In the AD 30 incident above Jesus seems to have pinpointed the motive of the crowd. Can a crowd have a single motive? It would seem so. The motive was to be fed for nothing. To consume without having to work.
Does that ring a bell? Does the Jersey crowd as 2010 draws to a close have the same single thought? Oh to be able to eat every day without having to work! Maybe it’ll be the lottery! Maybe my inheritance!
The desire to be fed without having to work also gives rise, for some, to borrowing now and paying later. The 2010 global “crowd” has been doing this – and it’s failed.
Some months ago a man in Jersey committed suicide. He was absolutely certain that he would inherit very significant property when his mother died - because his father who was already dead had willed the property to him. But his mother enjoyed, as long as she lived, the life-interest in the property (known as the “usufruct”). Why then this suicide? He had used up his inheritance by borrowing against this “certainty”. He couldn’t repay and the bank would lend him no more. His mother died after him....
This AD 30 crowd, however (see bold above), had seen that they could all be fed (5,000 + of them) with five small loaves and two fishes – by Jesus. So they pursued him across the Lake of Galilee (in present day Northern Israel) by crowding into borrowed boats and on land until they found him.
It does seem that Jesus was deeply aware that “labour” was hard.
So many in Jersey in these difficult times are going through a time of hard labour – so as to live. But Jesus’ message is that none of the crowd – no individual in it – shouldlabour like that so as to obtain “the food that perishes” but instead labour like that so as to obtain “the food that endures to eternal life......”
“.......the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. Because on him God the Father has set his seal.”
So the message to every single person in that crowd was that each should earnestly obtain the food that endures to eternal life – food that would be “given” to them. Jesus wanted humankind to give as much attention to the one as to the other. Each person in the crowd was being invited to give a work-kind-of-attention to obtaining this gift of eternal life from Jesus himself.
Often in exam papers a question ends with the words, “Give reasons.” And often with Jesus, after he has made an important statement, he gives reasons. In this case there’s one reason. His instruction to “labour for the food that endures to eternal life that the Son of Man will give you” is to be followed because “on him God the Father has set his seal.” A seal on a contract is the most formal and certain way by which a company confirms that the contract is the company’s contract.
Had God the Father set his seal on this man there in Galilee? The previous day 5,000 people were fed – fed without labour – by Jesus. And twelve baskets full of bread were left over – for others.
Was that a seal? A seal from the Father? A seal confirming that this man, Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, was in truth the Son of God.
No wonder, in that case, that he is able to give eternal life (the life of the eternal God himself) to “you” (as he told the crowd).......
And what did they do? They turned to religion instead. “What must we do to be working the works that God requires of us?” They forgot they had been fed as a gift the day before.