Jesus Is So Much More Than Entertainment and Free Food (John 6:24-35)

In last week’s sermon text we saw how Jesus had compassion for a large group of people by miraculously multiplying fish and bread to feed the whole group.  Christ didn’t leave them to fend for themselves, but fed them because He not only cared for their spiritual needs but their physical needs as well. 

In today’s text of John 6:24-35 we see that this same group of people comes to Jesus again, the next day.  In the middle of the night Jesus had crossed over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and when the crowd woke up, they began to search for Jesus which led them to the other side of the Sea.  Obviously at first glance this seems like a good thing.  Is it not good when people seek out Christ and go to Christ?  Should we not applaud and be excited when people go closer to Christ?  Well, here is the catch; this group of people came to Jesus with motives that were mixed if not downright wrong.   Keep in mind that the day before they were about to take Jesus by force and make him their King.  Jesus was like a rock star, and they were like hungry paparazzi following his every move.  They would’ve liked nothing more than to crown him king and to have Jesus fulfill their desires of overthrowing the Romans Empire.  They wanted him as their King, which is commendable.  However, they wanted him as a king that would be in debt to their ambitions and their desires.  These self-centered desires are only amplified and become real obvious as we look to our text today.  In our text today Jesus fleshes out their true desire for seeking him out a second time. 

There is an ugly reality to the motives that we have for following Christ.  It should come as no surprise to us that we as Christians often don’t have the best track record or motives for following and seeking out Christ.  From this text we can see that this group of people were not drawn to Jesus on the basis of his teachings but were drawn to Jesus because they were entertained by his miracles and because their bellies were filled full from food provided by Jesus, free food I might add.  Now keep in mind that the miracles that Jesus performed were holy and just.  These signs of healing the sick and multiplying the food were to serve as Jesus’ credentials, the proof that he was who he claimed to be, the Savior of the world.  These signs were to grant faith to the people.  Jesus was not trying to entertain and fill guts but create faith and serve the crowd’s physical needs.  The problem was not with the actions of Jesus but with the crowd’s response and interpretation of Christ’s actions.   

So, from the perspective of the crowd, Jesus provided free food and free entertainment, who could not be for this?  Hasn’t free food and free entertainment always drawn a crowd?  Sadly, has anything changed in our day and age with the church?  I know for myself that food and entertainment are powerful motives.  Give me good food and good entertainment where I can be “wowed” and where I can have a full stomach without having to pay anything and I am in!  Even if the entertainment isn’t that great, if there is a free meal I am so cheap that I am in!  Frankly speaking, the motives of the crowd were selfish at best.  What was so important that they had to track Jesus down on the other side of the lake?  Food and entertainment!  Jesus was like a bread vending machine that was broken and just spit out food without needing any coins while showing a great movie flick.  Is this who Jesus is, one who merely entertains and feeds?  My friends, Christ is so much more!

We want to be entertained and fed; there is no doubt about it.  In of itself, there is nothing wrong with enjoying some good food with friends, but when this becomes the main motive to go to church or to be a Christian we have serious problems.  As I think about this story I am reminded of a time while I was serving in a church in Southern California.  Every year the church down the street would actually take appeal to people’s need to be entertained and fed by advertising far and wide that there would be free “In and Out” Hamburgers at their worship service along with bouncy castles and games.  Because our worship service was a little ahead of their worship service, we would have our service and then after our service many of our parishioners would go down to that church for a free meal and some good fun.  Why not?  Just thinking about this it makes me chuckle.  The church was trying to attract people and it did, a handful of faithful attenders of the church that I pastored at.  The parishioners from my church figured, “why not take in a free meal.”  Besides this being kind of funny, the problem with this mentality and the problem with this kind of temptation for the church in our modern day and age is that to appeal to these motives of feeding and entertainment is really a distraction.  In fact this is quite easy to do.  It is extremely easy to draw a crowd my friends.  But here is why this is so detrimental, if the church gathers a crowd by entertainment and appealing to the stomach, if this is the reason why people gather, generally speaking this will be the very thing that will be needed to keep the crowd.  In other words, this crowd that surrounded Jesus looked upon the signs of Jesus as entertainment.  They thought it was great to get free food.  The next day, they wanted more.  Fill our stomach more Jesus, show us something more amazing!  “Jesus, give us a sign… impress me, wow me, make me excited and then give me food… then I will continue to follow you.” 

My friends, Jesus is so much more than mere entertainment and so much more than a bread machine.  Do you see what is happening in our text, the bread ran out from the day before, and they came back looking for more.  I am sure that Christ could’ve made some more bread, he could’ve done some more miracles but he was not content to let them merely marvel at his gifts and not see himself as the Messiah.  The reason why? Jesus was and is so much more! 

Christ exposes the crowd’s motives and he goes right for their jugular.  “Truly I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of loaves.  You had your bellies filled and you want me to do it again!  Stop worrying about your bellies and start worrying about your eternal life!”

My friends if we are totally honest with ourselves we can’t help but admit that we all struggle with the same motivations.  As we contemplate our own motives there are so many times that we look to Christ and we want to be “wowed.”  We may say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know that old Gospel story, but God do something that I want.  Give me a great sign, feed my belly and show me something that will make me want to come back the next week for more!  I don’t want the ordinary, I want something extraordinary, impress me.”  Truthfully we have our own wants and desires and our own plans.  Yes—there are times where our intentions are wrong and sinful.  There are times when we call upon Christ, not as our Savior and Deliverer but as an entertaining bread machine.  Frankly, we worry too much about our bellies and what makes us happy and not enough about our eternal life.   

My friends in Christ, the reality is that you and I have been given every sign that we need to have faith.  Just look to the Cross of Christ and what more could we ask for?  The day that Christ was crucified, the earth shook, darkness came on the land, the curtain was torn and Christ proclaimed, “It is finished!”  Do we honestly need another sign?  The tomb is empty my friends.  Christ rose from the grave.  What else do we possibly need?  

Furthermore, God doesn’t merely fill our bodies with food that is temporary; He fills us with His Body and His Blood.  This is a gift that grants us forgiveness of sins and ministers to the depths of your soul.  Mere food cannot do this my friends.  In the Lord’s Supper our souls are ministered to, and the Lord’s Supper (i.e. Communion) has eternal ramifications.  Basic food merely goes into your stomach and lasts for a while, but the Lord’s Supper is so much more!

God also has chosen not to simply entertain you into the kingdom; rather you and I are baptized into the kingdom of God.  We are washed.  We are brought from death to life.  We are counted as members of a new household.  We are marked by God, given the Holy Spirit. 

Can you imagine having a god who would have to “woo us” into the kingdom by entertainment and food?  That kind of god would be a pathetic, powerless joke!  Christ is so much more my friends.  He doesn’t entertain you, but comes to you and grants you and me faith bringing us from eternal damnation into eternal life.  He doesn’t try and hold our attention by performing signs that distract us from other alternatives; His sign of the cross and the empty grave actually do something for us!  In Christ, we are declared righteous; in Christ our sins are actually forgiven.  He doesn’t merely feed us with temporary food that only lasts awhile, but gives us the eternal Word of God that feeds our souls and mind… the Word that will never perish.   

My friends, Jesus is so much more than a circus entertainer, or a rock star entertainer.  He is so much more than a life coach or example.  Jesus is so much more than a means to another end.  Jesus is the crucified and resurrected savior who gives you certain signs and proof of God’s love for you, which surpasses all worldly understanding.  Jesus is so much more. 

In Christ, you have been Adopted as a Child of God; you have been declared not guilty of sin; you have been converted from death to life; you have been rescued from hell, the devil and God’s wrath; you have been Given the Holy Spirit and He has and will continue to Remind Us of Scripture; you have been Given the Holy Spirit and He has and will continue to  Convict Us of Sin; you have Been Sealed by the Holy Spirit; you have been given every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm.  Jesus promises never to leave nor forsake you; He has authored your faith and promises to continually perfect it.  Jesus is so much more, believe upon Christ my friends, believe in Christ.

Sources:  Sermon Studies on the Gospels: Series B (NWP) ~ Gospel Handles (Rossow) ~ Intentions and Proofs (Pastor Jason Zirbel)