). 
He later worked with Paul(Col 4:10-11, 2 Tim 4:11; 1:24). He should have gotten the information Peter. He had NOT seen the episode of Peter walking on the water.

Matthew is written primarily for Jewish community where as Mark’s gospel meant for Gentiles (Roman believers). Mark wrote as a pastor to Christians who previously had heard and believed the Gospel (Romans 1:8).

In a nutshell, there are four different re-tellings from four different perspectives. Now granted, there are some differences. For instance, we might liken the account of Matthew and John to eye-witness accounts whereas Mark was the second-hand telling of the story (there is strong indication that Mark probably wrote his Gospel based off the teaching of Peter), and Luke would perhaps be better likened to a reporter who interviewed numerous people who had witnessed the crime and then compiled the data to give an accurate account. But the point remains the same. We have four testimonies that supply information about the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. They provide varied details, much commonality, they never contradict, and they stand as a very reliable set of witnesses to the person of Jesus.

In God’s wisdom, He inspired four Gospels to be written by men with different vantage points and with knowledge of specific information that sometimes varied so that when the life of Jesus would be put on trial, as it so often is these days, we could show just how strong these testimonies really are about Jesus of Nazareth. (https://ebible.com/questions/14585)

I also consulted The Harmony of the Gospels, by Bradley Galambos, which gives essentially the same answer as the one above.

In my opinion, there is no contradiction here. No one is leaving Peter out for any other reason than the leading of the Holy Spirit on each writer, who was recording his version of the story of Jesus according to a specific purpose:

Matthew: Jesus as Israel’s Messiah; Son of David

Mark: Jesus as the servant of God; Son of Man

Luke: Jesus as the perfect man; Son of Adam

John: Jesus as God in the flesh; Son of God

And so we get the complete picture of Jesus Christ, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, from the perspectives of four different men used by God, led by the Spirit, to increase our understanding and encourage our faith.

Be Not Afraid

John 6:19-21

So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.

But He saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.

Then they willingly received Him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

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A little more information on the Sea of Galilee may interest you.

Geographically, it lies about 600 feet below sea level, in a huge cup or bowl. It is surrounded by lots of higher ground, along with plains that set the area up for strong storms. After sunset, as the cooler air of evening rolls in over the hills and meets the hotter air from the lower land, a strong wind can set in, whipping the water up into a frenzy. Also, we know that hot air meeting cold air often results in heavy cloud cover and precipitation.

To top all that off, it was already dark, and Jesus was not with them.

Verse 19 tells us they had rowed between 25-30 furlongs (3 3/4 miles) in the dark, windy storm. It was hard rowing, especially since they were rowing against the wind.

Then, out of the dark and wild winds and water, they saw Jesus walking toward them–on the water–and that’s when they became fearful! Apparently the storm hadn’t stirred their fear yet, but seeing Jesus moving across the water in all that wind and darkness? Yes, that scared them! It was unexpected, and unprecedented.

I wonder who saw Him first. I wonder if that person was speechless with amazement, or if he shouted out, pointing to what his eyes saw, but his mind told him was impossible.

I love the simplicity of Jesus’ assurance: “It is I. Be not afraid.”

At the sound of His voice, they willingly accepted Him into the ship–which was then immediately at the exact place they were headed. Talk about time-travel! One minute, they were in the middle of a storm. The next, they were safely ashore.

What an exciting day they’d had! When service to God is rendered wholeheartedly, it is never dull or boring 🙂

Himself Alone

John 6:15.”When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone.

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As the people stood and talked amongst themselves, I’m imagining that they kept turning to look at Jesus. They watched Him, realizing, because of the miracle they had just observed, that this could be the king who would free them from the iron fist of Rome. And Jesus watched them watching Him.

He knew what they were thinking and saying. They were discussing how they could take Him by force if they needed to, and make Him “a king.” The words used for king was a political term. They wanted Him to form a rebellion against Rome, to lead them in battle if necessary, and perhaps use His magical powers to defeat Rome and free them of the tyranny that Rome represented.

Jesus, however, knew that it wasn’t time for Him to be King. He departed into a mountain, a high place. He was not interested in the praise of men, nor in their hopes of establishing Him as a king over them. They despised their present ruler, Herod Antipas, who was a creature of Rome. Jesus knew all about Herod, too, and his corrupt heart. But He hadn’t come to defeat Rome. He had come to provide salvation to all people. He was completely focused on His work, appointed to Him by the Father.

So He simply slipped away. No stirring oration to the crowd, no drama. He didn’t even take His disciples with Him, because His need at that moment was to be with the Father only.

What did He do up on that high place? We are not told specifically, in this account, but in Mark’s account, ch. 6:46, it is clearly stated that after He sent His disciples away, He went up into a mountain to pray.

Prayer with a group of other believers is a precious thing. In the bi-weekly Bible study I teach at our church, we set aside a half-hour just to share our hearts with each other, and to pray together. It is a blessing just to listen to these godly, kind women uphold each other in the Lord.

However, when we need to commune with God and no one else, we need to be alone with Him. There are things I pray about that no one else, not even Terry, knows about. I believe it is the same with him. Terry and I pray together, as well, but we each have our private time with God. I love it that Jesus had the same need: Time alone with the Father. That was always where He went in His moments of need, and it can be ours, as well.

What a privilege we have to be able to share our hearts with the God Who created them!

Leftovers

John 6:12-14.

When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.

Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.

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“When they were filled” would indicate that they really just couldn’t eat another bite. For some of these people, who lived hardscrabble lives, it may have been the first time they could remember being so full.

Sadly, we have always doubted whether or not God will provide our needs. Psalm 78: 19 asks if God can prepare a table in the wilderness. But Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. . . .He prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”

One of my favorite childhood stories is of God’s provision for our family. You can find it here if you’d like to read it. I always think of this story when I’m reading about how Jesus fed the people.

I love it that, although the disciples neither anticipated nor understood the miracle they were about to see, that Jesus used them to share the blessing. Without their work, it would have taken much longer to feed everyone unless Jesus just plopped a fish sandwich in everyone’s lap. But He knew that to use them was to share the blessing. I’ve often wondered what they were thinking as they passed out food that just never ran out. Every time they looked into their baskets, it was as if no food had been removed. I wonder how many times they stopped and looked at each other in amazement; how often they looked back at Jesus as if to ask, “Really?”

God uses us today to share His abundance, if we allow ourselves to be used. Not all of us have limitless money, but we all have spiritual gifts that we can and should use for the edification of others.

“Gather up the fragments.” Jesus was not wasteful. Nor was He messy. They could have just left the scraps lying on the ground and walked away, but that’s not the way He operated. He said, “That nothing be wasted.” The words used here would indicate that these were not just the crumbs that came from eating, but actual pieces of food that Jesus had broken off the five loaves. The passage emphasizes bread, and doesn’t mention fish. I don’t know whether or not that is significant, except that the fish, if it were not salted for preservation, would spoil quickly. But the greater lesson here is to be a good steward of what God has provided.

I wonder if the people were reminded of the way God provided manna in the wilderness all those centuries ago. Same God, same kind of surroundings. I wonder if they talked about that as they ate, wondering at the miracle taking place right before their eyes. I hope there weren’t any people like the ones in this cartoon:

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We do know that the people talked about Moses’ prediction of a great Prophet.

Moses predicted the coming of the Prophet they expected: The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear. (Deuteronomy 18:15) If the coming Prophet was to be like Moses, it made sense that He would also feed the people miraculously as Moses did (David Guzik).

Did the people think highly of Jesus for Who He was, or because He had provided their need? Possibly some were already convinced that He was the Son of God. Possibly some just saw the possibility of future gain if they followed Him. But Jesus knew how to deal with that, too.