There are only a few stories that all 4 Gospels writers tell, the feeding of the 5000 is among them. After the story, we get a unique perspective from Jesus’ best friend John,
“Believe me,” replied Jesus, “you are looking for me now not because you saw my signs but because you ate that food and had all you wanted. You should not work for the food which does not last, but for the food which lasts on into eternal life. This is the food the Son of Man will give you, and he is the one who bears the stamp of God the Father.” (John 6:26-27)
Jesus’ statement, “You ate that food and had all you wanted…” sounds like he is getting onto the people for coming back for a simple provision of food, for missing the bigger offer, for believing “small”. Jesus is indicating that the people are coming back for another light meal. He sensed they were timidly asking for “just a little more Jesus and we will leave you alone… If it’s not too much trouble Jesus we will be over here…if you have time.” Sound familiar?
Jesus overlooks the small thinking and continues,
29 “The work of God for you,’ replied Jesus, ‘is to believe in the one whom he has sent to you.’”
This phrase “the work” occurs 150 times in the Hebrew and Greek texts. The first time we see “the work” is in Gen 2:2 “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” God was obviously doing the work that, “lasts on into eternal life” (above), and any Jewish male raised in that culture would have been very aware of the work. So when Jesus uses this phrase he is connecting the listeners that day all the way back to the beginning of the story. That was the work then (for God) and this is the work now.
Jesus uses a phrase right after the word believe that is only fully understood in the Greek, εἰς (into). Believe into. This is a much different idea than believing in something. To believe in is to buy into a concept or accept something as factual. To believe into is to commit to someone not knowing what the outcome will be. “I am with you Jesus and I believe that life with you is the only way to go.” Believing into is going “all in” without any guarantee of how things are going to go in this relationship with Jesus. It involves commitment, risk and trust in the person not certain outcomes.
So, are we believing big or believing small? Do we believe in, or into Jesus? The promise is eternal life (which is not some time in the future but includes today) for those who believe big and believe into himself. I want that…I want Him.