Iwill never forget an Asian man, a judge, who chatted with me in the dining commons of Harvard University. Speaking as a Christian, he said, "I wish you Christians in the West could realize that we from the East, who have gone through the ravages of war, starvation, suffering, political turmoil and the loss of loved ones, have a profound wound in our hearts." And he continued, "I know that essentially the gospel is God's message of love and that while it has social implications, it is directed primarily to man's spiritual need for redemption. But it would mean so much if only we saw that you understood this wound in our hearts."
Many of those we rub shoulders with carry just such a "profound wound" in their hearts. Their response to us and the good news we share depends a lot on whether they think we really understand and care. An old Native American proverb states it, "One man should say nothing to another until he has walked in his moccasins." In spirit, at least, we need to sit and walk where they walk. When we can repeat back to them their thoughts and feelings in our own words, they will begin to trust us. From there they will be willing to think seriously about the things we care about.
It should not surprise us that the people whom God has greatly used throughout the centuries have been those who both know their Bible well and know others well. Loving both, they have made the Word relevant to others. So we begin with the biblical foundation.
On the far side of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus filled the needs of a huge crowd of people by miraculously feeding them. During the night he and his disciples recrossed the lake to Capernaum. His absence caused a stir the next day, and the crowd went searching for him.
Read John 6:25-40.
25When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"
26Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him
God the Father has placed his seal of approval."
28Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
29Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
30So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
32Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
34"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."
35Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
1. What everyday symbol runs throughout Jesus' words in this passage?
2. How did Jesus use the miracle of the preceding day to point the people to their greater spiritual need (vv. 26-27)?
3. The people's first response was "What must we do to do the works God requires?" (v. 28). How do people today try to earn God's approval through performance?