Sometimes Jesus said some really out there stuff. The people in the New testament sometimes get a bad rap for not understanding what exactly Jesus meant as He was teaching them, but consider some of His statements:
– John 2.19-20
They responded that it had taken them 46 years to build the temple…they did not understand.
– John 3.3
Nicodemus asked how a grown person can re-enter his mother’s womb. He did not understand.
While sitting on the side of a well:
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
– John 4.10
The woman responded that He had no bucket to draw water. She did not understand.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
– John 6. 53-56
All of the people who were following Him just walked away. They did not understand. And were kind of grossed out.
In the twenty-first century, we now have the blessing of the completion of the Scripture – in which Jesus explains Himself, we also have the gift of the Holy Spirit who illuminates the Spiritual meaning in these statements, and we have the benefit of two thousand years of Christians’ study and theology on which to build. Many Spiritual and brilliant men and women have had beautiful insight into Jesus’ teaching and have left us helpful insights on which we can build our understanding.
Consider this teaching of Jesus, however:
“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
– John 6.27
Jesus had just fed the 5,000+ with five loaves of bread and two fish. He left the crowd of people and went to another city overnight. When the crowd saw that He was gone, they came looking for him and found him. Jesus rebuked them and said that they were only following Him because He was able to feed them, not because they truly believed in Him (John 6.26). They wanted a king who could feed their bellies. And thus He said, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life”.
What does that mean? Are we supposed to quit our jobs and try to earn our salvation?
This is one of those situations where we need to examine Scripture as a whole and let the Bible interpret itself. What else does the Bible say about working?
– Eph 4.28
“For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”
– 2 Thess 3.10
Quite frankly, the Bible tells us never to entertain freeloaders. Yes, we are commanded to meet one another’s needs in hard times and we are to support and take care of the widows and orphans, but if someone is unwilling to work then he should not be fed – as a general rule. So clearly Jesus does not mean that we are supposed to quit our jobs. In fact, Paul says that the one who does not feed and take care of his own family is worse than any sinner (1 Tim 5.8).
So what does it mean, then, to not work for food that perishes? It means that our temporal jobs and our temporal success should not be the end goal – rather our end goal is the food that endures to eternal life. We will not reach our epitome or climax in this life, it will come in the age after – and will last forever.
So how do we work for that food? Are we trying to earn our salvation?
“[Work] for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal. Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
– John 6.27-29
Thankfully, the crowd asked him exactly that: “What shall we do?” What are the works of God that lead to Jesus giving us the bread that endures to eternal life? Thankfully they understood that it is indeed the works of God that lead us to the receiving of that bread. And thankfully, Jesus answered clearly and concisely:
The works of God, that which leads to Jesus giving us the bread that endures to eternal life, is simply to believe. We are not trying to be better people. We are not trying to do great and might acts of service. We are believing in Jesus and abiding in Him.
Jesus goes on to explain in the chapter – stating five times – that He Himself is the bread that comes down from Heaven and satisfies and gives eternal life. He gives us the bread: He gives us Himself. When we believe in Him, we receive His words at Truth, we submit to Him as Lord and He begins to transform us into new creatures.
In short, we need to stop striving for success and looking for bread and provisions, but yearn for and remain in Jesus. Believe. And He will give us the bread – Himself – which endures to eternal life. So do not go quit your job, do not start trying to earn salvation. Just believe and let Him transform you.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
– Ps 34.8