Following the feeding of the five thousand, if we had been in Jesus’ position and had all these people desiring more ministry, would we have made ourselves scarce? Would we have kept away from the crowd by going up a mountain, and then walking on water to put as much distance as possible between them and us? I suspect most would have said, “This is great! They want more ministry! Let’s give it to them.”

We easily miss the question, Are the motives right? The only question our culture values is, “Does it work?” Jesus looks to the heart. We see this when the following day he probes the people’s motives for following him.

Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. John 6:26

Jesus seems to be splitting hairs. What is the difference between eating bread that came to us as a miracle and seeing signs? Are they not the same event? The difference is in the focus. If I am looking for Jesus because I ate the bread and had my fill, then I am looking for him for myself and the focus is on me. If I am looking for Jesus because I saw miraculous signs, then my focus is on Christ and I am looking for Him in order to worship Him.

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. John 6:27

This focus is then played out in our relationship with God. If the focus of my spirituality is on our physical world, what can be observed by others, then I am working for what spoils. This is counter intuitive because it includes praying for miracles of healing or wealth or success in ministry. Where the focus is on what can be observed, we are working for food that spoils.

We see an example of this –

he seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ … However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ (Luke 10:17 & 20)

Jesus specifically directs the attention of his disciples away from the miracles they have performed and back to the Father and the reward he has for them.

This begs the question: What is the food that endures to eternal life? One could be forgiven for thinking, If those in ministry get it wrong, what hope have those with secular work? Is anything of value?

 Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’ (John 6:28-29)

Jesus’ answer to this is at once simple and profound. It is as simple as receiving Jesus as saviour by faith. It is as profound as believing Jesus on an ongoing basis for all He says to us. He speaks to us of our identity, that He loves us. Are we able to believe Him that He really loves us and receive that love? He asks us to love people who are unlovely. Are we able to drop our comfort or our important work and love them? Are we able to live as He directs rather than try to use Him to get what we want out of life? This is the food that endures to eternal life. Since it cannot be measured, we may end up being seen by those we respect as the least of all, Jesus however says, the first shall be last and the last first. He is the one who knows whom He can trust, and the ones who really trust in Him.