John 6:22 – 34 What Are Your Working For?

[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning John 1:1-2].

25 They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

25 Καὶ εὑρόντες αὐτὸν πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης εἶπον αὐτῷ· Ῥαββί, πότε ὧδε γέγονας; 26 ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν· Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ζητεῖτέ με οὐχ ὅτι εἴδετε σημεῖα ἀλλ’ ὅτι ἐφάγετε ἐκ τῶν ἄρτων καὶ ἐχορτάσθητε· 27 ἐργάζεσθε μὴ τὴν βρῶσιν τὴν ἀπολλυμένην ἀλλὰ τὴν βρῶσιν τὴν μένουσαν εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, ἣν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὑμῖν δώσει, τοῦτον γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ἐσφράγισεν ὁ θεός. 28 εἶπον οὖν πρὸς αὐτόν· Τί ποιῶμεν ἵνα ἐργαζώμεθα τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ; 29 ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ ἵνα πιστεύητε εἰς ὃν ἀπέστειλεν ἐκεῖνος. 30 εἶπον οὖν αὐτῷ· Τί οὖν ποιεῖς σὺ σημεῖον, ἵνα ἴδωμεν καὶ πιστεύσωμέν σοι; τί ἐργάζῃ31 οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν τὸ μάννα ἔφαγον ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, καθώς ἐστιν γεγραμμένον· Ἄρτον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς φαγεῖν. 32 εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ Μωϋσῆς δέδωκεν ὑμῖν τὸν ἄρτον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ἀλλ’ ὁ πατήρ μου δίδωσιν ὑμῖν τὸν ἄρτον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τὸν ἀληθινόν· 33 ὁ γὰρ ἄρτος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν ὁ καταβαίνων ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ζωὴν διδοὺς τῷ κόσμῳ. 34 εἶπον οὖν πρὸς αὐτόν· Κύριε, πάντοτε δὸς ἡμῖν τὸν ἄρτον τοῦτον.

The Lord Reigns (and Rains!)

This passage has so much loaded into it that I find it difficult to decide where to begin!

The first thing to note is the question asked by the disciples in verse 25. The New Living Translation above translates it as, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” The NLT rightly translates the meaning of the Greek. However, it misses the nuance and ambiguity of the question. Literally, in Greek, this verse can be translated as, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Why the slight difference in English?

In the Gospel of John, simple things like water, bread, and road have deeper meanings. While the question asked may have been simply, “Hey, when did you get here?”, John sees a much deeper meaning. Jumping down to verse 33 we see a clue, “The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

The Jews believed the greatest miracle of Moses’ desert wandering was the raining down of loaves from heaven (Ex. 16:4) and its memory in Psalm 78:24, “He rained on them manna to eat.” The play on words between “come” in verse 25 and “come down” in verse 33 should be retained to keep with John’s possibly intended double meaning.

We see something similar regarding the Greek word “work” and its various forms (verb and noun). The NLT translates verse 27 as, “But don’t be so concerned about perishable things,” which is accurate to the meaning of the Greek but misses the play on the Greek word for work throughout these verses. In Greek, this verse can literally be translated as, “You should not be working [striving for] for perishable food.”

Again, the NLT’s translation of verse 28 is accurate to the meaning of the Greek (“We want to perform God’s works”), but the reader misses John’s play on words.” Verse 28 is literally in Greek, “What must we do, then, to work the ‘works’ of God?” Jesus replies to the question, “This is the only work God wants from you,” — here, the NLT uses “work” in English, but in verse 30, in order to keep the English in better form (What can you do?), misses the wordplay that is literally, in Greek: “What is the work you do?”

The NLT isn’t wrong. The authors worked at making the English readable and flow well. But any translation of a book from another language can miss both poetic quality and double meanings intended in the original form.

But what do all these “work” verses mean anyway?

God’s work is to demonstrate there is something bigger than Moses going on in Jesus. This work of God is providing a manna that leads to eternal life: a food that satisfies our deepest hungery.

The disciple’s work (yours and mine) is to believe in the One who has come down for us and our salvation. And, to believe, in Greek means to trust your weight to it. This is not mere intellectual assent. To believe means to trust your full self to what you believe in!

It means, every day, trusting in the One who came down for you!