John 6:24-35 (NRSV)
24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" 26 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." 28 Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." 30 So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
The crowds followed Jesus because He fed them. He satisfied their physical hunger and they wanted more. Getting enough food was a daily struggle for most people in Jesus' day. Here was a fellow who could perform miracles. They would never go hungry again, so they thought, as long as they stayed close to Jesus.
Most of us don't have any concept of what it is like to struggle for food or to experience food insecurity on a daily basis. We do hunger, though. We hunger to be satisfied. It begins in childhood. I'll explain with an illustration.
When I was the pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Canton, North Carolina, I would often stop on the walkway that crossed over the pre-school play area. Sometimes I would linger and watch the children playing. I could also watch our daughter, Taylor, from a positon where she could not see me. I remember observing two boys at play. Watching those boys gave me a glimpse into the life long struggle we all have to be satisfied.
One of the boys was riding a tricycle and another boy wanted a turn. The boys begin to argue and almost came to blows. Fortunately a teacher intervened and told the boy on the tricycle that he needed to share and give the other boy a turn. The boy reluctantly gave up the tricycle and the other boy rode off with a look of smug triumph on his face. What I noticed, though, was as soon as the first boy wondered off to play with another toy, the boy on the tricycle lost interest. He wasn't on the tricycle two minutes before he was on to something else. The boy got what he wanted but quickly discovered that once he got it, that he wasn't interested anymore.
I would suggest that this is the underlying life-pattern of many adults who pursue and struggle, work and connive to get what they think they want only to discover that they don't want what they get after they have it. Intent on achievement and fulfillment we spend our days going after things. But, then, in the middle years, after we have reached the goal of our striving, we relax, slow down a bit, take time to think, watch the children leave home and realize that despite all our efforts and sacrifices, we are not satisfied or fulfilled deep within.
Remember what Jesus told the people who pursued him around the lake?
You've come looking for me NOT because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs-and for free. Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for good that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. (John 6:26-27, The Message)
Think about it.