So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for 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 for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”
Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
So why do people come to Jesus?
One wag has said with relation to personal change, that some people change because they see the light and others because they feel the heat!
Perhaps the crowd that followed Jesus had neither motivation. Jesus suggests that they were looking for security.
In modern times we would call it food security. Jesus had fed them without their effort and struggle and that seemed to be something worth repeating. It was probably worth patenting!
There is a hint of indignation in their enquiry when they eventually find Jesus after a long search. “When did you come here?” It is as if they expect Jesus to account to them for his movements.
It is about the same as the modern day dilemma faced by NGO’s and Aid agencies. The agency begins with a vision and mission. The vision is grasped by others and funding is made available by donors and patrons. These donors demand accountability and soon the NGO is hobbled to desks writing reports to justify their expenditure of the donations, to the extent that they find it difficult to do the work that was their mission to begin with! What is even more frustrating is that the donors have every right to demand good governance and fiduciary compliance. “When did you come here?” “Account for yourself!”
Jesus, as always, cuts to the quick of the crowd’s motivations. “You don’t want me, you want what I can do for you. That is your mistake.You are materialist, utilitarian and pragmatic (all concepts that don’t exist yet, but when preachers speak about this in 2012, they will)” (All of this dialogue I found in an obscure Gnostic Gospel according to The Listening Hermit)*Joke
Despite my spurious and speculative dialogue, isn’t that the problem we have with Jesus and miracles?
The crowd may not have been “materialist, utilitarian and pragmatic”, but we moderns certainly are. Remember Bill Hybels best seller titled, “Making life work”?
That what we want from our religion. It must make the life we know and want, work.
When Jesus sees this in us however, he gets into a boat and sails away.
For Jesus it seems, the Kingdom of God isn’t mere materiality, utilitarian ethics and pragmatic problem solving. It is a transcending and transforming domain where God is paramount.
In this domain if you have trust in the mere mortal incarnation named Jesus, then your human suffering of hunger or thirst, poverty or humiliation, is merely the context for the deepening of that trust and the loosening of your addiction and dependence on the quick-fix, crowd-pleasing, sensational show, that so much religious activity devolves to.
Demands for signs and miracles are the marks of immature trust. To provide them on demand is an iniquitous error on the Church’s part.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I want to fix the world and it’s suffering as much as the next person.
Jesus however seems determined to fix humanity first.