They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 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. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:30-40, NLT)
The final question the multitude asked Jesus revealed their unbelief. In so many words, they were asking for Jesus to prove his claims. “Show us a sign” was a common demand placed upon Jesus in the Gospels by unbelievers. We read of it here from the multitude, and later we read of the same request made by the Pharisees and the leaders of Rome. Why didn’t Jesus grant this request? It seems logical that if Jesus would have performed two or three basic miracles that the people would have responded and believed. But Jesus didn’t give in to their request. Why not?
Generally speaking, miracles in the Bible were done for those who already believed. The reason, I think, is that miracles in the face of unbelief actually hardens the heart. Think back to the Exodus account where Moses stood before Pharaoh. On ten different occasions Moses performed signs (the plagues) before the Egyptian leader and his people. With each successive miracle the Bible reports that Pharaoh’s heart grew increasingly hard. In other words, if a person is mired in unbelief, they are not prone to respond to miracles with belief. Think about it…if miracles could change unbelieving hearts the mission would have been accomplished by now! God would be showering the world with miracles.
So what impacts the unbelieving heart? I think the greatest response we can make to the unbelieving multitude is the response that Jesus gave. He loved them. Love is the quality that ultimately proves to be irresistible to a skeptical world. Sometimes people don’t immediately respond to love. In fact, if you read the end of John 6 you’ll discover that the multitude was dissatisfied with each of Jesus’ responses, and that they turned away to follow no more. But that didn’t stop Jesus. He continued to love them all the way to the cross and beyond. And so should we.