Jesus doesn’t want us to “sell out.” He doesn’t want us to sell our souls, literally, to gain the world. He doesn’t want us to sign to the bigger record label just for money. He wants us to stay hardcore.
He wants us to believe that and believe his ultimate truth. He doesn’t want us to be distracted by the temporal things around us. He wants us to work for the eternal.
Jesus tries to give the ecstatic some perspective. The Jews are thrilled with him and wondering if he’s going to do even more. Jesus is trying to perform signs that will help people realize that there is a new Exodus and new Passover coming.
He’s telling them they only believe because they ate until they were stuffed. (Of course, we can empathize with the crowd who have never experienced this amazing before!) He wants to get them to believe that His agenda and His goal on earth is still not political revolution; he’s bringing a freedom that will change the whole world, not just this little occupied sliver in the Middle East.
Jesus is dramatic here. Moses didn’t save you; the Father did. The point of the bread you all just stuffed with your face with? To show you who I am.
They want another sign, probably because Jesus hasn’t militaristically toppled the empire around them.
He doesn’t want them (or us) to miss the point. The point of the bread and fish is to show the world that Jesus is the bread of life (he repeats this twice and it begins a new tone in the book of John, one that identifies repeatedly who Jesus is). The point isn’t for you to get as much as you can out of God or the church, but to know who God is, and be that to the people around you.
Jesus is trying make liberators out of his followers. He wants people to find Him and know him, and life live fully through him.
There’s a sign that I was putting up on Temple’s campus this week to try and reach out to some of the summer session students. It says something like “it’s not all about you, you won’t just find friends here, you’ll find something more.”
Perhaps in Roman-occupied Israel, the sign would say, you won’t just find fish and loaves here, you’ll find something more. Truly the way that we are hungry in the United States (and there are plenty of us who are actually impoverished and malnourished in fact), but often times the way we are hungry in this iPhoned, Facebooked, isolated world is that we are hungry for friends.
The church will offer you a brilliant community and an amazing group of friends—of course, it’ll take some work on your part—but that really isn’t enough. If that’s all we’re doing, I hope we get rebuked for that. If it’s such about our friends and not Jesus, I’m not sure we get the point. If our faith is just about mental health and balance, I don’t think we get it either. If it’s just about finding a spouse or having children, I don’t think that’s the point either. Frankly, it’s if it’s just about peace and wealth redistribution, we miss the point too. May that is selling out.
All of those things need to point to Jesus, they need to show the world who He is and what He’s doing. And that’s the problem of the book of John—it’s littered with signs that are ultimately good things for the whole world. Who wouldn’t want to get a bunch of free bread and fish? Who wouldn’t want to get invited to sweet parties and have a group of people genuinely invested in them?
Those things aren’t enough in and of themselves. If all of the good stuff in our community doesn’t point to Jesus, I think we are failing.
But I hope we can do so like Jesus; I hope we bear the fruit that will be the signs that show Jesus to the world.