Matt Fowler preached the conference’s first sermon and did so from John 6:22-27. These well-known verses fall shortly after the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water—two of Jesus’ most amazing miracles. This crowd had been privileged to see both of these miracles. People reacted to the feeding of the 5000 by attempting to take Jesus and to force Him to be king. Using these verses, Matt laid down the Reformed (biblical) gauntlet, so to speak. He made sure that the people in attendance know from Scripture that people cannot know God—they cannot be saved—without the prior Sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. And He challenged them to think properly about Jesus and to see Him how He really, truly is.
He looked first at the Blindness of the People which in this passage is illustrated by the question the people ask in verse 25: “Rabbi, when did you come here?” They couldn’t figure out how He got the ten miles to Capernaum and how He did it so quickly. With all the miracles He has already done, we’d think people would be beginning to figure out who Jesus is. Yet they still don’t seem to get it; no one seems to think or believe that He could have just walked across the sea. A Christian’s knowledge of the things of God is an understanding of the reality and relevance of the works of God as testified to in Scripture and in the life of Jesus. Those who don’t believe can see the same things but not understand them. There was no reality of Christ in these people’s lives. And from this we learn that, apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, we’ll never be able to see who Jesus truly is. If anyone could have done without the work of the Spirit, it would have been these people who had seen his miracles. But even they were blind.
He then turned to the People’s Motivation for Seeking Jesus which we see in Jesus’ own words. ““Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” These people were seeking Jesus because of what He could do for them. They sought Him because He had filled their stomachs the day before. They wanted only selfish gain and comfort. That’s all He was for them. And this is exactly what we hear day in and day out from many of the leaders of evangelicalism—a Jesus who does little more than fill temporal needs. They had no concept of Him being the God-man, the very Son of God. The challenge for us is to ask who Jesus is to us. Is He someone who promises to address our temporal needs or is He the One who offers so much more. When you water down Jesus, you water down the gospel. And when you water down the gospel, you water down conversion. The gospel then must start with the real Jesus Christ. Here he quoted John Piper from God is the Gospel, a favorite quote of mine:
“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever see, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”
The third point was Jesus’ Demands on the Seeker. We see that there are two commands in verse 27. “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. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” There are two commands—one negative and one positive. First, in the negative, Jesus says, “Do not labor for the food that perishes.” The people, seeing Jesus as a way to a cheap meal, began to labor after food that perishes—the wrong food. There are four reasons we must not labor after that which perishes.
- That labor is vanity
- That food does indeed perish
- That food enslaves
- That kind of labor for that kind of food leads to death
Jesus doesn’t leave us with the negative but goes on to say, “[Labor] for the food that endures to eternal life.” This is not a laboring that we are to labor to do good works that will earn salvation, but there is something for which we should seek and pursue. There is labor involved in the Christian life. There are four reasons why we are commanded to labor for the food that endures:
- This food leads to eternal life
- This food is Himself
- This food satisfies
- That kind of labor for this kind of food glorifies Him
This message, a perfect one to begin with, stood as a challenge to everyone here to see and know Jesus as He is revealed in Scripture.