Seeking For Jesus
“When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.”
Earlier in John 6, Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish. After that astonishing miracle, he went away, but the people were so impressed and awed that they “took shipping”—that is, they got into boats—and went to Capernaum, “seeking for Jesus.”
They were seeking him for the wrong reasons—not because of the gracious words that he spoke, not to thank him for the food that they had received, but because they hoped he would continue to do this same miracle and feed them again and again. They sought Jesus for material gain. Thus, they represent all those who make a profession of faith for the sake of worldly advantage. They represent those preachers who are only in it for the money. Given what most preachers get paid, I do not think there are very many of them, but there are some, I suppose.
Those who “took shipping” also represent people who make a profession of religion for business or social considerations. They come to church because it is the thing to do, because they want to be noticed. They are like Judas in that they follow the Lord, hoping that it means dollars for their pocketbook, and, like Judas, they will sell the Lord at the first opportunity, but they are not selling the Lord, they are selling their souls.
Now as I have said most of the people in v24 sought Jesus for material gain, but not all. Some sought him because in one way or another they recognized God in him, and sought him for spiritual gain.
The personalities of those who came to Capernaum for spiritual gain were not all that different from those who sought Jesus for material gain. It is still that way today. Those who seek for Jesus are sinners, much like other sinners. Some folks have the idea that when we begin seeking for Jesus we suddenly become filled with all sorts of saintliness and holiness, and they are disappointed to discover that such is not so. Seekers are still just people, still a mixture of good and bad.
Seekers remind me of those places along the seacoast called salt marshes. Salt marshes are places where the ocean meets the land and both ocean and land are so mingled together that they are neither the one nor the other but a conglomeration of both. Even so, those who seek for Jesus are on the edge of a spiritual ocean, but still very much of a worldly land. They are not yet one or the other. They are deciding which they shall be.
But let us say this for those who are in the spiritual salt marshes: they have hope. Hope is the blossom that foretells the coming of the fruit. Seekers have hope that their seeking will yet bear the fruit of finding.
Furthermore, it must be said that they are going in the right direction. If they sought only sinful pleasure, they would be facing the pit of hell, but in fact they are turned the other way. They are facing the heights of heaven, and thus they have hope that their life is worthwhile both now and forever.
Jesus is the object of their search because they know that nothing else is worth seeking. Salvation from sin and hell should be the first thing we want, but where shall we find such salvation? Only in the crucified one. Thus, if we are seeking for Jesus, we are on the right road. We have not yet reached our destination, but at least we are going in the right direction and that gives us some hope of reaching the right destination.
People who are on the road to Jesus begin to do the things that are pleasing to God. Perhaps they never prayed before in their lives. Now they turn naturally to their heavenly father. They never read a word in that Bible that has been gathering dust on the bookshelf for years. Now they brush the dust off and begin to look into it. The Holy Spirit is leading them in love toward Jesus.
And Jesus is never far from us. In the OT book of Numbers, chapter 21, the people of Israel were marching toward Canaan, and they wandered into an area that was infested with poisonous snakes. Many were bitten and died, and the people cried out to God for help. God directed Moses to make a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole and carry it with them on the march. When anyone was bitten by a snake, if he would look upon the bronze serpent with the expectation of being healed, God would heal him.
Even so, we have been bitten by the serpent of sin. The remedy for sin is to look upon the crucified one. And as the OT bronze serpent was with the people, even so Jesus is with us. We do not have to climb up to heaven to find him, nor do we have to dive down to hell. His very name says where he is. He is Immanuel—God with us. A prayer will reach him, a wish will find him, a groan will pierce his heart. Hide under the shadow of the cross, and you will be saved. But the seeking sinner has not yet seen the cross that is so near. She is eagerly looking in foreign places for that which is at home. She is thinking about strange new religions when she only needs the old gospel she already has.
Also, some seekers have such complicated expectations about God, that they miss the simplicity of God in the gospel. They think that it is all a deep mystery that they must work their way or think their way through, and to simply have faith, seems to easy. They are like a person looking for a ladder who bypasses an escalator because they are so intent on finding a ladder. The plan of salvation is not a ladder that we work our way up; it is an escalator that lifts us up to the favor of God. we are sinners who put our faith in Jesus, the substitute for sinners. That is the gospel.
The seeker after Jesus is like a soldier on the battlefield who is wounded and is bleeding to death. The medic is nearby, and the soldier calls to him and pleads with him for help and the medic comes over to bind up his wounds, but suppose the soldier says, “I have changed my mind, I don’t want your help. I would rather lay here and bleed to death.” That would be incredibly foolish, but some folks who are dying spiritually say exactly that. They are dying the second death, the death of the soul. They seek for help and Jesus is there to help them, but they refuse to trust in him. They draw back. They would rather die. And so all their seeking avails them nothing.
We might add that the longer a seeker seeks, the more danger she is in of never finding, and the more time she is wasting, time that could be spent in living for Jesus. Thus, we should emphasize that the time to accept Jesus is now. Think of it this way, had the seeker believed in Jesus at the very first, she would have had light then. She would have had peace then. The seeker gains nothing by delay. In fact, delaying a decision about Jesus can only bring the seeker nearer to total disaster.
The seeker is like one who has been asleep in a burning house. The cries of those who would save him have broken his deadly slumber. He starts up in horror. The flames have cut off his escape by the door. He runs to the window. The firemen arrange the net below and yell, “Jump, jump, we will catch you. This is his one and only way of escape, but he must take a leap of faith—he must trust the firemen’s net--or he will not escape. So it is with a spiritual crisis. We must take the leap of faith and believe on Jesus, or we will never escape the fires of hell.
Some people are so foolish as to think that they can continue forever as seekers after truth, but that is not the way it usually works. Usually they seek for awhile and then they give up. They may have once thought some about Jesus, but they never made a commitment, and gradually their zeal fades and they cease to seek. They say, “I did not find anything, so perhaps there is nothing to find.” Thus, they blame God for their own lack of faith, and go their way with sullen hearts and condemned souls.
Or, they say, “I thought of all these great ways of pleasing God and was very sincere, but I never seem to get anywhere.” Of course, they never got anywhere, because they were sincerely wrong. The Bible does not say that being sincere will make us pleasing to God.
Most people who think that they are “seeking for Jesus” are really half-asleep. They are better off than the rest of the world which is entirely asleep, but they are still about half asleep themselves, and so they stumble around here and there, like so many near-sighted moles. Then the Holy Spirit pricks them and wakes them up, they realize the peril of their position. Their sins that once seemed such trifles now rise before them like mountains of blackness. They fear the day of Judgment when all their sins will be laid before them and the sentence of wrath will be pronounced on them. They know that something must be done. They must stop seeking, they must come to a decision; they must make their salvation sure.
A strange custom of the OT illustrates the awakened sinner’s need. OT law operated upon the basis of retribution and clan vengeance. If a person killed another person, either accidentally or intentionally, then the dead person’s family clan would designate certain “avengers of blood,” and these avengers would go after the killer and kill him. Now the manslayer had one appeal. He could flee to a designated city, called a “city of refuge” and make his case to the elders of the city. If they were convinced that the killing was accidental, they could grant him leave to live in the city, and, as long as he lived there, the avengers could not kill him.
Suppose then that you live in OT Israel, and you are involved in an accidental killing. For example, you are swinging an ax. The axhead comes off and kills your neighbor. You know what is going to happen. The “avengers of blood” are not going to read you your rights, they are not going to arrest you. They are going to kill you as soon as they see you. The city of refuge may be many miles away, but that is your only chance. So, we all know what you are going to do. You are going to run for that city with every iota of strength and stamina that you have, and you will not count yourself safe because you are running. No way. While you are running, you are desperately afraid that the avengers are going to catch you. You will not think yourself safe until you get inside the city gates.
So it is with our souls. We may be running toward Jesus, but that is not enough. We are not saved until we lay hold of Jesus by faith.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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