The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
At first glance, this passage might seem like a straightforward transitional narrative, bridging the miracle of the loaves and fishes with the profound Bread of Life discourse that follows. However, this being John's Gospel, there's much more than appears at the surface.
Two crowds are mentioned in this passage, a fact that might escape us. One is the crowd that had been present for the miraculous feeding of the 5,000. Another crowd was from Tiberias. They came, possibly because they heard about the miraculous multiplication of the fish and loaves and wanted to experience miracles for themselves. In any case, Jesus had left the place.
When the crowds realized he wasn't there, they got into boats and went in search of him. Their actions are a reflection of humankind's yearning for God. Having witnessed the miraculous multiplication of fish and loaves, the first bunch of people are not content to merely stay on the shore and marvel at the wonders they've seen. Instead, they actively seek Jesus, crossing the lake to find him. Their pursuit is not passive; it's proactive and determined.
The second bunch of people don't want to be left out, so they do the same thing. It is not without difficulty. They have to find boats to take them across a lake and then spend time searching for him.
However, while this pursuit is commendable, we must ask: What is the nature of their seeking? Are they seeking Jesus for another miracle, or are they seeking *him*? This becomes clearer in subsequent verses, but let their actions serve as a mirror for now, prompting us to reflect on our motivations in seeking God.
Are we in pursuit of miracles or in pursuit of the miracle-maker? Are we looking for more bread, signifying material benefits, or are we looking for the Bread of Life, signifying spiritual gain? The answer to a simple question will tell you what you are after: Would you rather attend a seminar on discipleship, or would you prefer to go for a healing retreat? Would you rather look at a pretty picture with a Scripture verse, or would you rather dig into the book that contains that verse and meditate on it? You might find the answers revealing.
One last point before we conclude this reflection. The detail about the people from Tiberias looking for Jesus is significant. From other accounts, we know that Tiberias wasn't a city particularly favorable to Jesus. However, they indirectly aid the crowd in their search for him, suggesting that God can use even unlikely means and avenues to guide seekers toward him.
In conclusion, this passage challenges us to reflect on the depth, direction, and determination of our own spiritual quests, urging us to seek not just the miracles but the Miracle-Maker, not just the gifts but the Giver of Gifts.
God bless you.