Have you ever been hungry-I mean REALLY hungry? I remember being in the hospital a few years ago due to a very painful intestinal blockage. Part of the treatment involved my not being allowed to eat or drink for several days with my only sustenance coming from IV fluids and an occasional ice chip. Well, as the days dragged by I became VERY hungry….I was confined to bed so there was nothing to take my mind off my intense desire to eat-other than to watch TV…and of course you know that the vast majority of TV commercials have to do with food. Sometimes I was so ravenous I would close my eyes and imagine chewing a piece of thick juicy steak or a big hunk of meat lovers Pizza or a slice of hot apple pie smothered in vanilla ice cream.
Well if you’ve ever been that hungry then you know how tough it can be to stomach that kind of discomfort. Hunger is a VERY powerful desire. It’s one of our bodies strongest inner drives which is no doubt due to the fact that our minds are programmed to know that food is essential to life. The desire for food can in fact be strong enough to deceive us and warp our perceptions. This is why we sometimes say that our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, because if we are hungry enough we think we can consume more than we actually can. How many times have you said, I’m so hungry I could eat a horse! Hunger has also been known to make people DO things they normally wouldn’t DO and SEE things that aren’t actually there and even BELIEVE things that aren’t true.
Well, this morning as we continue our study of Jesus’ I Am… sayings, we’ll read of an incident from His earthly ministry that deals with hungry people-people whose hunger in fact had deluded them into buying into some of the world’s biggest misconceptions. Now to fully understand how this happened we need to of course understand the setting.
Prior to this morning’s text Jesus had just performed His most popular miracle-appearing in all four gospels. It began when thousands of people followed Him to a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. John says there were 5,000 people there but this was only the head count of the men present. If you included the women and children who were no doubt present, there were probably more like 15,000 people crowded together on that hillside.
Well about mid afternoon Jesus turned to His disciples and compassionately pointed out the need to feed this huge multitude. In response Andrew brought a little boy to Jesus who was willing to share his lunch of five barley loaves and two small fish. As you know, Jesus then miraculously used this meal, intended to fill the belly of a small boy, to stuff the stomachs of 15,000 people and there were even 12 baskets of left-overs! But you know, when you think of it, there were actually TWO miracles that afternoon: ONE that Jesus fed fifteen thousand people with this small amount of food, and the other that this little boy had not already eaten his lunch by mid afternoon!
Well, the day after all this happened some of those who had eaten the bread and fish provided by Jesus searched for Him all over the countryside on both sides of the Sea of Galilee. The conversation in today’s text occurred when they finally found Jesus in Capernaum. Take your Bibles and turn to John 6 and let’s read what happened. We’ll focus on verses 30-35 and 47-51.
30 – So they asked Him, What miraculous sign then will You give that we may see it and believe in You? What will You do?
31 – Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
32 – Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given 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 He Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
34 – Sir, they said, from now on give us this bread.
35 – Then Jesus declared, I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.
47 – I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.
48 – I am the Bread of Life.
49 – Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.
50 – But here is the Bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.
51 – I am the living Bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Now, if we look at this text very closely together I think we will see three misconceptions that these hungry people embraced.
1. First off, they forgot that God is the source of all that is good in life….
When they found Jesus and asked for another free meal, they bragged that Moses had given the Hebrew people bread from heaven every day when they wandered in the wilderness. And Jesus corrected them saying that the source of that bread was God…not Moses. These hungry Hebrews had forgotten the foundational truth that all we have in this life is traceable back either to the earth or mankind-and God created them both. God is the source of everything…As an anonymous poet expressed it:
Back of the loaf is the snowy flour; Back of the flour, the mill;
Back of the mill are the wheat and the shower and the sun and the Father’s will.
And you know, we can very easily buy into this same misconception even today. Our income level makes it possible for us to have full cupboards and closets and garages and as a result, we all too easily forget the basic fact that everything we HAVE and everything we ARE simply would not be if it were not for God.
As John 1:1-3 says, In the beginning was the Word…All things were made by Him and without Him was not any thing made that was made. Or as James puts it, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow nor turning. (1:17)
We must never make this mistake of letting our hunger to get more blind us to the basic truth that all we have…all our blessings…are from God. The story is told of a farmer who visited a large city. In a restaurant he ordered food and prayed a prayer of thanks before eating it. At the next table sat some tough young men. One cried, Hey farm boy! Where you come from, does everyone pray before they eat? The farmer replied, Everyone except the hogs. Like this wise farmer, we must remember to give God credit for every blessing of life.
And then, a second falsehood these people had bought into that day was their belief…
2. …that powerful miracles would satisfy their hunger…
…when in fact, miracles tend to only make most people hungry for even MORE miracles. It’s like you and me when we attend those fireworks displays on the mall on the 4th of July. We forget one huge star burst as soon as its light fades and crane our necks, yearning for the next powerful display. This is exactly what happened here. Jesus had just fed 15,000 people with the contents of a little boy’s lunch box and the next day some of the same people were hungry for more signs of His power.
Now, the gospels record that whenever Jesus did a miracle it was for one of two reasons. He did so either out of compassion for a hurting person, or to teach an important spiritual principle…to proclaim a MESSAGE about Himself or His kingdom. Well, when it came to these particular Galileans, apparently the MESSAGE Jesus conveyed by multiplying the bread and the fishes fell on deaf ears. Instead of seeking to apply His teaching to their own lives, they responded by asking for more displays of His power before they would believe what He had to say.
Well, why didn’t Jesus just DO what they asked and perform another miracle right then and there to convince them that He was the SON of God-the Bread of life? I think it was because He knew that it would do no good for these guys were too focused on the gift to see the Giver. They had just witnessed one of Jesus’ greatest acts of power and if seeing a miracle the first time didn’t lead them to believe He was Who He said He Was, it is doubtful that a second would have that affect. Maybe, this is one reason that, with all the power of God in His hands, Jesus was so ambivalent when it came to miracles. He knew that they attracted crowds but rarely encouraged repentance or long-term faithfulness.
Miracles won’t satisfy our hunger for God. Only a personal relationship with the Bread of Life will. As Robert Capon wrote,
The Messiah was not going to save the world by miraculous, Band-Aid interventions: a storm calmed here, a crowd fed there, a mother-in-law cured back down the road. Rather it was going to be saved by means of a deeper, darker, left-handed mystery, at the center of which lay His own death.
Jesus didn’t come to use His hands miraculously making bread. Rather, He came so those hands could receive executioner’s nails and so His body could be broken for the salvation of the world.
Those Galileans that day needed a miracle all right but they were seeking the wrong kind. They needed the inner-less obvious, but more powerful-miracle that comes from repenting of our sin and claiming Jesus as Lord and Savior. For in that decision we experience the miracle of a saved soul and a forgiven heart.
And this leads to the third truth these hungry people missed that day…
3. They forgot that the essence of human life is spiritual…not physical.
Like so many people today, they were existing on the animal level. They were striving to satisfy only their physical desires and as a result they had fat bodies but famished souls. You see, we are not mere animals. We are unique beings-the only creatures in all of God’s creation that have been made in His image. I’m not saying we necessarily LOOK like God…but rather that INSIDE we are like Him. God is spirit and unlike rocks or trees or animals or insects, He has breathed a life-a spirit-into each of us. We are the only beings on this planet with souls. And these souls are eternal.
So one thing that separates us from the other creatures of the world is that food doesn’t satisfy us. We could have all the food in the world and still be hungry. And I know this is true because you cannot go anywhere on earth today without finding people hungry for something more than a full belly. There is a restlessness in all of us that craves something more substantial. As Jesus told Satan when he tempted our Lord to make physical bread with which to satisfy His hunger, Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Matthew 4:4 ) You and I were designed to require more than mere physical nourishment; we were created with the need for spiritual nourishment as well. And this sustenance is only found in Jesus Christ…the Bread of Life.
Now, these days we refer to bread as a STAPLE food. Some form of bread is part of each of our meals. When you go to GIANT or SAFEWAY you get lots of things but you ALWAYS get milk and bread. But in Jesus’ day bread was even more central to the people’s daily menu. You see, there wasn’t a great deal of variety in the foods of that region; in fact for many people in Palestine bread was often the main course of most meals. Without bread they would have starved to death. It was necessary…essential…for the continuation of physical life. So by referring to Himself as the BREAD of life Jesus was saying that He was essential. He was the ONE Whom men and women cannot do without.
But these hungry Galileans missed this truth and today people make the same mistake. They look in all the wrong places to satisfy their inner hunger for something more. Years ago Barbara Walters did one of her interview specials in which she talked to three celebrities: Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, and Walter Cronkite….three C’s.
Johnny Carson came across as the typical jaded playboy hedonist. Everything he said telegraphed the fact that he was living for pleasure, but having tried everything and been everywhere he was fed up with the whole thing. Walker Cronkite was the suave humanist, the worldly philosopher. Now retired and wealthy, he is enjoying life as best he can. He looked at life rather philosophically, but all he really was saying was, That’s the way it is. Both Carson and Cronkite were like the people Isaiah addressed in 55:2 for they had devoted their lives to laboring, …for what does not satisfy.
Johnny Cash, on the other hand, humbly admitted his background of alcoholism and dope addiction and the fact that he had virtually destroyed a marriage and wrecked his life trying to satiate his inner hunger for meaning. He openly told Walters that then he had met Jesus. There was a peace in his eyes and a contentment in his voice as he spoke of a hope for the future which neither of the others had. Johnny Cash made it very clear that he had found what Jesus is talking about in this text-the Bread of Life-bread that satisfies far more than mere physical hunger.
Cash had experienced first hand the truth of Jesus’ words from His Sermon on the Mount when He said, Blessed are those who HUNGER and THIRST for righteousness for they shall be filled.
That day on the shores of Galilee Jesus was trying to get those people to understand that there are more important hungers in life and these can only be satisfied in relationship with Him.
- there is the hunger for truth and JESUS IS THE TRUTH, the answer to all of life’s questions.
- there is the hunger for life and JESUS ALONE CAN GIVE MEN LIFE, abundant, eternal life.
- there is the hunger for love and JESUS ALONE CAN GIVE US THAT LOVE THAT OUTLASTS EVEN DEATH.
The pleasures of this world are temporary and fading. Only a relationship with Jesus can satisfy the immortal longings and the insatiable hunger of the human heart and soul. As St. Augustine once prayed, Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless without Thee… Only in Jesus do we find food for our souls…food so satisfying that as He says in verse 35, those who come to Him, …will never go hungry, and…never be thirsty. By the way, the Greek here is very emphatic and so Jesus actually says, …whoever comes to ME-and no one else- will never be hungry or thirsty. Jesus also used a double negative to drive this point home which literally says that when we come to Him we will, NOT NEVER be hungry or thirsty again.
He alone can satisfy our spiritual hunger for He alone is the BREAD OF LIFE…
Before His crucifixion Jesus provided us with a powerful object lesson to help us remember and proclaim this truth…that all our hungers are satisfied in relationship to Him. This morning we observe this object lesson known as the Lord’s Supper. And, as we come to partake of this special meal I invite all Christians present to join us. Even if you are not a member of this church, if you are His, this is yours.
THE OBSERVANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
When Jesus revealed Himself as the one and only Bread of Life that day many of His followers left. In verse 60 they said, This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it? Verse 66 it says, From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. What about you? Can you accept this HARD TEACHING that Jesus is the only way to satisfy your hunger for abundant life? Will you turn and walk away from Jesus or will you embrace Him as Savior and Lord.
You know, the greatest miracle God does, the highest demonstration of His power is seen when, through His blood shed on the cross, He forgives our sin, saves us and redeems us. He waits to perform that miracle in you this morning. We invite you to make this and any other decision public by walking forward and sharing that decision with me. You may be a Christian looking for a church home and feel God guiding you to become a part of this church. However God is leading we invite you to respond now as we stand and sing.