16When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
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.”
I have a shameful secret to share. As much as I love food, I also love shows or documentaries about food. I've been watching the PBS series through Netflix, "The Mind of a Chef," Season One, with David Chang, narrated by Anthony Bourdain. I've also been a regular viewer of Bourdain's "No Reservations," Zimmern's "Bizzare Foods," Richman's "Man v. Food," and even, when my self-esteem is low and I'm desperate, Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." (For whatever reason, this last show seems to be on an endless loop in every hotel I've stayed. Turn on the Food Network, guess what's on, no matter the time of day or night? Like traffic that slows down to see a car wreck on the other side of the road, it's hard for me to turn this off without at least seeing a little bit of it even if I've seen it before. But I know I'm not the only one. In fact I see some of you reading this devotional, thinking all high and good about yourself. But be honest: you're a food show junkie too. If you're not, I'm sorry. I apologize. You're great. The rest of us are not. Food shows make us passive-aggressive.)
So when I read the passage above, I can easily empathize with the crowd who sought after Jesus mainly because of a free lunch. Hunger or gluttony can be a powerful drive. Food is the original addictive drug. When you're really hungry or when you want something particular to eat, your mind is stuck on food until you satisfy that hunger or craving. Again, I speak as a person familiar with such experience. But of course what Jesus is saying in this passage above is more than about food. His larger point is that people come looking for Jesus for something other than what's best about Jesus: Jesus Himself! To come looking for Jesus to fill one's stomach with bread and fish is really ridiculous given who Jesus really is.
But as ridiculous as this sounds, many of us come to Jesus for something other than Jesus. These things we seek are not all bad, like a "good life," a "good wife," a peace of mind, a good "religious education for the kids," etc. I know that many first generation Koreans in the 70's and 80's went to church, not necessarily to worship God, but to get some business contacts and connect with other Koreans. I know that churches still function as places where you can meet people, perhaps find a date or someone "special" to spend the rest of one's life. Jesus knows our motives, our predicaments, our reasons for coming to church. And for people who do not yet know Jesus, why else would they come? If they are ill, Jesus can heal. If they are disturbed, Jesus can give peace. If they are lonely, Jesus can give love. The list of our needs and Jesus' ability to meet those needs are long. And it is a good thing that people come to Jesus, for whatever needs they might have.
However, sooner or later, people who come to Jesus should see that it is Jesus Himself who is the Supreme Value. He is the Pearl of Great Price. He is that Treasure Hidden in the Field. He is the Bread of Life. Sooner or later we ought to see the Truth of Who Jesus Is. It is not so much the many wonderful things He can give -- and He will certainly give us things we need -- but the real Joy of Discovery in life is the Discovery of Jesus, the Son of God and Lover of our Souls, the Messiah and Saviour, the King who is our Redeemer and Friend, our Good Shepherd and our Benefactor, our Mighty One and our Humble Washer of our feet, our Commander and Confidante, our Leader and Counselor, our Crucified and Risen Lord.
May we discover Jesus today!
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we want to get to know you better and deeper today. Amen.