22The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24So 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. 25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26Jesus 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. 27Do 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.”
28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30So 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? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32Then 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. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35Jesus 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.
The crowd is confused – Jesus performed this great miracle and then he disappeared. He didn’t go with the disciples; they had seen them get into the boat without him. But he was not around there. (“the crowd” is treated as a character, behaving as a whole). And so, they get into boats and go across the sea to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him they asked how and when he got there. But Jesus is not flattered by their attentions; he tells them they searched for him because they had eaten all the bread they wanted and they wanted to keep getting bread, not because they believed. They cannot see beyond the present, beyond the literal food they ate. They should work, or be searching, for nourishment for their souls, not their bodies. Physical food is temporary; but the Son of Man will give them food for eternal life. We are reminded of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman about living water.
The crowd says, sort of, “OK, so what do we have to do to get this bread?” It is much like the Samaritan woman’s wanting the “living water” so she would not have to draw from the well. Like her, they are still thinking literally – they want specific works to get them into heaven. And haven’t we seen that in our own time? Don’t we sometimes behave just like the crowd? “Give us a list; we’ll do only so much as is required.” But Jesus says that’s not the way it works – the “work” they (and we) must do is to believe in him.
And then, guess what – they want another sign! Jesus has just fed 5000 from five small loaves, but now they want manna from heaven, as Moses had given the people. Jesus tells them the manna did not come from Moses but from God, and it is the Father God who gives the true bread that gives life to the world. And so, again like the Samaritan woman, they say, “Give us this bread.” And Jesus says, “I AM the bread of life.”
And we will pick up here tomorrow, for there is much more to be said!