When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father 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.”
So 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 hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
There is more to life than bread
In ancient Rome, when the people had enough of their rulers and were on uproar, ready for uprising, the emperor had a ready answer: bread and circus. When they had eaten and were entertained and thrilled (often by combat of gladiators), they would forget their higher aspirations for a better life or freedom.
People are looking for benefactors to look after them. In John’s Gospel, Jesus multiplies bread and fish out of genuine concern for the crowd, and not for anything else.
The people (Jews) obviously see in him a benefactor, a man of God, a prophet who will attend to their needs. They plan to carry him off to make him king. When Jesus withdraws, they do not give up; they follow him across Lake Tiberias to Capernaum.
When the Jews find Jesus, they engage him in an uneasy conversation: “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus senses this uneasiness and exposes the reason: “You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” The people pretend to be interested in Jesus, but in truth, they come to him for selfish and materialistic motives. Jesus challenges them to look not for material but for spiritual satisfaction. He wants the people to perceive the miracle as a “sign,” a “seal” of God working to bring people closer to himself who gives bread “that endures for eternal life.”
The Jews sense that the miracle of the loaves is a possible sign from God who wants to reveal Jesus as the “One sent.” They perceive that the miracle can have connections with the Exodus miracle of manna. But they think that Jesus’ miracle of the loaves, from all considerations, cannot be compared with the manna that rained down from heaven (Ps 78:24).
Jesus explains that the gift of manna cannot be greater than the miracle of the bread and fish. Moses did not provide the manna. He only prayed for it from God who worked out the miracle.
But with Jesus something greater happens. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” “I am” is the traditional name of God (Ex 3:14). Hence, with Jesus, God does not only give the gift of bread as the manna, but God is giving himself. In Jesus, God is both the giver and the gift, and comes to us to be our bread, our life. Like bread, which we must eat daily to live, God desires to be with us in the everyday ordinariness of our lives.
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2021,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.