In John chapter 6, soon after Jesus feeds 5,000 plus people with a few loaves and fishes, the crowd demands more. No gratitude, just demandingness. First, they demand Jesus use his power to set up his earthly kingdom for their benefit. The Apostle John records…
After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:14-15)
When Jesus evades the demands of the crowd, they pursue him. Again, not to thank him, or to worship him, or to follow him, but to demand more. In their words…
“What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (John 6:30-31)
It seems that when we encounter an example of the limitless power of God, humans may respond in one of two ways: 1) A humble desire to gratefully serve God, or 2) A demanding desire for God to serve us.
This second option is all too common throughout religious history. Our imaginations can be carried away by our agendas and we find our hope in the hijacking of God’s power for our earthly kingdoms, whether those are religious, political, personal, cultural, or financial kingdoms. This is why the power of Jesus must never be untethered from the teaching and example of Jesus, for as Jesus says,
The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. (John 6:63)
So Jesus responds to the crowd’s demandingness with powerful teaching about the greatest miracle of all – himself. First Jesus corrects their assertion, then he brings it all back to himself…
Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. … I am the bread of life. (John 6:32-35)
In other words, to recap…
- First, Jesus fed 5,000 people in one afternoon with some cheap barley loaves.
- Second, the crowd reacts by demanding that Jesus do better, since Moses fed all Israel with heavenly bread for forty years.
- Third, Jesus corrects the crowd, pointing out that i) it was Jesus’ own Father, not Moses, who fed Israel with the manna, and ii) now this same God is feeding the whole world with the true bread from heaven, and iii) this will sustain them, not for forty years, but forever. Manna bread has now become Man bread in Jesus.
I read one theologian who calls the demandingness of the crowd in this passage the ancient heresy of Moreism – that is, our desire for more of what Jesus can do for us, rather than resting in Jesus himself as being enough for us. But according to Jesus, he is God’s greatest miracle of provision. Jesus is enough.
Jesus will go on to teach his disciples that their true source of sustenance will always be Jesus…
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. (John 6:54-56)
Jesus himself is our food and drink. Our appetites can be satisfied in Christ, because through Jesus we can begin to experience the full intimacy our hearts crave (“remains in me, and I in them“). Many of us reading this consider ourselves Christ-followers, but if you find yourself habitually coming to Jesus because of what he can do for you, then you may be a Moreist. To help deconvert you from your Moreism, Jesus will help you change your appetites in the first place.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
“Righteousness” simply means right-relatedness, being in right relationship with God and others. This is what we truly want, if we can rest in Jesus as enough. So Jesus counters the heresy of Moreism with the orthodoxy of Enoughism – as he said to the Apostle Paul…
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
This is a good opportunity for all of us to pause and ponder – Am I drawing close to Jesus because I subconsciously believe he supports my cause and can empower my plans? Am I a Moreist?
“Just give us a sign!” the people cry out, in the first century and the twenty-first century. And in so doing, we miss the greatest sign of all: the person and teaching of Jesus.
For many years I was an evidential Moreist. I kept telling myself that I just needed more evidence, then I could follow Jesus wholeheartedly. I just needed a sign from God. Maybe you’ve been in the same place. If so, let’s close by trying A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT…
Suppose Jesus responded to your request for more evidence and tonight as you lay your head on your pillow the room filled with white light and you sat up to see a ten foot tall glowing Jesus standing at the foot of your bed. Giant Jesus says, “I have heard your request for more evidence, so here you go. It’s me. Resurrected Big Boy Jesus, making an appearance just for you. Are you ready to follow me now?” To which you say a resounding “yes!” So Jesus continues…
“Good! Now here’s the first few things we’ll work on in your life. You know that person who hurt you so terribly you never want anyone to bring them up to you in conversation ever again? I’m going to help you forgive them. And you know that person whom you’ve hurt, but you don’t think it is a very big deal? Well, it is to them, and I’m going to help you go to them and repent. And you know those thoughts you’ve had of divorcing your spouse that you nurture to help you feel hope? I’m going to help you reconcile and recommit and find hope for something even better. And you know that anger you’ve been holding onto because it makes you feel morally superior in your judgement over everything that’s wrong with the world? I’m going to help you give that up and replace it with love as your moral compass and your motivating power. And not only will I help you to love your friends, family, neighbours, and strangers, but I will also help you love your enemies. I will help you to actually do good deeds for those people who hate you, and to say good words to and about those people who slander you, and to pray for those people who mistreat you. And you know that job promotion you have just been offered? I think you should turn it down, since it will demand more time and you are already not engaged enough with your family. And you know that new car/home/clothing/vacation/phone you were looking forward to getting? Don’t. Live beneath your means so you can give more away. And while we’re on the topic of finances, you know why you never have enough? Because you live like you belong in this culture, rather than as an ambassador to this materialistic culture on behalf of another kingdom, where simplicity and generosity are the norm. And you know why you feel like you never have enough time to do the things you know you should do? Because you spend too much time doing the things I never asked you to do. You’re missing the abundant life because you’ve exchanged quality for quantity and you are sinking beneath the weight of it. I’m going to help sensitize your conscience so that your lifestyle priorities change. I like to call it picking up your cross and dying to self. Now, let’s get you baptized and then we’ll be on our way. Ready to go???”
If Jesus performed a miracle right in front of you and then called you to follow him, I mean really follow him, would you? Maybe. Or maybe you would walk away sad, like the rich young ruler, unwilling to give up all to follow Jesus. My point is, you probably don’t need more evidence, or more direction, or more blessing, or more miracles. You already have enough. Jesus is enough.