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 shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.—John 6:34-36
In John 6 we see a crowd that goes from eating miraculous bread (vv. 1–15), to asking for the wrong bread (vv. 21–40), to grumbling against the right bread (vv. 41–66). This is how close one may get to the bread of heaven only to hunger eternally in hell. You may graciously receive bread from the hand of Christ, earnestly seek and inquire after Him, and fail to truly come to Him, receive Him, and believe Him.
This is because while the natural appetite of sinful man does hunger, it hungers wrongly. While the crowd does go from eating miraculous bread to asking for the wrong bread to grumbling against the right bread, we mustn’t think that their sin developed; rather it was made manifest. Their craving was wrong from the beginning. They were following Jesus, we were told, “because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick,” (v. 2). They were following Jesus. This sounds like discipleship, like the disciples who followed Jesus in chapter 1. But this crowd follows because they saw the signs. This sounds like the Jews Jesus refused in chapter 2 and the Galileans He rebuked in chapter 4.
“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man,” (John 2:23–25).
“Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe,” (John 4:48).
This is set in contrast to the Samaritans who “believed because of his word,” (John 4:39–42).
This crowd was sign-seeking, and after not simply seeing a mighty sign, but eating their fill of one, they are also king-making. They are a sign-seeking and king-making people, (v. 15).
They rightly see that they are in a wilderness; a desolate place Mark calls it (Mark 6:32). They see the bread. They perhaps notice the twelve baskets left over. They are organized as a camp around Jesus as Israel was encamped around her king in the wilderness. And thus they rightly exclaim, “this is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world” (v. 14). They refer to the Prophet like Moses spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18–19. But kingship is neither theirs to grant nor Jesus’ to lack. Like Satan, they offer Jesus a crown without a cross but in exchange they want a king on a string. Here is their major failure, here is essence of their sinful appetite: they want Jesus for bread, but they don’t want Jesus as the Bread. They want Him to break bodies. They don’t want His broken body.