The crowd that had stayed on the other side of the lake saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’
The crowds said to Jesus: Rabbi, when did you come here?
These few words from today’s reading help us to consider our awareness of Jesus’ constant presence with us as we journey through the challenges with which we are confronted each and every day of our earthly lives. Immediately preceding this reading we hear of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand and of his walking on the water as the storm raged about his terrified disciples. Then comes this moment when the crowds felt that they understood what they had seen but were speedily disabused of their ‘certainty’. In their earth-bound confusion, Jesus teaches with these words: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.
Today’s reading occurs long before the events we recall and celebrate in the season of Easter. However, these words provide us with the challenge and the guidance that will strengthen and sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith.
As we put today’s reading into context we see that it follows on from two miraculous events: the feeding of so many from so little and the defying of a fundamental physical law of which we feel we can be absolutely certain. Then, as the crowds gather around him, Jesus speaks of belief in the one sent by God, that is faith in that which cannot be seen with our human vision. Jesus is preparing those crowds for the time when they will not be able to gather around him and demand an explanation. Jesus is preparing them for how they should be ready to greet the greatest miracle of all – the resurrection. Jesus is warning them, and us, of the greatest possible test of faith – belief that God fulfilled the ancient prophecies not only by sending his Son to live out an earthly life, but that he also brought that Son through the experience of death into a glorious life of resurrection triumph.
The question is: where are we in all this? Are we doing the work of God by living our lives as ones who believe in Christ’s resurrection, or are we still looking for those signs which keep us rooted behind the barrier we erect between God and ourselves?
Let us pray for the strength of faith that will allow us to believe in him whom God has sent without fear or uncertainty.