To “love” someone based on what can be got from them is easy. People can be selfish in many walks of life. This can include spirituality of any kind in any context if the agenda is selfish and getting a spiritual high. Even to “love” divinity but having your hand out to receive as an end in itself is a common trait and not true seeking. It may get you in the door but it will not keep you in a place of closeness to divine, self-giving love. The contrast is sharp in this manner: to love people and use things rather than love things and use people. Such a change is enlightening. From there is an opportunity to be cleansed in participating, really obeying, what God’s plan is for you which is full of meaning to a reachable point. Ultimately, God proposes joining which is meaningful, full of mystery and a marriage proposal to become a Bride which is the Church. Such a mystery is what Jesus unfolds one day at a synagogue in Capernaum.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:25-33).
not because you saw signs- Jesus is speaking to their spiritual blindness ironically because they are going by what makes sense by the senses. He is making a passing remark that they saw but did not get it the spiritual reality that it all speaks to. This is a theme in the gospels when Jesus or a gospel writer remarks directly on how there are those with hard hearts who see but do not understand.
but because you ate the loaves and were filled- Jesus goes now for how they discern only the shallow, carnal things. As an addictions counselor I say often that external motivations for sobriety will only get you into treatment. The journey for recovery is to find out what you are on the inside, what matters and be consistent with true values.
but for the food that endures for eternal life… For on him the Father, God, has set his seal— Often for Jesus to propose the need is there first to provoke. Jesus as the heart of Christianity is that standard bearer of the seal of identity that proceeds ultimately from God the Father.
Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal. Christians are also marked with a seal: “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has commissioned us; he has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:22) This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial (Catechism of The Catholic Church, 1994, para. 1296).
Jesus here breaks ground with the audience on how the kingdom of God is about a kingship that is by covenant. The allusions to the manna in the time of Moses points to covenant but it is always to be read by a family lens with Jesus being the Son of God.
This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent– Jesus makes a point here of a conversion point to happen but it must be understood as a conversion beyond mental assent and not just the opposite of disbelief. In the same gospel there is an actually a different definition implied than what is thought of in contemporary society today. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him” (John 3:36). What is implied is that to believe is to obey. James addresses this as well.
Indeed someone may say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.” See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:18-24).
Jesus and his kinsman James are both showing that a response to God is spiritual and measurable in some way. As we will see going forward in this entire passage, most of that audience were not ready for that dimension of what is said among others.
There is also another dimension to believe in “the one he sent” and it is to not be dependent on the evidence. Thomas the apostle doubted the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus showed up and told him to put his fingers in his hand and his side and then he believed. Jesus said “Blessed are those who do not see but believe” (John 20:29).
What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? — The audience almost asks the right question. What they would get if they were to get their sign would be entertainment and a Jesus-on-demand experience. Jesus would not be known as Lord and they would not participate tangibly on Christ’s agenda.
But Jesus has an answer on this always as they stumble into more clarity. In the cross is the work and message of infinite love expressed in self-giving which he teaches in other ways elsewhere.
He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights (Matthew 12:39-40).
In The Case for Jesus, Brant Pitre makes the case that Jonah was actually dead in the whale and then came back to life. If true, Jesus communicated in the Matthew passage that the fulfillment of victory through death is in the cross. This is the good news and inconvenient truth.
To follow Jesus with a bias to that last point is a serious thing and even a dangerous thing if Jesus is a liar, lunatic or legend. But however one falls to their knees and says, “My Lord and my God” the Christian faith is known as a divine and materially as the true faith. As we will see, Jesus is just warming up. First Jesus is interesting. As we will see, next he gets offensive.