"Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself." (John 6:15) They were going to force Jesus to be their king! Well, can you blame them? They followed Jesus into the wilderness, because he healed the sick, no matter their ailment. Then after they found themselves out in the desert without anything to eat, Jesus feeds them (five thousand men, not including women and children) from only five loaves of bread and a couple small fish! Not only did they get fed, they were stuffed. They had eaten their fill. So naturally the crowd wanted this man, who healed them and fed them to provide for them everyday.
Isn't that the way it is today? Everyone wants a bread king. Every election cycle, what is the biggest issue? The economy! Who's going to create more jobs? Who's going to make us wealthier? Nevermind that our nation is experiencing a moral and spiritual collapse. Nevermind that little children are being killed in their mother's wombs and more and more children are born without fathers in their homes. No, the big issue is: Who's going to get me bread. (Of course by bread I mean everything we use and consume in this life, healthcare, cars, homes, clothing, shoes, food, etc).
We're no different than that crowd. And if a man appeared, who could heal all your diseases and provide all you need to eat, you'd vote for him too! But of course Jesus didn't come to earth to be an earthly king. We will all hear Jesus tell Pilate this on Good Friday when he says, "My kingdom is not of this world."
Jesus did not come to be an earthly king and yet he provides for the people's physical needs in a way no king could ever dream, not even Moses. But this makes sense. Jesus is God. That is how he is able to create so much food. That is why he provides for them. God provides for all people, both believers and unbelievers, both righteous and unrighteous, both those who work and those who are lazy. God provides not based on our worthiness, but according to his divine fatherly goodness and mercy. Just as he provides for the birds of air and the plants of the field.
This alone is a wonderful message! We have a compassionate heavenly father, who is willing and able to provide us with all that we need in this life. This prompts our Lord to bid us, "Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. … Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:25a, 26) And surely this should be a great comfort to each of you. Do you have money problems? Are you concerned how you will make ends meet? Well the same Jesus, who had compassion on the crowd in the wilderness and fed them is the same God in heaven, who will certainly provide you with all you need.
While it is a comfort to know that God will graciously provide you with all you need it is difficult to believe. Work becomes our god. We believe that we achieve everything, because of what we do. But the farmer couldn't cause a single grain to sprout nor could the builder, engineer, or entrepreneur produce anything good unless God caused the growth. God opens his hand and provides for the needs of every living thing.
And so we should pray with confidence. Pray that God will give you your daily bread. Pray that he will feed you and clothe you. Pray that he will fix your broken back, your broken heart, your broken relationships. Pray for the impossible. Your heavenly Father loves to hear your prayers and gladly gives you what you need. And also remember to give thanks, as Jesus did, recognizing that all you have comes from God's fatherly mercy.
Although God wants you to rely on him for all you need in this life, he doesn't want you to make him a bread king either. Jesus is not simply your bread king. He provides you with something much greater than food for the belly. When the crowd finally caught up with Jesus later on in this chapter, Jesus says to 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. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you." (6:26-27)
Jesus doesn't want them to strive after things that will pass away. He is happy to feed them bread, but that is not what he has come to do. He's come to give them heavenly bread that gives eternal life. But the people don't seem interested in that. And people aren't too interested in that today either.
I'd imagine that we would get a lot more people to come to church if we provided a free meal instead a church service. Or maybe some people have enough food, but they'd come if we fed one of their other desires, a nice concert in whatever genre of music they like, coffee, beer, or financial advice. If you could get rid of back pain by coming to church, why, there'd be a line going out to the parking lot. But the fact that we offer here every Saturday night and Sunday morning the words of eternal life completely disinterests the majority of people.
Eternal life is more important than anything this earth has to offer. This is obvious. God freely gives all you need to fill your belly and richly showers you with gifts that will be gone tomorrow and he also provides you with eternal life with Jesus. Most are happy to take the temporal gifts that will pass away, but unwittingly pass up the greater gift of eternal life.
"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and, and all these things will be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33) God freely provides you with all you need in this life, so that you do not need to be anxious about this not-so-important stuff and focus on what really matters. Sadly, many worship the stuff, worry about how they'll get more stuff, become slaves of the stuff, instead of enjoying the freedom from need God gives.
I've learned recently that three year old girls "need" a lot of things. "Can I have this?", she says pointing to a book of stickers on the shelf at the store. "Why do you want that?" "Because I need it!" She needs a sticker book. Of course she doesn't need a sticker book. She wants it. Aren't we all a bunch of three year olds. "I need this. I need a new phone, new gun, new saw, new shoes. No, what you really need, what we all really need is Jesus."
Jesus said to the crowd, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (John 6:35) Jesus himself is the bread from heaven. You must eat and drink him. He is the food and drink that satisfies for eternity. Jesus continues on, "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die." (John 6:49-50)
Every millionaire has the same thing in common. They all die. Every successful farmer or business man, basketball or hockey player, hunter or fisherman, nurse, chef, whathaveyou. They all have the same thing in common. They die. There is no food you can buy in the supermarket or job you can do so well that you won't die. But everyone who eats of the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, will live forever.
After the crowd finally left Jesus, he said to his disciples, "Do you want to go away as well?" Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Peter recognized that Jesus offered something much greater than the bread he'd eaten. Word's of eternal life. Peter had faith.
Jesus himself is the bread of life. He gave himself to the whole world by dying on the cross. On the cross Jesus had clinging to him all your sins. Everything that burdens your conscience and brings death to you was hanging on Jesus. And all that filth was purged away in Jesus' blood. Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice to God for the sake of the whole world. And he offers himself to you as true food.
The way you eat of this heavenly food is through faith. Faith is that spiritual eating that receives Jesus. If you do not receive Jesus by faith, you will die in your sins. You eat this true bread of life by hearing the Gospel and believing it. This is the food Jesus wants to feed you. This is the food that will forgive your sins. This is the food that will give you eternal life.
Jesus is generous. He willingly died for the sins of all people and he freely offers this gospel, this food to be eaten in faith. Even more, to help our weak faith he gives us his true body and blood to eat and to drink in the Sacrament of the Altar. All who feast on the Lord in faith receive this Sacrament worthily and with it forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Jesus is the priceless treasure we can never go without. You can go without most of the stuff you might even call necessities. You may worry about what you'll eat or wear, but worrying never got these things for you in the past. It's already provided for you by God. But the true bread we must all desire is Jesus. Jesus comes to you through his Word and Sacraments. When you hear the Gospel and believe it, you feast on Jesus. When you receive the Sacrament and believe that you truly eat and drink the bread of life from heaven, you receive all its benefits. Whoever eats this bread will not die but will live forever. Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, give us this bread always. Amen.