Do you have to see something to believe it? Perhaps a better question is, “When you see something, does it make you believe?” This idea of “seeing” and “believing” is a recurring theme in the gospel of John. The idea is that Jesus came so that men and women could “see” God in the flesh, and as they witnessed His miracles and heard His teaching, they would believe.
In John 6, a large crowd followed Jesus up on the side of a mountain “because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick.” This happened a lot. Jesus would come to a town and heal a few individuals, and word would spread like wildfire. In no time, He would be surrounded by a crowd, jostling for a better view, trying to get to the front to “get some” of the power and miracles that were happening. We only get a few of the stories; Jesus did many more things we never read about.
This particular day Jesus taught for several hours, and when it was time for the crowd to go home, He asks His disciples to feed them. There were about 5,000 men, plus women and children (perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 people). The immediate thought was to buy bread, but as Philip pointed out, it would take over half a year’s wages to give everyone a small portion – money they didn’t have.
You know the story. Jesus has them sit down in orderly groups and multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed them all. Everyone ate until they were satisfied and there were leftovers for later. Twenty thousand people witnessed this miracle. They saw and heard what happened with their own eyes. Yet when we find the followers of Jesus after His crucifixion, they only number about 120.
Seeing is not always believing.
What strikes me is that Jesus didn’t just feed the people in the crowd that He knew were true followers. He fed the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He fed the haters, the doubters, and the mockers. He fed the people that in less than three years would escort Him in a hostile parade to be crucified. He fed the people who were only there for the show and wouldn’t care later if He lived or died. He fed the curious, and the disinterested.
All of them saw, but few believed.
It’s the same today. We are all recipients of God’s common grace in this world. We walk around in bodies that He created. We eat food that He causes to grow. We breathe the perfect blend of oxygen, nitrogen and other elements that allow us to function. Our cuts heal. Our blood clots. Our hearts beat. We open our eyes to a beautiful sunrise and end the day marveling at the sunset. We hold perfect newborn babies and forget the pain of childbirth. We live, and we laugh. We see the effects of brokenness and sin and weep with our friends and family when death comes calling.
What would you have seen on that mountain that day? Would you have filled your belly with the bread made out of a miracle and blessed by the hands of the Son of God, and then gone back to your life unchanged?
John 6:35-36 – “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.’”