Guest post by Rob Tims
Hearing of Jesus’ many miracles between Jerusalem and Galilee, the Galilean peasants put aside their daily labor during the Passover season in order to track Jesus down, see him perform miracles, and perhaps even listen to him teach.
The throng of 10,000 approached Jesus and his disciples. Knowing these people lived daily to simply feed themselves and survive, Jesus made his move. Starting with five biscuits and two small portions of fish provided by a child, Jesus fed the crowd and collected a dozen baskets worth of leftovers.
As one might expect, the crowd went wild as they came to comprehend the miracle they had just experienced. And yet, something wasn’t quite right about their reaction to Jesus’ work. They had in mind to make this miracle-worker their political king, yet Jesus had something else in mind. He fled them as they attempted to force their will, but their hot pursuit brought them together again the next day.
It’s at this stage that Jesus confronts this crowd with their error. At their core, these peasants are materialists. Their primary interest in Jesus lies in his ability to feed them so they no longer have to work hand to mouth. As Bruce Milne puts it, “They are so obsessed with the material world that they are not able to see that the true blessing which God is offering them is not on that level at all.”
This is what happens to us when we operate with a materialistic mindset with Jesus. We’re OK with him … even enamored with him … to the extent that our needs we perceive he can meet are met. To the degree that we get some semblance of an answer or direction in our life issues, we are “OK” with Jesus.
I find Bruce Milne’s words very convicting here.
Galileans are still met around Christian congregations today. They are down-to-earth folks who “don’t go in for this Bible study and prayer stuff,” or who don’t believe in “taking religion too far.” They are “practical Christians” who “live in the real world,” and whose motto text is “God helps those who help themselves.”
To which Jesus says in John 6:29. “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” The real miracle is not the feeding of the thousands or the healing of the sick: the real miracle is belief in Jesus as Christ.
We should be wary of the materialist mindset. It’s a subtle yet powerful form of idolatry that never values Jesus for who He is, only for His gifts (and even then only if those gifts are desired).
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.