Does Jesus want you to achieve your life’s hopes and dreams, or is He your hope and dream?
In John 6, there is a fantastic shift in affection for Jesus with regard to the general public. To the degree that He meets their materialist needs, Jesus is a smash hit. Yet the moment He calls the public on the carpet to be all about Him on His terms, not theirs, Jesus quickly becomes a one-hit wonder, ministering to a bewildered Sunday school class instead of thousands.
A consumer is a huge fan of a company to the extent that its products meet the consumer’s expectations, desires, and needs. For example, I recently transferred my retirement account to a new broker. The new broker offered superior services for the same costs as my previous one and offered a few bonuses that finally enticed me to make the change.
As the crowd became enamored with Jesus’ ability to fill their stomachs, Jesus went to the heart: “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (6:27). In other words, “Don’t pursue the materialistic blessings I’m capable of giving, but pursue me and the eternal life I alone can give.”
The result to Jesus’ ministry could be perceived as devastating. His followers and enemies grumbled about him and argued with each other about him … so Jesus backed down and compromised. Actually, Jesus went for the jugular, emphasizing the sovereignty of God instead of man’s free will (v. 37, v. 39, v. 44, etc.). It’s all about Him, and He alone gives life.
So was the crowd. So were his disciples. So Jesus backed down … except, really, Jesus doubled down: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (v. 63).
The result? The apparent dismantling of a successful ministry.
The real result? A crucial confession from the church’s future leader (v. 68): “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Jesus isn’t interested in attracting a large following: He’s interested in giving eternal life to those who believe in Him on His terms, not theirs.
On whose terms are you following him?
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. —Psalm 37:4
Rob Tims has been married to Holly for nearly 15 years. They have four children: Trey (10), Jonathan (9), Abby (1), and Luke (born April 10). He has served in the local church for 20 years as a children’s pastor, student pastor, and senior pastor. He currently serves on a team at Lifeway Christian Resources that develops customized Bible studies for groups and teaches two classes for Liberty University School of Divinity Online. He is the author of the book Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt.