There is no doubt that the people, and the disciples, were awed by the signs and teaching of Jesus. Feeding 5000 men plus women and children by using a boy’s lunch impressed the people, so much so that they followed Jesus to the other side of the lake. They couldn’t get enough of him.
Knowing their hearts, Jesus told them the truth, “…You are looking for me, not because you saw the 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.” (vv. 26-27)
Hearing this, the crowd had a question, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (v.28) Isn’t this always the question? Our nature always thinks we should be doing something to receive eternal life.
Jesus’ answer points them in a different direction: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (v.29) Eternal life is always the result of grace; never works, no matter how good.
The crowd wasn’t finished with their questions. They still weren’t getting it. They hearkened back to Moses: “What miraculous sign then will you give us that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (vv30-31)
Jesus’ reply is striking, “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. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (vv32-33)
The people want this bread. “Sir, from now on give us this bread.” (v34)
Jesus’ answer couldn’t be more clear, “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…” (v35) This is the first of the several “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John.
“What a thrilling surprise: we work in God’s behalf by letting Him work in our behalf!” Francis C. Rossow (Lextionary Preaching Resources: Series B by Francis Rossow and Gerhard Aho, Concordia Publishing House, p.198, 1987)