John 6:16-29 NKJV
16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. 18 Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. 19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.
22 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone— 23 however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks— 24 when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?”
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
Jesus has just fed the 5,000, and “when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone” (15). Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus made the disciples get into the boat, He dismissed the crowd, and then He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray (Mt 14:22-23; Mk 6:45-46).
That night they were having difficulty as they headed toward Capernaum because of a strong wind. Then, in the darkness, out on the water, they saw what they think was a ghost, and they cried out in fear (Mt 14:26; Mk 6:49-50). “But He said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid’” (20). These words are a comfort to His disciples.
Jesus also has words that challenge the other followers: “You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (26-27). Luther explains these words: “How does Christ the Lord handle this problem? He wanted to turn the people away from such an illusion and such a selfish attitude, to draw them from the belly to the Spirit, to show them that the proclamation of the Gospel was not intended to afford them food for the body and earthly goods but rather to give something far superior to food and drink, house and home, wife and children. It is by no means the purpose of the Gospel to instill greed, a sense of smugness, and a spirit of indolence.… It is as though He were saying: ‘I will supply you with a different kind of food. Why do you want to be such wretched beggars and seek and desire such paltry morsels and trifles from Me? I want to give you a different sort of food, which will not perish, bread that will endure to eternity, which will not let you die but will preserve you for everlasting life’” (AE 23:8). Christ would feed us spiritually, as well.
Let us pray: O God, by the humiliation of your Son you raised up the fallen world. Give your faithful people constant gladness, deliverance from the danger of eternal death, and make us partakers of eternal joys; through the same Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.